Kochi: Once the very identity of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD), the Wheel House boats locally known as Chukayakoodu are being phased out from operations with the corporation converting many of them into front-cabin ones.
Though such boats facilitated better navigation view for shranks and allowed increased passenger capacity, the decision was prompted by the setting up of low-elevation bridges across many popular water routes.
“Once almost all boats had deck cabins with shranks positioning themselves there. He would give instructions to the engine driver who negotiated the same from below. However, they are slowly phased out and now just eight such boats remain,” said Shaji V. Nair, SWTD director.
The SWTD was forced to withdraw such boats in Ernakulam and Alappuzha regions.
“Low-elevation bridges were set up across the channel at places like Pulinkunnu, Edathwa, Nedumudy and Kuttanad among others. When they are moved to the yard for repair, such boats will be converted to front cabin vessels,” he said.
The phasing out of such boats started in the Ernakulam region over three years back when the Fort Kochi boat tragedy happened.
"All such boats were replaced in the same year as we found Front-Cabin boats offer more stability in routes which experience turbulence. Also we then found it difficult to operate to routes such as Varappuzha when a low elevation bridge was constructed at 'Thudathumkadavu'," said Ernakulam Traffic Superintendent M Sujith.
However, the SWTD plans to "preserve" a couple of Wheel House boats, that being operated in the Panavally and Vaikom-Tavanakadavu section.