Kochi: Hundreds of daily boat commuters will be relieved as the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has finally acted on their long- pending demand and started construction of nine IRS class boats to replace the existing “old rusty fleet” deployed in the Kochi backwaters. The work order to construct nine Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) catamaran boats has been given to two Kochi-based firms– Praga Marine Pvt Ltd and Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions Pvt Ltd, after bidding. “The boats will be as per the standards of the Indian Registrar of Shipping (IRS). The drawings (design) got approval on Saturday and the construction has started. We aim to deploy them at Kochi in a year’s time,” said Shaji V Nair, Director, SWTD.
Currently, SWTD is operating its 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. Commuters complain that most of these steel boats have “corroded”. “One of the main issues we faced is the fast rusting of the boat hull due to the presence of salt content in Kochi backwaters. The new GRP boats can resist rust and will have more operating lifespan,” the official said.
The fibre ferries can carry upto 110 passengers and attain a speed of upto 10 knots, much faster than the existing ones. The issue of the risk in operating old boats in the Kochi backwaters was even taken up in the state cabinet by John Fernandes, MLA. “No new boats have been deployed in the Ernakulam region in the last five years. The condition of the fleet currently deployed is a cause for concern. Cancellation of services is done frequently to carry out repairs every now and then,” the Anglo-Indian representative of the state assembly had said.