Kochi

SWTD ferry crew getting used to new catamaran vessels

The first catamaran ferry of the SWTD conducting trial run through the Kochi backwaters.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

One of the two catamaran ferries that were withdrawn from service soon after their launch here in February has commenced service on the Ernakulam-Vypeen-Fort Kochi route.

The modern ferry was put to trial runs and kept in standby to be put in operation in case any of the five old vessels in service was withdrawn.

They were withdrawn for installing fans, grab handles, and a few other additions, in accordance with suggestions made by people’s representatives and others to improve the quality of service and to reduce heat within. Crew members who are familiar with single-hull ferries also had to get acclimatised with double-hull vessels, which have an engine extra and can commute at almost double the speed of the existing ferries, State Water Transport Department (SWTD) officials said.

The fit and finish and ride quality of the fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) catamaran vessels are far superior to those of the erstwhile steel boats. At ₹1.90 crore a piece, they also command over double the price tag of single-hull, single-engine ferries that operate in the region.

Kannan V.M., a syrank who drove the vessel, spoke of how it commuted at an average speed of over seven knots (one knot is 1.80 km) per hour, as compared to less than five knots speed of older ferries, for reasons including availability of twin engines and better design. “Fuel and oil levels, speed, depth of waterbody, angle at which a boat commutes, and a whole lot of other features can be gauged from half-a-dozen display panels that adorn the driver cabin. Leakage in any of the compartments of the hull too can be gauged from the displays,” he said.

The robust vessel also has sliding doors on the side, unlike doors with hinges which impinge on space available for entry and exit.

Keeping the emergency door in the front open lets in extra air into the passenger cabin. The five wide windshield glasses considerably improve the operator’s view of the front and both sides. This is crucial, especially when the vessel is berthing at jetties, said the vessel’s driver Ansar P.K.

The SWTD has placed orders with Praga Marine, a boat builder at Aroor, which built the first pair, for five more catamaran ferries for operation in Ernakulam. They are expected to roll out one vessel every 45 days.

Advantages

Sources in the firm said seven knots was the design speed of catamaran ferries. But they attained speeds of up to 10.5 knots (about 20 KMPH) during trial runs conducted to get safety certification from the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) and the State Ports Department. “Unlike high-speed catamarans, these have displacement hull, which minimises the impact of waves on country boats which pass near the ferries. The hull has 14 compartments, and a bilge alarm system warns crew members if water enters any compartment. The crew will thus be able to promptly activate the bilge pump if such a need arises,” they added.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 5:07:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/swtd-ferry-crew-getting-used-to-new-catamaran-vessels/article34286024.ece

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