The Thekkady boat tragedy calls for enactment of modified rules, strict enforcement and proper safety norms, opined Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions CEO and naval architect Sandith Thandasherry.
The R M Nair Committee in its recommendations has recommended frequent inspections of vessels at various stages by naval architects to frame rules under the Central – IV Act.
Unlike the earlier reports, a fiber boat is not any less safe because they are light. “Fibre if stronger than steel of the same weight. A fibre boat of same size and strength would be lighter than a steel boat. Because it is lighter it tends to have a higher center of gravity than a steel boat However it should meet the requirements by a better hull shape and better distribution of weight,” he added.
Sandith further pointed out that most of the inland navigation rules, being followed in the State, were outdated like the Canal Act of the Travancore Cochin states.
“The Canal rules specify only one releveant aspect to check a ship.s safety – freeboard. It does not have means of checking the stability of a vessel. The stability test would include assessment of the position of center of gravity of the vessel by means of an inclining experiment and based on that result prediction of the static stability and dynamic stability, which indicate the response to waves, wind, and passenger heeling,” he said.
Another aspect of the safety of the vessels is the importance of watertight bulkheads inside them.
“The existing rules allow boats without sufficient watertight bulkheads (compartments) to ply. Most vessels plying in our backwaters are unsafe from this point of view,” Sandith Thandasherry added.
Finally, it is important for operators to understand that carrying capacity of vessels – in case of cargo vessels the deadweight and in case of passenger vessels the passenger capacity.
“The structure of the vessel is deigned as per a draft (immersion level in water) called maximum draft. If a proper assessment was done in the form of an authoritative stability assessment, then when there is an overload the vessel may not be stable in a particular condition,” he said.
Other operational aspects include providing adequate number of life jackets and life buoys, which would be inadequate if passenger capacity is exceeded.