GIDA looking for agency to operate double-decker ferry

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KMRL’s Water Metro project will render GIDA ferry superfluous, says civic activist

The Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) is on the lookout for government agencies to which its long-overdue partly-AC ferry can be leased out.

“Work on the ferry which has a seating capacity of 90, is almost over. It now has to be registered by the Ports Department,” GIDA sources said.

Unlike most other ferries which have only single deck, this will be a double-decked one. The catamaran-type vessel will thus carry 60 people on the lower deck and 30 on the AC upper deck. It has been built as per the specifications of Indian Register of Shipping (IRS).

A government agency that GIDA approached and has expertise in the sector is not keen on taking the vessel on lease. “We have spoken to KMRL that is expected to operate 78 modern ferries in the Greater Kochi area (by 2021) conveying our willingness to lease out the vessel,” GIDA sources said.

The order to construct the vessel was placed as per a project initiated in 2012 to operate a ferry service and to renovate existing jetties in the Kochi backwaters, augmenting water transport in the region. The GIDA general council decided not to operate the vessel since KMRL formulated its ₹750-crore Water Metro project to operate 78 ferries in the Greater Kochi area.

“The routes would clash since our plan was to operate ä circular service in the busy Vypeen-West Kochi-Ernakulam sector. A decision on leasing the vessel to KSINC which has expertise in operating both ferries and also roll-in, roll-out (RoRo) ferries, or to KMRL will be taken in two weeks,” GIDA sources said.

On whether there was a possibility of operating the ferry in the Ernakulam-Varapuzha sector, sources said that Varapuzha was beyond the Goshree Islands. Moreover, Water Metro ferries, the first lot of which are expected by December, are scheduled to link the Goshree isles with the city and beyond.

Responding to the development, chairman of Goshree Action Council, Majnu Komath, said that GIDA would have little or no role to play in improving water transport in the region since 78 ferries were expected to be rolled out as part of the impending Water Metro project. The ferry would have been relevant a decade ago.

The agency must instead focus on improving commuting infrastructure within Goshree Islands and in augmenting water supply. It must also take the lead in decongesting the Ernakulam-Bolghatty and Vallarpadam-Vypeen bridges by constructing bridges parallel to them. The opening of a new mega convention centre in Bolghatty had worsened congestion on the stretch, Mr. Komath said.

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