Commuters decry ‘laid-off’ MV Kalighat, DSS assures action

Official apathy in maintenance of passenger vessels mars shipping services
Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
23 Apr 2017

Though considered the lifeline of this geographically distributed island territory, the Shipping Services continues to remain in complete disarray causing hardships to commuters particularly in the southern group of islands. Amid claims to have made discernible progress in improving the operational capacity of the its fleet, the Directorate of Shipping Services continues to burn up crores on rupees on repairs and wages of crew employed on board MV Kalighat, the passenger vessel, which has remained non-operational for around a year now. According to reports, people of these islands are now leveling allegations against the top officials of the Shipping Department for paying no attention towards effective repair and maintenance of the existing fleet of passenger vessels in apparent bid to favour private players by way of chartering ships for this territory.
MV Kalighat, a 400 passenger-cum-100 tonne cargo vessel, built by Hooghly Dock and Port Engineers has been out of operation for a major period since its induction in the DSS flotilla. Currently under repairs, the Shipping Department has till date spent crores of rupees for rectification of some technical snags in the vessel besides paying wages of  the crew members employed on board. Even a proposal from the local engineering agency, Royal Engineering, for repairs of the Refrigeration Unit of the vessel has not been considered either by the DSS or by the Shipping Corporation of India, said sources.
“The induction of the vessel MV Kalighat has failed miserably to improve services in these islands. It’s more than a year now that the ship is under repairs and is routinely sent to Dry Dock for one reason or the other and remains put there without any upgrade. The Shipping Department has till now spent crores of money on salaries and allowances of the crew members stationed idle at the Dry Dock. Even in the past, despite several repairs and renovations at Dry Docks in India and aboard, passengers travelling in MV Kalighat have complained of non-functional ACs and poor services. The top brass of the administration should take a strong note of the situation and issue necessary instructions to the Shipping Department to initiate measures to put the vessel into operation. The Shipping Department should also consider cutting down the strength of crew members when the vessel is under repairs to save government money,” said some residents of the southern group speaking to this correspondent.
The Director of Shipping Services, Captain Rajinder Kumar, refuted the allegations. “Whether a ship is under operation or not, minimum number of crew members must be deployed on board as per norms to obtain Safe Manning Certificate. Minimum number of crew members is mandatory for any type of marine vessel as per rules. Besides, a passenger vessel like MV Kalighat is equipped with a host of equipment and machinery which needs regular maintenance. Even to send a vessel to Dry Dock at Kolkata, rules specify that minimum number of crew members should be deployed. The Shipping Corporation of India is working to fix the snag in the generator unit of MV Kalighat after which application to seek sailing permission will be submitted to the competent authority,” said Capt. Kumar.