Kochi: It was often a worrying sight to witness 'rusty' steel boats sailing through deep backwaters of Kochi and even across the shipping canal. The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has decided to phase out existing steel boats and roll out Fiber Reinforced Boats with the first two FRP catamaran vessels set to be deployed in three months.
"It takes five to six months for new boats to get rusted due to salt content in Kochi backwaters. Often the hull is affected. We're replacing steel boats by FRP boats which are corrosion free. In the first phase seven such boats will be deployed in Kochi region replacing existing fleet," said M Sujith, Traffic Superintendent, Ernakulam region.
A delegation led by Kochi MLA K.J. Maxi and SWTD Director Shaji V Nair among others visited two private boatyards at Panavally and Pattanakad on Saturday to assess progress of the construction works.
"We've directed manufacturers to ready the first boat by September and the second by October. The construction activities are progressing well," K.J. Maxi, MLA, said.
"The FRP boats are cost effective in the long run due to lesser maintenance and operational cost. In fact the fuel consumption is 40 per cent lesser when compared to diesel steel boats, thanks to the vessels being lighter. Besides the lifespan too is more," said Sandith Thandasherry, CEO, NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats.
The 75-passenger capacity twin engine (50 hp each), double hull catamaran type boats will ply at a speed of 7.5 knots. Already the SWTD has successfully deployed two such FRP boats - the Vega 120, the fast ferry plying in the Vaikom- Ernakulam route, and Aditya, the solar ferry being run in Vaikom-Tavanakkadavu section.Currently, SWTD is operating eight schedules to destinations like Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Vypeen, Varappuzha and Mulavukad from Ernakulam boat jetty using nine boats, all over five to 10 years old....