Kochi: The Kerala police have asked the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) to temporarily withdraw the country’s first solar ferry boat from operation and subject it to dry-dock inspection to facilitate the collection of forensic evidence as part of the probe into the alleged sabotage attempt against it over a week ago. Unidentified miscreants had “removed” the rudder installation of the solar boat, deployed on the 2.5-km Vaikom-Tavanakkadavu route, on February 1, putting in danger the lives of hundreds of commuters. The rudder device is used to change the direction and control the boat.
“The forensic wing has handed over a letter to the SWTD director for dry-dock inspection of the boat. This is a crucial part of the probe to ascertain whether the incident was a mishap or a sabotage attempt,” said Vaikom Sub-Inspector M. Shahid. The SWTD had filed a complaint with the Kottayam Superintendent of Police while terming the “sabotage attempt” as deliberate to prevent the first such venture turning into a success and the subsequent roll-out of more solar ferries. The state had handed over a request to the Union Renewable Energy Ministry to allot funds for rolling out 10 more solar ferries on January 12.
“We’ve received the letter from the forensic wing and also from the ports department for facilitating the dry-dock inspection. It’s a tedious process and involves making a special docking plan and getting the approval of the same from authorities like IRS (Indian Register of Shipping). It would also mean the suspension of services for nearly a month,” said an SWTD official. The department has convened a special meet on Monday to take a decision on when to withdraw the service and adhere to the requirement of the police.