KOCHI: Vembanad lake will witness a rare feat next month. The 2.5km stretch of the lake from Vaikom to Thavanakkadav will get its first solar powered ferry boat ‘Aditya’.
Aditya is also the first one of its kind in the country. The 75-seater ferry, Aditya, successfully cleared the trials under the supervision of technical committee, IRS and Kerala Ports Surveyor. “It is a real achievement. Our operational costs will be reduced very much since we expect 40 percent reduction in fuel cost compared to the diesel-powered ones. It will be noiseless, vibration-free and non-polluting,” said Shaji Nair, MD Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) which operates the ferry.
“It took two years to build the catamaran boat which costs Rs 1.7 crore. This is equivalent to the cost of building conventional boats. However, what makes this boat special is low consumption of fuel. Though it has not been declared officially, we are ready to launch the ferry in two weeks,” he added.
The 20 metre long, 7 metre wide boat, which has a maximum cruise speed of 7.5 knots was launched into the back waters at Aroor last week. “The solar ferry sailed as expected and attained the maximum speed of 7.4 knots at a 90 per cent propulsion power. To attain the cruise speed of 5.5 knots, only 15 kW power was needed,” said Sandith Thandassery, CEO of NavAlt. NavAlt, a Kochi-based joint venture with a French company, built the vessel. It took a year to design and one more to construct the boat.
“The battery and motor console, which underwent testing, are from France. The boat will be capable of plying the waters for 5 to 6 hours on normal sunny days. A trip between the two points takes 15 minutes. Since it is on experimental mode, the boat has in place an alternative power system to meet emergencies. The main expense is the cost of the battery which will have to be replaced after seven years. But overall it is cheaper if we operate it on a 10 hour basis daily,” said Sandith, who is also a marine architect.
“It runs on a technology which has been proven and is in use in France for past 15 years. Moreover, we scrutinised the boat at every stage. We are not blind to the allegations. But the allegations against the project ceased to have ground after the boat conducted a three hour non-stop operation in the presence of technocrats,” said Shaji Nair.
The solar boat is also eligible for subsidy from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.