Kochi

Ro-ro service passengers caught in a quandary

Services to be affected when a ferry is withdrawn for dry docking

Motorists and commuters who rely on the ro-ro service for the five-minute journey in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen corridor are caught in a quandary, since the Kochi Corporation has not readied an alternative plan when one of the two ferries is pulled out of service in mid-2020 for mandatory dry docking.

Each of the two vessels has to be dry docked for a month or so, every three years, for maintenance works. The second vessel will have to be dry docked soon after, depending on availability of space at Cochin Shipyard where the vessels were built, official sources said. Commuters fear that this will throw into disarray the daily schedule of thousands of people who rely on the service for inter-island transit and also the livelihood of fishers and other people who depend on it to ferry commodities. “Most often, motorists have to wait for 30 minutes in the queue when both services operate. This will increase to over an hour if any one ferry is withdrawn from service,” said Thomas, a Thopumpady native, who drives a cargo-carrier autorickshaw, while waiting in the queue at Fort Kochi jetty to enter the ro-ro ferry. It would result in motorists flocking to the city through narrow and congested bridges, to reach Vypeen and back. Managing this traffic would be a herculean task for the police, he added.

Vypeen native Joy, who steers a school van makes four trips in the sector every day. “School vehicles are given preference to enter the ferry if there are children on board. Else, we have to wait in the serpentine queue to enter the vessel. This will get worse if any vessel is withdrawn from service, even temporarily,” he said.

The queue of vehicles is most often longer in Vypeen. In the meantime, sources in KSINC said that many of the equipment on board the vessel were costly, since they had to be imported. The waiting period often extended to three years. It affected the turnaround time of vessels too. This, and non-availability of adequately skilled drivers was the reason behind limited service timings. “We need at least two more drivers if the services have to operate for more hours,” they said.

Fishing boats

In the meantime, both commuters and KSINC officials expressed concern at incidents like the one on Thursday afternoon when commuters had a narrow escape after a fishing boat rammed the vessel’s ramp at Fort Kochi Jetty.

“This occurs since fishing boats often call at the jetty for changing nets,” said a crew member.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 10:06:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/ro-ro-service-passengers-caught-in-a-quandary/article30080695.ece

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