KOCHI: If all goes well, the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) will soon introduce the Indian Registrar of Shipping (IRS)-certified catamaran boats in the Kochi waters by March. Officials with the department said the boats are being constructed by two Kochi-based firms – Praga Marine Pvt Ltd and Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions Pvt Ltd - and will be pressed into service soon.
The decision to introduce the catamaran boats was taken into consideration in 2016, after the Fort Kochi boat tragedy involving the KSWTD-operated boat and a fishing boat, which claimed 11 lives. Following the incident, the department conducted a study about the stability and strength of the boats and submitted a proposal for new boats to the government. "The request was considered and a fund was allocated in the 2017 state budget. Each boat costs nearly Rs 2 crore," said KSWTD Kochi superintendent Sujith.
The two boats will be introduced in March, while the remaining fleet will replace the remaining steel boats in another few months. "The new boats are rust-resistant, have a double hull compared to the present single hull and have better longevity," he said.
Meanwhile, KSWTD officials said there were no plans to operate the boats on new routes. "In Kochi, currently, the only viable route for the KSWTD is the Fort Kochi-Vypeen service. The patronage is very high on this route. Though we had initially contemplated the idea of identifying new areas, it was later discarded because the other routes won't fetch us any collection. Also, most of these smaller islands have small jankar services operated by the local panchayats," Sujith said.
The existing boat plying passengers and motorbikes between Kakkanad and Vyttila has been temporarily pulled out of service, owing to repair. "The boat is currently under maintenance and will be so for a month or two. In lieu of this, we are operating a 75-seater boat, which is also new. This will be rerouted elsewhere once the repair of the old boat is completed," Sujith said. The fire and safety sensors, larger space are among the key features.