Special Correspondent

KOCHI: Mechanised fishing boats in the Kochi region will ‘lay siege’ to the Cochin port on Thursday to press the Centre to cut diesel price in the light of the heavy fall in the price of fuel in the international market.

Over 500 boats belonging to the Kerala State Fishing Boat Operators Association are expected to blockade the shipping channel at the river mouth near Fort Kochi on Thursday morning. Ships and other vessels would not be allowed to pass during the blockade, Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the association said.

Mr. Kalappurackal said that in spite of the global price of oil more than halving, the Cente has not to cut the domestic price. The government had raised the diesel price to Rs.37.42 a litre when the international crude oil price shot to $142 a barrel.

Now the international price had come down to $62, but the government is in no mood of cutting the price. Previously, when the international price was $62, the then domestic price was Rs.21 per litre, Mr. Kalappurackal said and pointed out that the current price was about Rs.16 in excess.

He also noted that while trucks and buses could raise their fares, the boat owners were not in a position to increase the price of their products as fish prices were determined by the international market since the boats mainly catered to export demand. Because of the international financial crisis, the global fish prices were down. While the boat owners’ cost of production had gone up, their revenues had fallen.

The boat owners also demand the State government to back off from its move to reserve the territorial waters exclusively to the traditional fish workers by making a law based on the recommendations of the Aquarian Reforms Committee.

Mr. Kalappurackal claimed that there were hardly any traditional fishermen in the conventional sense left in Kerala because almost all marine fishing was either by large inboard-fitted valloms that cost upwards of Rs.40 lakh.