Lift foul weather restrictions, demand sail vessel operators

The coastal sail vessel operators in Thoothukudi sought intervention of the government to relax foul weather restrictions imposed on mechanically propelled sailing vessels.
Representative image
Representative image

MADURAI: The five-month foul weather restrictions at sea since May 1 halted the sail vessel operations. The weather restrictions since 2008 following an accident at the Andaman sea have been affecting the fortunes of the industry. Unlike those days, the sail vessels are being equipped with ‘distress alert transmitters,’ ‘automatic identification system,’ global position system, VHF and other modern navigation gadgets ensuring safety of the sail crew. Citing these, S Lasington Fernando, secretary, Tuticorin Coastal Mechanised Sail Vessel Owners Association on Monday sought the shipping ministry to lift such weather restrictions to continue sailing as the crews are scrupulously following the IMD bulletin.

Adding that weather restrictions are confined to three months from June for sail vessel operators off the West coast, he said restrictions should be uniform across the ocean.

Before weather restrictions implementation, cargo sail vessels bound for Sri Lanka made voyages throughout the year from Thoothukudi. However, the weather restrictions since 2008 resulted in diversion of cargo to container vessels. He also sought the government to provide satellite phones to the sail vessel crew as announced earlier.

Further, Fernando requested the government to provide diesel to the operators of sail vessels at subsidised cost like how it’s offered to fishing boats. On a par with the fishing industry, the sail vessel industry is also generating foreign exchange earnings through maritime trade. More importantly, the operators are lacking the dry docking facility, which’s a desperate need. Though a dry dock exists at Thoothukudi old port, it remains idle under poor condition for nearly thirty years now. The lack of this facility, which is required for taking up the basic maintenance works in sail vessels, is certainly a cause for major concern among the operators.

The lack of dry dock facility prompted the vessel owners to solely rely on Mangaluru seaport with heavy cost burden, he added.

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