MoU inked to form special purpose vehicle for Water Metro project

The Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) and the state government on Tuesday, 1st May 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for forming a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the operation and maintenance of the Rs 747-crore Water Metro project. 

The SPV, Kochi Water Metro Ltd (KWML), shall be a joint venture with equity of 74% for the government and 26% for KMRL. As per the MoU signed by Chief secretary V P Joy and KMRL MD K R Jyothilal in Thiruvananthapuram, KWML will undertake the operation and maintenance of the project. 

“The state shall delegate to KWML the overall responsibility and authority for operating, maintaining and managing the Water Metro transport system to meet the requirements of a modern passenger ferry system in Kochi,” read the agreement. It said KMRL MD will be the MD of KWML. Technical assistance and administrative assistance required for the initial setting up of KWML will be provided by KMRL. There will be eight members on the board of directors, of whom the government will delegate five and KMRL three.

The Kochi Water Metro project is envisaged as an environment-friendly integrated water transport system connecting people of Kochi to the mainland, thereby improving their livelihood. KMRL has been the executing agency on behalf of the state government for the project, which is aimed at providing integration and connectivity between jetties, bus terminals and metro networks. The state of the art, environmental-friendly, modern electric boats would ensure seamless public transport with a significantly low carbon footprint. 

The project is expected to boost tourism prospects of the islands and support economic activities of the islanders. It will have 38 disabled-friendly Jetties and 78 boats that will operate over a route length of 76km connecting 10 islands. The project is funded by KfW, the German funding agency under the Indo-German Financial Cooperation.

The terminals in the first route at Vyttila and Kakkanad were inaugurated in February. Construction is on at other locations. The construction of 23 air-conditioned electric boats are progressing at Cochin Shipyard. The first boat was launched on March 31 and is undergoing tests and trials. This is the first time electric boats are being used for an organised water transport system anywhere in the world. 

Kochi Water Metro misses deadline again

The much-hyped Kochi Water Metro project, which was supposed to have started in February 2021 as per a revised schedule, is in a limbo. Though the first boat was expected to start operating in the VyttilaKakkanad sector in April 2021, the work on the boat is yet to be completed. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had inaugurated the terminals of the Vyttila-Kakkanad Water Metro route in February 2021.

It was then announced that the first boat would start plying soon. Even after months, Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), which has been entrusted with the construction of boats for the project, is yet to begin the work on providing the required fittings on the vessels. “The work was delayed due to the lockdown and other reasons. The CSL authorities had been facing shortage of workforce as many of their employees tested positive for Covid-19,” an official associated with project said. “We expect that they will hand over the first boat without much delay. They have also started the work on four more boats,” the official said.

The Water Metro, which was announced in December 2017, should have been commissioned by April 2019. “There had been many procedural delays. It was in October 2019 that the project got environmental clearance. We could start the tender works only after getting the environmental clearance. Within a couple of months, the Covid pandemic threw a spanner in the wheels of the project.

The lockdown in March 2020, the subsequent restrictions and shortage of workforce have impacted the project adversely,” an official with Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), the nodal agency for Water Metro project, said. Now, the work on jetties and dredging channels along the proposed routes are progressing, KRML officials said.

“Work on11 jetties is progressing. The work on another five will start soon. Dredging along the routes is also getting underway,” an official said. Besides improving connecting, especially between islands and mainland Ernakulam, the Water Metro is expected to give a big push to the overall development of the city.

The Rs 747-crore project aims at operating 78 high-tech boats in 15 routes. There will be 38 terminals in various locations in the mainland Kochi, nearby islands and suburbs. German development agency KfW has pledged its commitment for funding the project. There will be 23 boats with a passenger capacity of 100 and 55 boats with a capacity of 50 passengers are proposed.

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