Integrated maritime board soon

Decision taken in the wake of recent boat tragedy at Kachluru in East Godavari

The State government will establish an integrated maritime board to enforce the rules prescribed in the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) manual at all places where boats, of any shape and size, are used at tourist spots.

The decision to set up such a board was taken at a review meeting held here on Thursday. It was chaired by Tourism Minister M. Srinivasa Rao and was attended by Araku MP Goddeti Madhavi, Visakhapatnam District Collector V. Vinay Chand, Commissioner of Police (Vizag) R.K. Meena, DIG (Vizag Range) L.K.V. Ranga Rao, GVMC Commissioner G. Srijana, officers from the Police Department, Airport Authority, officers from Indian Navy and senior officers from revenue and Tourism Department from the three north coastal districts.

The integrated board will comprise personnel from police, revenue, navy, agriculture and tourism.

The AP Maritime Board will be formed to check into various aspects such as fitness of the boats being used, the make and quality of the boats, capacity of the boats and people embarking on it, weather forecast, flow of water in rivers and sea conditions and wind speed.

The meeting was held to examine the incidents that led to the boat tragedy on the Godavari near Kachuluru village in East Godavari that claimed as many as 34 lives with 12 more were still missing.

Three things come to fore at the meeting, which could have led to the tragedy – overload, ill-trained crew members and fitness of the boat.

Control rooms

According to Mr. Srinivasa Rao, the boat operator did not heed to the weather warning. “When seven other boats refused to sail out with the tourists citing bad weather, the operator of Royal Vasista sailed out.”

“Apart from the board, we are mooting the idea of establishing integrated control rooms at all centres where there is boating facilities. The boats will sail out only after getting a clearance from the control room,” he said.

A senior naval officer present at the meeting pointed out that training of crew should be made mandatory.

According to him, sailing in the high seas and cruising on a river are two different ball games. In the case of seas, the weather dictates terms, whereas in the case of rivers, the flow of water has the say.

Charting of rivers

In this case, the river was in spate and the place where the incident took place was prone to whirlpools and it needs an experienced hand to negotiate and navigate through such a thing, the officer added.

Against this backdrop, it was decided that the idea of charting of rivers, wherever there is cruising, will be taken up and floating buoys will be kept to guide the ‘sarangs’ or masters of the boats.

The engine power of the boat and overloading was also discussed. Many mariners and naval officers present at the meeting pointed out that the boats plying on the rivers were not river-worthy. “To cut corners, the operators install lower horse power engines and at the same time load passengers beyond the capacity. If the engine was powerful, the disaster could have been averted,” said another senior officer from the Navy.

The Tourism Minister said that from now on, the control rooms would not only regulate embarkation to the capacity, but would also maintain a list with details of the passengers and promote the concept of insurance.

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