MMD licence: Passenger boat drivers at sea
By Express News Service - KOCHI
18th December 2012 08:55 AM
The recommendation by the Port Department to the state government to deploy drivers holding Marine Mercantile Department (MMD) licence to operate in the Kochi backwaters has kicked up a row with the Kerala State Water Transport Department.
The recommendation comes in the wake of the incident wherein a passenger boat hit INS Viraat in the backwaters last month.
According to officials with the KSWTD, the directive, if implemented, will leave its staff and services in the Kochi-Fort Kochi-Vypeen routes in the lurch as most of the drivers and shranks do not have an MMD licence.
“Usually an MMD licence is provided to those who have at least five years’ experience. Also, the protocol to procure the licence is extremely difficult. If the order is brought into effect, we will be forced to withdraw most of our drivers as they are only eligible as per Kerala Inland Vessels Rule 2010,” said Ernakulam KSWTD Superintendent Xavier Joseph.
According to him, all the drivers and shranks who were selected to the post in the department have the KIV licence, the only requirement as per the guidelines of 2010. “The KSWTD staff must hold a licence as per the KIV rule. Even six months ago we had received a letter from the Port Department stating that the staff requires only KIV licence. The new recommendation is in contrary to the letter,” Xavier said.
However, Director of Ports Jacob Thomas said that the department has only made a suggestion for MMD licence. “The drivers would not require the licence as they are only operating at small distances. Also, the boats used by the KSWTD are small. However, five years’ of experience is compulsory for the boat operators as human life is at risk if a driver or a shrank is not skilled. If the government realises there is a need for drivers to hold an MMD licence, we will insist on it,” he said.
He said the recent incident wherein a boat hit the INS Viraat and other similar incidents in the past point to a human element. “In most of the cases, the incidents take place due to the inexperience of the staff,” Jacob Thomas said.
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