Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

Ferrytale -III

Fairy Tale of Ferries

Twenty-eight rivers to be crossed in Goa, but only 23 ferries available for the job – a shortfall of five.  And, did it cross your mind that if the government takes Cortalim MLA Mauvin Godinho pitching for one Ravindra Bhavan per taluka seriously, you will end up with more Ravindra Bhavans than the life-depending ferry. 

Consider, as I said last week, this: ferry Rai – bottom plates require replacement; ferry Divar – bottom plates require replacement; ferry Diu –bottom/hull is weak and its doublers have been welded together; and ferry Sanguem – deck plates completely perforated.  These urgently needed repairs must be scheduled in the next 4-6 months.  In other words, you are never ever going to get a ferry service that deserves to be called a ferry service.  Mildly put, this is a logistic problem poor sods like you and me will have to navigate all alone.  And if it includes swimming across your river, carry your swimmers along.  To give it another perspective, this government seems determined to juggle around with whatever its existing (on that day) fleet of ferries is.  It does not matter to it how many more ferries get laid up for repairs.

Vasco da Gama and crew had an easier passage. Look at the risks you run.  The following is a list of ferries in queue for repairs at the government marine workshop, Betim: ferry Cumbarjua – major repairs being carried out; ferry Quepem – awaiting major repairs since February 2006 (this column was published on December 23, 2008), repairs to be outsourced; ferry Chandor – awaiting major repairs since February 2007, repairs to be outsourced; ferry Canacona - bottom perforated, awaiting major repairs since October 2007; ferry Zuari – bottom perforated - awaiting major repairs since August 2008; ferry Harvalem bottom perforated, awaiting major repairs since August 2008; ferry Zorint – major repairs being carried out since September 2008; ferry Dudhsagar – awaiting major repairs since July 2008 - repairs to be outsourced; ferry Betul – awaiting major repairs since September 2008.  Has weak bottom and has been in the queue since October 25, 2008.  The facts on the seaworthiness and delays in the repairs were obtained from the River Navigation Department and are not my comments.

That sinking feeling

That the ferries in Goa are single-bottomed unlike barges and other ships which are double–bottom is a worse concern.  In a built-to-specifications vessel the two steel bottoms encase a series of tanks, because if a barge or ship springs a major leak, the sea leakage into the vessel is as a result controlled or staggered.  This is a very basic explanation to how these vessels are specifically designed for such an eventuality, but says enough for the lay person.  Thus, if a ferry springs a major leak, sea water will fill the vessel in a rush and it will simply sink like a stone in water.  The panic passengers will create as a result, and the unevenly distributed weight of the vehicles in the ferry will only hasten its end.  This is the cold as steel reality.

For a State that has India’s worst and most expensive public transport system, river transportation is no better.  If you have not had the nerve to look at the rusted bottom and sides of the ferry you use daily, drum up the courage and take a hard look.  The harder fact is there is just no money to be made in building new ferries for you, like there is in building Ravindra Bhavans, six-lane highways, sports stadia, industrial estates, SEZs etc etc.  But, oddly there is money to be made in building ore-carrying barges. You will be as astonished if I tell you how many of your MLA’s own barges and or, are in the mining business, mostly illegal of course.  But, don't get too concerned for the moment about who owns those ore carriers that ply the Mandovi and Zuari rivers gifting literally our natural wealth to China while offering you in return a pollution nightmare only; there’s time for that.

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