KOCHI: Even as incidents of fishing boat-merchant ship collisions and subsequent death of fishermen at sea are on the rise off Kerala, around 80 per cent of the fishing boats venture into the sea without necessary insurance cover. The reason cited is the huge annual premium that boat owners have to pay for getting insurance coverage.
"We have to admit around 80-85 per cent of the fishing boats in Kerala venture into the sea without insurance protection and the reason is nothing but the unaffordable annual premium," said Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association.
Insurance cover for fishing boats and crew gains significance in the wake of the increasing mishaps at sea. As many as 17 fishermen have lost their lives in six mid-sea collisions from June 2016 till date and families of only two of the victims have got compensation, that too from the owner of the ship involved in the accident."Family members of other victims got nothing as compensation from any of the agencies," Joseph Xavier said.
In the latest incident, a person died and three went missing after a fishing boat and another vessel collided off Beypore last week. In the six mid-sea collision incidents, four boats sank completely while two could be brought ashore in damaged condition.But, the boat owners had to scrap the damaged boats as the repairing cost to make them seaworthy again was unaffordable for them.
"The price of a fishing boat ranges from `80 lakh to `1 crore. Insurance companies demand 7- 10 per cent of the price of the boat as premium, which is not affordable for boat owners. We have been urging the state and Central Governments to hold talks with insurance companies to provide insurance cover with an affordable premium. However, there has not been any proactive move from the government," he said.
In view of the increasing number of mid-sea collisions, the Boat Operators' Association and the Fisheries Survey of India (FSI) has decided to intensify training programme for fishermen on navigation signalling.