Rajahmundry: Department of ports to issue licences to all passenger boats

Rajahmundry: All passenger boats across rivers, canals and reservoirs would require licence from the department of ports from April 1 as per norms of Inland Vessels Act, 2017 in the state. The move to streamline registration and operation of passenger boats and ensure passenger safety came in the wake of the tragic death of 21 tourists in a recent boat tragedy on the river Krishna.

Accordingly, the department of ports had been entrusted with the task of registration and issue of licence to the passenger boats unlike the prevailing practice of department of water resources issuing them. Minister for tourism Bhuma Akhila Priya made a statement in the Assembly recently responding to query stating the department of ports was entrusted with the responsibility to register and issue licence to passenger boats plying on rivers, canals and reservoirs in the State. The government had adopted the Inland Vessels Act, 2017, of the Centre after making necessary changes in the 1917 Act.

Technical personnel in the department of ports would check the stability, naval architecture, fitness and several key parameters in the boat before allowing its registration to get licence for a year. Surveyors in the department would inspect thoroughly the various parameters before issuing licence to passenger boats.
Sources in the ports department said a majority of passenger boats were unfit as they failed to comply with the very stringent technical features and safety norms recommended in the Act.

However, as boat owners would lose revenues if their boats got grounded and passengers or tourists too got disappointed for lack of boats, the authorities intended to relax certain norms without compromising on the safety of passengers. It would initially allow boats ply with very limited number of passengers. But, new boats would have to comply with all safety norms.

The state government had already set up a panel to come up with a series of guidelines, especially for dealing with passenger boats giving safety top priority.
Kakinada port conservator K. Varma said, “We are expecting the state government to finalise modalities with slight modifications in stringent norms to issue licence to passenger boats shortly.”

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