The Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD) must operate adequate number of ferries in the Ernakulam-Fort Kochi route, considering the phenomenal increase in passengers and tourists converging in West Kochi in connection with the three-month-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale that begins on Monday and the onset of peak tourist season in the State, the West Kochi Passengers Association has demanded.
Only three ferries were operating in the corridor at present as compared to six during the past. This has lessened the number of daily trips from 61 to 46. Commuters are forced to take buses through congested roads to commute to and from Fort Kochi. The situation has been made worse by ferries not calling at the Mattancherry jetty and the Willingdon Island jetty (due to what has been termed by the SWTD as shallow waters and an unsafe jetty respectively), said Padmanabha Mallaya, president of the association.
He demanded urgent steps to augment the service by introducing at least one more ferry and by restoring services to Mattancherry. On its part, the Irrigation department must speed up dredging and jetty renovation works, he added.
Responding to the demands, SWTD Director Shaji V. Nair said ferry shortage in the sector was compensated in 2021, with the introduction of four catamaran ferries, which could carry up to 120 people. “An additional boat has been deputed for service in the sector and it will operate as a special service till midnight from Wednesday. This will cater to guests visiting the biennale, till midnight,” he said.
The SWTD had kept ready seven ferries to operate in the route as per demand from commuters, said Sujit M., the department’s Ernakulam traffic superintendent. “One more ferry is expected to join the SWTD’s fleet in January... Services to Mattancherry can resume when the Irrigation department handed over the renovated jetty to us. We have requested the Cochin Port Authority to repair the jetty in Willingdon Island that suffered damage earlier this year and to build a ticket counter there,” he added.
The Customs jetty in Fort Kochi where the ferries now call at is in bad shape. The Irrigation department is expected to renovate it in the coming months, it is learnt.