Passengers using Kochi’s roll on-roll off (called Ro Ro) vessel services to ferry between Vypeen and Fort Kochi have demanded that its timings be normalised. Though there are two Ro Ro vessels at present operating in that stretch, only one of them is assigned for full time services i.e. from 6.30 am to 9 pm. The other vessel only for six hours 2 pm onwards.
Commuters under the initiative ‘Fort Vypin Janakeeya Kutayma’, an association which works for the welfare of residents of Vypeen, have demanded that working hours of second Ro Ro vessel be normalised.
The two places, Vypeen and Fort Kochi are located alongside the mouth of Vembanad Lake where it opens into Arabian Sea. Locals and tourists both prefer the Ro Ro services to cover the journey between Fort Kochi and Vypeen, which takes 15 to 20 minutes. By road, the same distance takes over an hour.
“Though earlier it was only one vessel which was operating, from last December both vessels had been deployed for service. But still now the authorities have not been able to normalise the timing of one of the vessels,” Majnu Komath, president of Fort Vypin Janakeeya Kutayma told TNM.
“Apart from the hundreds of people who use the Ro Ro service between Fort Kochi and Vypeen every day, the footfall has increased due to the Kochi Muziris Biennale too. If the second vessel’s timing is regularised, it would reduce the long queues,” he said.
Though there is a parallel boat service at the two places, passengers prefer Ro Ro service since they can also transport their vehicles like motorcycles and cars along with them in it. The ferry service also cuts down the time to reach Ernakulam city from Fort Kochi and Mattancherry area.
The two vessels (Sethu Sagar 1 and 2) were commissioned for the service first time in August 2018. But just days after starting the service, one of the vessels was docked for maintenance work as its propeller hit a concrete slab near Vypeen jetty.
Though repair work was completed soon, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), which is in-charge of Ro Ro operation, did not deploy the vessel citing shortage of operators. Presently there are three operators for the two Ro Ro vessels. It was after the third one was appointed that the KSINC started the service of the second vessel.
“The operations of these vessels are different from that of normal passenger boats. When we couldn’t find an experienced person, the already working two operators gave training to few people. Only one person among them was able to learn the method. We appointed him for service on last December,” a KSINC official told TNM.
According to the officials, the second Ro Ro vessel cannot operate from 6.30 am to 9 pm till they have at least one more operator. “A vessel needs at least two operators for normal services. We have two Ro Ro vessels and only three operators,” the official explained.
Presently, Ro Ro operators work in shifts, from morning to noon hours and from noon to night. But the since the second vessel has only one operator, it only runs during the peak hour between 2 pm and 8 pm.