India’s largest solar-electric boat Indra a hit

The daily collection has touched the I18,000-mark, with the vessel running to full capacity on weekends and holidays.

KOCHI : Yet another green initiative of the Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has turned out to be a roaring success with ‘Indra’, the country’s largest solar-electric boat, running to near full capacity just a fortnight after its launch in the Kochi backwaters.

The 100-seat cruise vessel, exclusively for tourist voyages, boasts a specially made “open spaced” upper deck, where tourists can enjoy alluring sceneries of the backwaters, along with a food counter and on board entertainment facilities.

“The daily collection has touched the Rs 18,000-mark, with the vessel running to full capacity on weekends and holidays. With the start of the summer vacation, we’re receiving advance group bookings,” said Traffic SP M Sujith.

The Rs 3.5-crore boat was launched on March 31. It operates two cruise trips daily, each three-hour long. “There is huge demand for the evening, sunset trip as the vessel is among the few tourist services that goes up to the mouth of the sea. Since it operates on solar energy, the cost of operations will be much lesser. More importantly, there will not be any carbon or noise pollution,” the official said.

Starting from Ernakulam boat jetty, the vessel sails to Bolgatty Palace, Vallarpadam, Container Terminal, Vypeen, Kamalakadavu, and Fort Kochi before returning to Marine Drive via Willingdon Island. The ticket costs Rs 300 per adult and Rs 150 per child.

The SWTD has tied up with Kudumbashree to provide the on-board food counter facility, where refreshments and snacks are offered to tourists. “Vega, another tourist cruise vessel deployed in Alappuzha backwaters, was the first to have an on-board food counter. Its success – the collections touched Rs 5 crore in two years – has encouraged us to extend delectable culinary offerings on board in Indra too,” said SWTD director Shaji V Nair.

Initially, the services were operated at 10am and 3pm. However, the prevailing extreme humid conditions have prompted SWTD to start the evening trip by 4 pm, Shaji said, adding that the morning trip too has been rescheduled to 11 am to facilitate maximum customers.

To take its green initiative forward, SWTD plans to induct at least one solar boat in its fleet every month this year.

“Work on these 14 IRS (Indian Registrar of Shipping) class vessels,with varying passenger capacity, are progressing at different private yards,” Shaji said.

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The New Indian Express