Kochi

Fresh norms to ensure safe cruising on Kochi backwaters

The GCDA and port authorities have not intervened despite proliferation of illegal and unsafe tourist jetties along Marine Drive. Guests have to walk through them to board private tourist boats, many of which operate in violation of safety norms.

The GCDA and port authorities have not intervened despite proliferation of illegal and unsafe tourist jetties along Marine Drive. Guests have to walk through them to board private tourist boats, many of which operate in violation of safety norms.  

Move in the wake of collision between ro-ro vessel and tourist boat

The Ports Department will publish fresh safety norms to ensure the safe operation of tourist boats in the backwaters off Kochi, in the wake of Friday’s collision between a roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) vessel that was operating in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen route and a tourist boat.

This would be done on the basis of a hearing that the department has convened at Alappuzha, to listen to the viewpoints of stakeholders, including the sranks (drivers) of both vessels. Officials of Kerala Maritime Board (KMB) too would participate in the hearing. This would shortly be followed by a meeting with representatives of tourist boat operators based at Marine Drive, Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council, district administration, police etc., said sources in the Ports Department.

Friday’s collision exposed safety chinks involved in boat operation in the Kochi backwaters. The tourist boat’s driver did not have the mandatory licence issued by the Ports Department. The boat also failed to steer clear of the ro-ro vessel which had the ‘right of way’ on the corridor. The driver also failed to berth the vessel after the collision, despite damage to one side.

On its part, it was found that communication between the ro-ro driver seated at an elevation and crew on the deck was inadequate. This could be solved if walkie talkies were relied on for intra-vessel communication between the driver and lascars. This would do away with relying only on CCTV camera, while reversing from the jetty, he said.

The new norms would be applicable to around 400 tourist vessels, including speed boats, which operate in Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Idukki districts. A good share of them operate from Marine Drive, it is learnt.

In the meantime, sources in Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), which operates two ro-ro ferries from Fort Kochi, said that they would submit a memorandum to the Director of Kerala Tourism, apprising him of the safety risks involved in tourist vessels crossing the pathway of ferries which operate every five minutes in the corridor.

On its part, the Greater Cochin Development Authority, which owns the Marine Drive waterfront, has failed to take action against tourist boat operators who have installed a dozen ramshackle wooden jetties, despite the safety hazard they pose to tourists.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 11:53:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/fresh-norms-to-ensure-safe-cruising-on-kochi-backwaters/article30914307.ece

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