Ola was ‘pressurizing’ to start river taxi ‘without’ IRS nod
It will not be possible for Ola to start the river taxi services in Guwahati without providing safety certificates from the Indian Register for Shipping (IRS).
A source in the inland water transport (IWT) department revealed that Ola was “pressurising” the state government for sailing permission to operate the river taxis in Brahmaputra “without” IRS certification.
The source said that Ola has been asked to provide all the safety certificates for sailing permission in Guwahati.
IRS is the recognised agency which provides safety certificates to vessels after thorough investigation. To ply on the Brahmaputra River a special certificate has to be availed mentioning that the vessels can “ply during monsoon and floods” on the river.
Director of inland water transport (IWT) department, BB Dev Choudhury said, “Ola has submitted a proposal and we are examining it.” He added that they (Ola) can provide their services on Brahmaputra River only after proper certification and observance of all safety regulations.
Soon after the global investors’ summit – Advantage Assam (held in February), Ola had surveyed the navigation route on Brahmaputra River and had identified three courses – Lachit Ghat to North Guwahati Ghat, Lachit Ghat to Umananda and Lachit Ghat to Palashbari.
Ola brought a vessel from Kolkata for a trial run and survey and according to Choudhury, that vessel was not certified to ply on the Brahmaputra.
After the survey Ola submitted a proposal and according to the same four fibre retrofitted plastic (FRP) boats will be introduced in Guwahati initially.
The estimated cost of one vessel is approximately Rs 1.2 crores. The cost might swell if air conditioners and other facilities are added. The vessel, which was brought after Advantage Assam, was also an FRP boat but was smaller in size.
In the proposal, Ola had also submitted a rate cost analysis according to which the fares would be between Rs 70 to Rs 150. The state government is examining the proposal and after all required approvals, the agreement might be signed, said Choudhury.
If the FRP vessels are brought with proper IRS safety certifications, Ola will start the services after three months, Choudhury claimed.
G Plus also tried to talk to Ola officials, but they did not respond to the queries asked.
The project will be in a public private partnership (PPP) model where the state government will just provide the terminus and in return will get a portion of the revenue generated. The revenue sharing model is being worked upon.
There was no tender floated as during Advantage Assam investors were invited to propose investments and accordingly a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Ola and the Assam government.
Now even other private parties are showing interest for operating river taxis. The IWT director said that all are welcome as either they can operate under Ola, or a different strategy could be adopted.
Two new vessels to enforce river taxi rules
The inland water transport (IWT) department is expected to introduce two enforcement vessels which would check violation of all water transport regulations.
IWT director, BB Dev Choudhury said, “There are many boats on the river plying without safety certificates from the Indian Register for Shipping (IRS).”
Enforcement vessels will keep a check on the boats plying on Brahmaputra River and the boats without IRS certification would be seized.
Even overloading, suspicious activities and law and order situation will be dealt by these two vessels.
The two boats will be introduced in Guwahati by the end of 2018.
The approximate cost of one boat is around Rs 40 lakhs but it would be faster than any other boat on the Brahmaputra, claimed Choudhury.
The enforcement boats will be of steel hull technology and will be specially designed for enforcement with amenities for river police and IWT enforcement officials.