Harbours in Kerala lack efficient system for search, rescue

Rescue boats that can handle strong waves, along with an expert team, are necessary for emergencies.  

Saravanapoyka was 40 nautical miles off the shore when the crew received a storm warning and instructions to return. Buffeted by strong winds and rough seas, the engine stopped working midway leaving the crew stranded. Their SOS calls to the Fisheries Department drew no response and it was two other fishing boats that came to their rescue.

“We had to wait for hours with three injured persons on board while no marine enforcement vessel was pressed into action. They failed to offer us any help,” says Rajesh, a crew member.

Despite the increasing number of fatalities, most harbours in the State do not have an efficient system to carry out marine search and rescue (SAR) operations. Lack of facilities and inadequate sea-safety measures often leave fishers vulnerable. Rescue teams with no proper training is another challenge.

Rented boats

The Fisheries Department uses rented fishing boats for marine enforcement and officials agree current facilities are not sufficient for rescue operations. They feel that sleek rescue vessels instead of fishing boats will help the department work more efficiently.

The government decided to form sea rescue squads after Cyclone Ockhi and selected fishers were provided training at the National Institute of Watersports in Goa. The idea was to ensure the availability of vessels with a standby crew to respond to distress calls.

“It’s true that fishers are not getting any immediate help and it has many reasons. A fleet of rescue boats that can handle strong winds and waves along with an expert team is necessary for emergencies. Though the fishers were issued certificates, they cannot be used for high-risk rescue operations. Proper and continuous training is needed for that,” says Dolphin Ratheesh, a lifeguard.

Coastal police station

The first Coastal police station in Kerala was commissioned in 2009 at Neendakara and today the State has 18 stations in nine coastal districts. While some stations are understaffed, some others function with minimal facilities. The Neendakara station was allotted three boats in 2009, which are in disrepair due to wear and tear.

Adding to their woes, Kollam, a district with a long coastline, has only one coastal police station. “It takes more than three hours for a boat from Paravur to reach Azheekkal in unfavourable weather. We need at least two more stations in districts such as Kollam,” says an official.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 3:31:58 PM |

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