Fresh controversy over charter of MV Coral Queen

Shipping Department refutes allegations of retrofits
Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
1 Jun 2017

Charter of 450 passenger-cum-100 MT Cargo capacity vessel, MV Coral Queen has kicked up a fresh controversy after allegations of certain internal modifications in the vessel came to fore recently. Sources claim that the Shipping Department is carrying out certain retrofits in the vessel currently causing delay in pressing the vessel into service for the southern group of islands. The Shipping Department has, however, refuted the charges.
According to sources, the Administration faltered while assessing the passenger amenities on board the vessel before entering into the charter agreement with the company. “At the time of manufacturing, the vessel MV Coral Queen was fitted with only chairs with back rest for passengers. After realizing that such arrangement would cause huge inconvenience to passengers during long voyages to Campbell Bay and other parts in the southern group, the Shipping Department initiated steps to install Bunks and other suitable amenities for passengers. The move is set to cost more on the government treasury which is in addition to the huge expenditure incurred on the charter of the vessel,” said sources.
When contacted, the Deputy Director of Shipping Services, Mr Veeraiah instantly refuted the allegations. “Such claims are absolutely baseless. MV Coral Queen is already equipped with many categories of passenger amenities like Bunk Class, Cabins, Seats etc. The delay in pressing the vessel into operation is being caused as we have not yet received the readiness certification from the owner of the ship. Once the required clearances are obtained, the vessel will begin operations and payments to the agency will start. In fact, the private agency is responsible for the delay. Moreover, such charter agreements are executed between the Shipping Corporation of India or the UT Administration and the Shipping Department has no direct role in such accords,” added Mr Veeraiah.
The Directorate of Shipping Services had entered into an agreement with Castle Ships Travel Pvt. Limited, a Mumbai-based company, to charter a 450 passenger RoRo ship. MV Coral Queen, which has deadweight of 500 tonnes, is also capable of transporting tonnes of cargo to remote locations. The vessel arrived Port Blair recently following which residents of remote islands particularly the southern group are eagerly awaiting the vessel to be pressed into service. The Directorate of Shipping Services has placed orders for construction of four Harbour Crafts to Goa-based Vijay Marine Services.