GUWAHATI: For the safety of passengers, no mechanised country boats will be allowed to ply on rivers in Assam till further orders, state Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary announced Tuesday.
All single-engine ferries should be converted to double-engine ones with reversible gears and as per safety norms, there must be one life jacket for each passenger in the vessel, he said.
It will be mandatory for each passenger to put on the life jacket while boarding the vessel and deputy commissioners have been directed to conduct safety audit of the ferry vessels in their respective districts, the minister said.
"The government accords highest priority to the safety of the passengers and is taking all possible measures to provide safe, reliable and sustainable mode of transport," Patowary told reporters after a review meeting with officials of the Inland Water Transport department.
Patowary also took stock of the World Bank-funded project preparation and the reform measures initiated during the last one-and-a-half years.
The project will address the sector reforms holistically, for which Germany-based consultants 'Inros Lackner' have submitted the inception report and the vessel design and terminal design are being readied.
The Transport Department has been working on a Regulatory Bill for the last six months and the 'Assam Inland Water Transport Reorganization Act' would be placed before the Assembly for approval in the forthcoming session.
The Act will facilitate the setting up of a separate Regulatory Authority and separate port and shipping management companies, taking into the consideration the recommendations of the Khosla Committee Report submitted in 2013.
The minister also directed that capacity building of IWT staff and other stakeholders must be enhanced.
During the last two years, work on 15 steel vessels and three wooden vessels had been undertaken.
Of them, four steel vessels have already been deployed in Barak and one steel and three wooden vessels in Majuli while the remaining ten vessels will be completed within this financial year, he said.
Three new vessels will be introduced between Guwahati-North Guwahati soon.
In addition to this, there has been better coordination with Inland Waterways Authority of India and one Ro-Ro service has already been introduced in the Dhubri-Hatsingimari route.
The second and third Ro-Ro services will be introduced between Majuli-Kamalabari and Guwahati-North Guwahati in October and December respectively.