Lack of draft poses threat to SWTD vessels in city

Mattancherry, Ernakulam, Mulavukad, Varapuzha jetties hit

The lack of draft, especially during periods of low tide, continues to pose threat to State Water Transport Department (SWTD) vessels along multiple routes in the city.

The latest incident was reported on February 4 when Vega, a fast vessel operating between Vaikom and Ernakulam, ended up with a broken propeller leaf while approaching the pump near the Ernakulam boat jetty.

Service suspended

The SWTD has not been operating to the Mattancherry jetty for over a year now since the draft turned perilously low after the 2018 deluge. As many as six boats sustained damage in just a month after the deluge, forcing the agency to suspend service to the jetty.

“The service, which previously used to connect Ernakulam, Fort Kochi, Terminal jetty, and Mattancherry now winds up at the Terminal jetty, forcing those bound for Mattancherry to disembark at Fort Kochi and walk their way to their respective destinations,” said M. Sujith, traffic superintendent, SWTD, Ernakulam region.

The vessels languish for around 12 minutes at the Terminal jetty to avoid disruption of the scheduled timing of returning to Fort Kochi.

The lack of draft is especially problematic around Mattancherry, Ernakulam, Mulavukad and Varapuzha jetties where it dips even below the minimum level of two metres, especially during low tides. In some cases, it dips to just 45-50 cm, which means that someone could easily stand in the water without fear of drowning. There is no such issue at Fort Kochi, Island and Vypeen jetties thanks to their proximity to the shipping channel.

“The solution is to undertake dredging to increase the draft. No dredging has taken place in the last close to three decades, and the 2018 deluge only further worsened it. The low draft makes vessels vulnerable to protruding underwater poles and other articles washed in over the years,” said Mr. Sujith.

Around four months ago, a Minister-level meeting on low draft issue was held in the presence of people’s representatives and other stakeholders.

₹32-crore project

A project worth around ₹32 crore available under the Inland Water Authority was drawn up for the renovation of Ernakulam, Fort Kochi, Vypeen, Mattancherry, Kumbalam and Thevara jetties and dredging wherever necessary. But there has been no progress since then. Irrigation Department sources said the project was awaiting financial sanction from the Government.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 8:26:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/lack-of-draft-poses-threat-to-swtd-vessels-in-city/article30898662.ece

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