KOCHI: The Kochi corporation is yet to take the initiative to form the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will manage the Ro-Ro service between Kamalakadavu and Vypeen. Because of this, the vessels are still being operated by Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC). The two agencies have been locking horns over policy decisions for a while now.
“There are huge losses being incurred in the operation of Ro-Ro services as the corporation is yet to form an SPV. Instead of paying hefty amounts to the KSINC, the officials could have expedited the process to form an SPV,” said Majnu Komath, chairman, Fort Vypeen Janakeeya Koottayma. The Ro-Ro service was launched in April 2018 on the Kamalakadavu (Fort Kochi)-Vypeen route with a vessel manufactured by Cochin Shipyard in 2016.
Though the civic body received the state government’s nod to form the SPV on February 17, 2020, the proposal didn’t gather steam despite the continuous operational glitches. Earlier, Opposition leader Antony Kureethara claimed that the Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) owes the corporation crores of rupees. As per an agreement penned in April 2018, KSINC is supposed to bear the daily maintenance cost, while the corporation will handle the dry dock repair once in three years.
“Now, the corporation is going to pay KSINC Rs 87 lakhs for routine repairs. Also, an agreement to form a joint account to handle the income and expenditure is yet to be made. The agreement also stipulates that the corporation and KSINC take a 50-50 share of the profit. This is causing a huge loss for the corporation which is already struggling due to financial crunch,” said Antony.
The proposed inspection by Kochi corporation officials at the Ro-Ro terminal in Fort Kochi to assess the situation of the service is yet to be done. “We have decided to convene a special council meeting to
discuss prevailing issues by the end of August. The proposed visit by the officials will be also held in between. The issue has been on hold since its inception and was delayed all these years. We are hoping to have clarity on the overall operations and the future of the service soon,” said Mayor M Anilkumar.
Meanwhile, many allege the corporation officials are planning to appoint another private agency and replace KSINC.
“The decisions and events that have happened over the last few years are quite bizarre. The corporation has taken more than a year to respond to the state government’s letter regarding the SPV that came in 2017. After filing their response, they haven’t taken any initiative to follow up, said another member of Fort Vypeen Janakeeya Koottayma.
THIRD RO-RO ON THE ANVIL
Since the existing Ro-Ro vessels are developing technical snags, the corporation is planning to construct a third Ro-Ro vessel that will ply on the Fort Kochi-Vypeen route. “But the construction requires sufficient funding and time. Even with sponsorship, funding may be an issue. We are looking at all possible options,” said Mayor.
New RO-RO between Fort Kochi and Marine Drive
KSINC is all set to start a new Ro-Ro service between Fort Kochi and Marine Drive. Out of the two container Ro-Ro ferries owned by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) that are being operated between Willingdon Island and Bolgatty Island to transport container lorries and motorists, one will be used in the Fort Kochi-Marine Drive route. The second vessel started its operation on August 2 due to high demand from containers and motorists owing to the fuel price hike. There are also demands to utilise Fort Queen, a Kochi Corporation-owned vessel, which was lying idle for more than a year after new Ro-Ro vessels started service in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen route.