In a bid to transform the quality of inland water transport services in the state, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma flagged off four steel catamaran vessels at Pandu Port in Guwahati in the presence of transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on November 8.

These vessels are launched under a World Bank-funded project to integrate high quality passenger and vehicle ferry services into the state’s wider transport network system. Out of the four vessels, two will ply over river Brahmaputra at Majuli and one each in between Guwahati-North Guwahati and Uzanbazar -Umananda ferry ghats.

The newly launched vessels have the capacity of 100 passenger and 50 two wheelers and are powered with 180 HP twin engines which can go in a speed of 10 knots forward speed. The vessels can ply even the lower draft of 0.75 m and have advance equipment such as control & monitoring, communication and navigation, GPS, eco sounder, wind measurement, lifesaving and firefighting equipment.

Coinciding with the occasion, chief minister Sarma also launched e-ticketing system for Umananda ferry service which will enable tourists to pre-book their tickets and thereby help in management of ferry operations.

Speaking on the occasion, chief minister Sarma said that the culture and civilization of Assam is nurtured by the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers and their tributaries. However, these rivers also pose challenges in terms of communication for people living on both the banks; he said adding that government efforts are therefore underway to rejuvenate river transportation in the state.

The chief minister informed that the IWT department inked an MoU with World Bank, which has sanctioned an amount of Rs 770 crore towards realizing the state government’s effort for improvement of river transportation. Out of this amount, Government of India would refund 80 per cent and the state government would bear the remaining 20 per cent, he said.

Further observing that challenges bring opportunities, Sarma said that after the boat accident at Neamatighat, the state government took an aggressive approach to make river transportation more hassle-free and secured. Accordingly, steps are in progress to fit marine engine at 853 boats having single engine in the state. He also elaborated government steps taken to streamline ferry service post Neamatighat incident and plans for passenger movement between Majuli and Jorhat during the ensuing Raas Festival.

The Assam CM added that the state government is working to rejuvenate river transportation through technological intervention and under this initiative earlier e-ticketing system was introduced for Jorhat-Majuli and on November 8 it is introduced for Uzanbazar-Umananda ferry ghats. He said that e-ticketing system at Jorhat-Majuli ferry ghat has immensely helped to make the system transparent as since its launch on September 27, government has earned revenue to the tune of Rs 26 lakh.

He further informed that shortly e-ticketing system will be launched for Guwahati-North Guwahati ferry service. The chief minister also asked the department to introduce the same for all ferry ghats of the state.

Assam transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in his speech highlighted the steps taken by the department for improvement of inland water transport system in the state. He said that prior to Neamatighat boat mishap, 16 boats used to ply between Majuli and Jorhat. However, presently government efforts are on to increase the number up to 20. He informed that as of now, six government vessels and two private ferries are in operation at Majuli, besides fitting of marine engine on five boats are underway. Moreover, marine engine would be fitted in another five private boats that will ply between Jorhat and Majuli, he said.

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