KOCHI: Though the Kochi Corporation has finally decided to roll out the newly constructed 150-seater passenger ferry service between Fort Kochi and Vypeen by next week, uncertainty over its functioning has cast a shadow over it. The Corporation's decision to roll out the ferry service came after the civic body decided to stop the two RO-RO vessels for nearly three months ahead of construction of the mooring facility at Fort Kochi. It is learned the Cochin Port Trust has submitted a letter to the Corporation to kick-start the construction from October 23. The civic body is planning to entrust the operation of the ferry service to the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC).
Express takes a look at some of the aspects which pose a threat to the civic body's plans to conduct the service at this juncture.
Even though the Corporation renovated the traditional boat jetty at Fort Kochi after spending nearly Rs 1 crore, it would be difficult to dock the new ferry at the renovated jetty. Since the Corporation entrusted the Port Trust which is planning to construct the mooring facility near the jetty it will not give ample space for the ferry to dock. "The Tourism jetty is the only option available but due to the tides, docking at this facility will also be troublesome. Since the height of the ferry is more, people will also have to take the risk while boarding and alighting," Opposition councillor K J Antony told Express.
KSINC in the dark
The Kochi Corporation’s plans to rope in KSINC comes after its councillors and the people demanded the operation of the jhankar service should be handed over to government agencies rather than private parties. Although the civic body decided to entrust the operation of the ferry service to KSINC by next week, the latter is yet to receive any communication in this regard.
Though KSINC submitted a proposal for operating the ferry service the Corporation failed to bring the matter before the council. "It is learned they are planning to operate the ferry service from October 23, but we haven't received any communication in this regard even though we have submitted a proposal for operating the service several months ago," said an officer with the KSINC.
Special Purpose Vehicle still on the paper
With the ruling and opposition parties coming against the move to hand over the operation of the RO-RO and passenger vessel to private parties, the council had decided to have a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to conduct the service.
Even after several months, no decision in this regard was taken. "We have sought the government's intervention in this regard, but we couldn't receive any communication from the government.
The SPV will be formed based on the suggestion of the government," said Mayor Soumini Jain during the council session the other day.
Proposal of KSINC will incur a loss of Rs 1.35 cr to the Corp
It is learned the KSINC in its proposal had asked the civic body to pay Rs 34,500 per day to run the service in addition to the revenue from ticket sales. As per the estimate, this would incur an additional expense of Rs 1.35 crore to the Corporation. “The civic body will suffer a revenue loss of Rs 1.35 crore annually if the RO-RO vessels are entrusted with the agency,” said Antony
Corporation decision to hike ticket fare irks passengers
In order to meet the additional expense of running the ferry service, the council on Tuesday decided to increase the ticket fare from Rs 3 to Rs 5. However, the move irked the passengers as they said the Corporation wants to generate profit from it. Francis Chammany of the Vypeen-Fort Kochi Ferry Passengers Association told Express they cannot accept the hike. "Most of the people who are using the ferry service are common people. Though it is a Rs 2 hike, it is an injustice as the irresponsibility of the Corporation has resulted in such a state of affairs. They always want supreme control over the backwater," he said.
Meanwhile, the Cochin Shipyard has sent a letter to the Kochi Corporation asking it to pay the demurrage charge for keeping the two RO-RO vessels at the shipyard's dockyard. "It is a service. We can't consider it as a profit-making tool. The construction of mooring facility is essential for safety purpose. It will be complete within a few months," said the Mayor during the council when the matter came up for discussion.