Solar Energy, CNG Will Soon Power Kerala’s Ferries and Tourist Boats

Highlights :

  • The city-based Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation Ltd is readying to launch its first solar powered tourist vessel “Suryanshu”, a double-decked vessel that can carry 100 passengers.
  • State Water Transport Department is expected to roll out five solar powered ferries in early 2022 and a double-decked tourist vessel in a month.

Ferries, tourist boats, and barges operated by public sector agencies in Kerala are set to take the plunge into solar power or CNG as the fuel source to address climate change concerns and to rein in the operational cost, according to recent media reports.

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The city-based Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation Ltd (KSINC) is readying to launch its first solar powered tourist vessel “Suryanshu”, a double-decked vessel that can carry 100 passengers, while State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is expected to roll out five solar powered ferries in early 2022 and a double-decked tourist vessel in a month.

The Alappuzha-based SWTD had created headlines in 2017 with the launch of Aditya, said to the first fully solar powered ferry in Asia, after its daily operational expenses of the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu ferry fell from ₹8,000 per day (when a diesel ferry was in operation) to ₹200. Buoyed by this, and the ferry going on to net the best ferry award in 2020, the department placed orders for five sister ferries and a tourist vessel.

A decision is awaited on how many of the ferries will be operated in Alappuzha and Ernakulam, SWTD sources said.

The agency’s director, Shaji V. Nair, said all ferries that operate in Ernakulam would be converted to CNG to rein in their operational expenses. “The funds for this are expected to be set apart in the forthcoming State budget, while a CNG vending station has been envisaged in the Ernakulam boat jetty.”t

On its part, the KSINC is set to take a giant leap toward CNG and harnessing solar power for its vessels. “Suryanshu, our first solar vessel, will shortly be rolled out after testing and obtaining statutory clearances, for operation in either Alappuzha or the Marine Drive backwaters here. It was built at a yard in Sri Lanka. Efforts are on to convert all our tourist vessels solar powered ones and barges to CNG, a much cheaper fuel than diesel,” said Prasanth Nair, the agency’s MD.

Advantages

An estimation process and cost-benefit analysis of the shift to other energy modes is under way. The advantages are many, nil or negligible sound and air pollution and far less maintenance. This is especially true with solar powered vessels which have just a few moving parts. Efforts are also under way to replace the KSINC’s official cars which incur high fuel and maintenance expense, with electric cars, he said.

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