Commuters stranded as technical glitch hits ro-ro ferry service

Clamour for third vessel gets louder

Thousands of motorists and commuters were stranded at Fort Kochi and Vypeen during peak hours on Monday evening, as one of the two ro-ro ferries suffered engine failure while it was berthed at the Fort Kochi jetty.

The engine stalled as the second generator of the vessel became dysfunctional by evening, while the first generator had already failed earlier in the day. This resulted in the second ferry having to abort its trip midway in the Vypeen-Fort Kochi route and return to Vypeen Jetty, causing a long queue of vehicles and commuters on the two isles. The police had to intervene to defuse the situation as commuters turned restive, it is learnt.

The generator fault was rectified and the services resumed by 6.30 p.m., said Prasanth Nair, the MD of Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) which operates the service. On the remote possibility of the vessel being swept by currents, he said it could be manoeuvred by engines, even if both generators fail.

Referring to the frequent disruption of the ferry service due to breakdowns, he said the Kochi Corporation, which owned the vessels, had not supplied many critical spare parts to KSINC, despite repeated letters and forwarding of a list of spares. “We had also repeatedly demanded introduction of a third vessel that could substitute if any vessel remained grounded. The civic agency has not responded to this either,” he said.

Official sources wondered why the Kochi Corporation was not reinvesting in the service the share of profit that it received from the two vessels.

“The civic agency gets 50% of the profit. Moreover, the two vessels were purchased using a government grant and the civic agency did not have to invest a penny. As per an MoU with KSINC, it is duty bound to make available critical spare parts, ensure upkeep of jetties on either side and deploy personnel for streamlining commuters and vehicles. Sadly, this is not happening.”

A crew member of a ro-ro vessel said that workers had to face public fury in the event of service disruption, since KSINC and the Kochi Corporation were on different pages on the service.

Expressing angst at frequent disruption of the service in the busy corridor, Majnu Komath, convener of Goshree Action Council, said repeated demands made to the Kochi Corporation by the council, passenger associations and NGOs to place order for a third ferry had proven futile.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 11:59:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/commuters-stranded-as-technical-glitch-hits-ro-ro-ferry-service/article30080680.ece

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