Experts slam delay in rolling out Water Metro ferries

Terming the price tag of over ₹7.30 crore each of the first batch of Water Metro ferries proposed in the Greater Kochi area as prohibitive, technical experts have sought “appropriate technology” rather than the “most-modern”, to rein in capital and operational expenditure.

They have also slammed what they termed as undue reliance on foreign firms for technology which could be sourced or developed from within India.

While condemning the “continuous missing of targets” in rolling out the 23 ferries, former Director of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) Neelakandan Unni, said it was over two years since their service was originally scheduled to begin.

Indigenisation missed

“The undue delay in commissioning the first lot of ferries could be a pointer towards engineers grappling with complex issues which may become more pronounced during the operation and maintenance phases. India missed a great opportunity since these boats could have been designed and built with 100% indigenous inputs and components, especially so since world-class ship technology and naval architecture experts are available in Cochin Shipyard (where the ferries are being built) and at Department of Ship Technology, Cusat. This alone would have ensured economy in its operations and maintenance”.

Banking heavily on foreign components and technology often resulted in consultants and lenders trying to influence the design and other parameters of vessels, necessitating much higher investments than was necessary. They could have been rolled out much earlier and at a much lesser cost had appropriate technology been relied on, rather than the “most-modern” and “the first time in the world” that has been touted. This was because they would ultimately have to operate through Kochi’s waterways which would continue to have the same level of pollution and floating debris, Mr. Unni said.

In short, the Water Metro may face an even greater challenge to be economically viable than Kochi Metro, due to these reasons. “I had conveyed my reservations on the idea of the proposed boats when the preliminary DPR was sent to me for my views when I was in IWAI,” he said.

‘Make in India’

Naval architect and Professor at Cusat’s Department of Ship Technology, K. Sivaprasad, who was associated with designing many boats, echoed a similar view. “Emphasis must be laid on 'Make in India' and 'appropriate technology', rather than bank on other countries, at least for the next batch of 55 ferries. This is crucial from the financial and operational point of view”.

In addition, a repair yard must be set up before the first batch of ferries is commissioned, since the ferries have aluminium hulls and technicians were very few in number in Kerala. Care must also be taken to that there was complete synergy between the hardware and software components of the battery-powered hybrid vessels. The harmonics management must be foolproof, Prof. Sivaprasad said.

He spoke of the need to rationalise the fare structure (KMRL has pegged it at ₹4 per km), to benefit the common man. Care must also be taken to frequently clear water hyacinth and other debris from the routes and jetties, he said.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 10:12:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/experts-slam-delay-in-rolling-out-water-metro-ferries/article36462612.ece

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