The littoral waters of Kochi is choc-a-block with ever-increasing number of boats and there is an urgent need to bring this situation under control, reveals an investigation report on the Fort Kochi boat tragedy which claimed 11 lives in August last year.
A comprehensive study into the small craft scenario of Kochi by K. Padmakumar, Additional Director General of Police (South Zone), pointed out several anomalies in the functioning of various departments, mandated to regulate the scene. In fact, the situation has become such worse that the official likes to compare it to ‘an absolutely unregulated public home’.
“It is high time we bring in a change to this situation. If not, we are likely to have more like the one we had in Fort Kochi,” Mr. Padmakumar told The Hindu.
For instance, the State has only two officers for surveying boats while the number of vessels registered at the Kerala Port office in Kodungallur alone was 411. “The staff pattern of 2010 stipulates one chief surveyor and two surveyors for the entire state and the existing number of surveyors are grossly inadequate to inspect these large number of vessels. The department neither owns a boat of its own nor does it have a yard for docking boats flouting norms,” the report notes.
The investigation has also found that the foreman of the Fisheries Department’s Vypeen office, mandated to inspect boats for registration, lacks the educational qualification for holding the post. While the Kerala Inland Vessels Rules 2010 stipulate the official to be a naval architect with seven years of experience, the person concerned at the office here holds a fitter-certificate from an Industrial Training Institute.
While about 80 per cent of fishing boats in Kochi possess a valid licence, the acute shortage of staff in the department is hampering the periodical inspection of these vessels. Similarly, the Marine Enforcement Department, entrusted to take action against boats flouting norms, is grossly understaffed with just 13 personnel including an inspector and it does not have a boat on its own.
It also elaborates the facilities required for the coastal police, including a boat jetty and boat yard to streamline its operations.
Regarding the exact cause of boat accident at Fort Kochi that took place on August 26 last year, the ADGP said it was a subject matter of investigation. “A separate police team from Fort Kochi is probing to find out the factors that led to the accident. On the other hand, my study focussed entirely on the measures to be taken to prevent such accidents in the future,” the official explained.