KOCHI: The failure of Department of Ports to check the rampant usage of small ferry boats in rural routes without any safety features has led to the tragic death of a person in Puthanvelikara. DC had reported about small boats carrying vehicles and passengers beyond their capacity, with blatant disregard to safety mechanism. Yet authorities failed to take any concrete action on such warnings.
In the rural areas of Ernakulam district, many small ferry services operate between small islands and hundreds of passengers are dependent on them. The Station Kadavu ferry between Puthanvelikara and Pazhampillithuruth connects Ernakulam and Thrissur districts and is the shortest route to reach Mala and Thrissur from Paravur.
Small ferry services at Kurumbathuruth, Kurisingal, Gothurthu, Kottayilkovilakom and Thuruthipuram, all small islands near North Paravur, are in dire state. Though these ferry services are operated by individuals licenced by the panchayat authorities, there is no mechanism to check if they comply with safety norms.
“The panchayat has given licence to the ferry service after inspecting all the safety certificates. But, the operator is used to carry four-wheelers and three-wheelers in violation of the agreement norms. As per the tender agreement, the ferry is only for passengers and two-wheelers,” said P.V. Laju, Puthanvelikara panchayat president.
“Since it's the local body that gives licence to private agencies to conduct ferry service, it's the duty of the panchayat authorities to ensure safety facilities,” said an official with the Department of Ports. Meanwhile, State Water Transport Department director Shaji V. Nair told DC that taking over the private ferry boats in rural routes is not feasible due to high cost and the high number of staff required.
“There are hundreds of small passenger and ferry boat services in different parts of the state that are auctioned by the respective panchayat committees. It is a fact that many of them operate in violation of safety norms,” he said.