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Thursday , 30 November 2023

Ernakulam’s International Boat Jetty Terminal will be Kerala’s Major Water Transport Hub

The Boat Jetty Terminal Building at Ernakulam is being developed into a major transport facility and a hub for water transport in Kerala. For this, a contract has been awarded to Cochin based Kumar Group of total Designers by the Kerala State Tourism Department (KSTD). The Group is reconstructing the main boat jetty near Subash Park and developing the Marine Drive walkway. Providing facilities for a bus terminal for Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses, though on a smaller scale when compared with the water transport facilities, is also a part of the plan.

For many years the main boat jetty has served as a facility for regular boat services to places such as Kottayam, Kumarakom and Alleppey through Kerala’s famed and scenic backwaters. Public ferry services from the High Court jetty have served as the major transportation method for people residing in the islands of Vypeen, Bolgatty and Willingdon islands. Similarly, another boat jetty near the High Court has also served as a hub for tourist boat services to Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and the Bolgatty Palace in Bolgatty Islands.

Thousands of commuters, including foreign and domestic tourists, who visit the main boat jetty building every day, prefer to use water transport to road transport. The latter has been introduced since the past seven-eight years. Water transport is much cheaper. For example, the boat fare to Fort Kochi and Mattancherry is र2.50 while the bus fare is र8.50. Also, the ferries and boats take less than 20 minutes to cover the distance that is otherwise covered in 60 to 90 minutes by road in crowded buses and auto rickshaws, through congested roads and bridges. But the commuters have been forced to use roads as the two boat jetties are not able to cope with the demand of the ever increasing number of commuters. Also, the facilities at the old boat jetties for domestic and international tourists who come to enjoy the verdant beauty of Kerala were poor.

The new boat terminal building will change this situation by providing proper facilities both for water transport and water tourism.

Two types of jetties are provided for water transport. In the new setup, three metre wide jetties are provided for berthing public ferries with a capacity to take 50-60 passengers. Private boats, which usually accommodate one family or about three to four persons at a time, use the two metre wide jetties for servicing. The new jetties are also designed taking into account the different types of water levels that they encounter. For this, steps are provided at four different levels: one step at -30cm (30cm below ground level) for high water level, one step at -1.2m for low water level, and two steps at -60cm and -90cm respectively for intermediate water levels. These water levels for the jetties apply to all kinds of boats serviced by the jetty terminal.

The new Boat Jetty terminal will meet international standards. It will change the state of water transport in and around Ernakulam. So many commuters, who now travel in crowded buses, will find travelling to different parts of Kerala quicker and pleasant. Tourism to the islands near Cochin, and to the famed backwaters of Alleppey, will also be greatly benefited. — S Gopakumar, Principal Architect, Kumar Group Total Designers

In the new design, extra jetties which serve a dual purpose – as parking and repair jetties – have also been provided. Since all the boats are not used at all times, the extra jetties serve as parking slots for the boats. Also, the boats are brought to these jetties for being serviced or repaired. Currently, the main jetty offers no repair facility. The Kumar Group has also proposed in its design a Diesel Fuelling Pump and Underground Storage Tank, spread over an area of 350sqm, for exclusive use by Kerala State Water Transport Development Corporation (KSWTDC) boats. This facility, if approved, will improve the water transport services as presently the boats have to be refuelled at other places like Alleppey. The new terminal will also boast of a rainwater harvesting facility through which rainwater will be collected from the main roof of the building in a tank of 7.5 lakh litres for use in the kitchen and for maintenance purposes of the building.

The new boat jetty building is expected to encourage water tourism and many types of water sports including paddle boats, motor boats and speed boats. Owing to extensive tourist demand, the KSTD had earlier proposed to start group water tourist facilities from the High Court but poor facilities at the High Court jetty did not facilitate that. Out of the nine boats that are supposed to be in service only three are operational at present. While four boats are at the jetty for repairs, two are lying at the repair yard of the KSWTDC. Now the reconstructed main jetty terminal is in a much better position to provide these services. The new building will have travel agencies and ticket counters for the different boating services viz. passenger boats, public ferries, speed boats and leisure boats. It will also house offices of the KSTD and KSWTDC on the mezzanine floor, in addition to providing a Tourist Information Counter, thus allowing the boat passengers convenient interaction with the boating authorities and opportunities to register grievances.

There will also be a bus terminal at the entrance of the jetty terminal building for road transport services. The bus terminal will offer KSRTC bus services via Goshree Bridge and Vypeen Islands to Bolghatty Islands and north Paravoor for both – long routes and short routes. The approach road to the building has been widened from the earlier six metres to 12m now in order to do away with the problems of narrow approach road that was clogged with marble slabs, open drains and heaps of garbage. The bus terminal will include a bus repair garage, a fuel filling facility, a bus bay and idle parking area. The bus bay can accommodate up to six buses at a time while the idle parking area will have space for eight buses. The garage is sufficiently large and can accommodate all the different types of buses in use by the KSRTC – Volvo, Ashok Leyland and Tata buses.

The boat jetty building will also play an important role in extending Marine Drive, a walkway facing the backwaters. It extends from the High Court junction to the Children’s Park. The walkway is very popular with both the local populace as well as the tourists, who visit it especially in the evenings to see the sunset and get fresh air. Since it is a very popular tourist destination, a large number of cars will require parking facility. The new terminal will provide car parking facilities for about 110 cars. To further encourage tourists, the jetty terminal building will also have book stalls, a multi-cuisine restaurant, snack counters, shopping pavilions and ice cream shops.

The Terminal will be opened by the end of this year.

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