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'Doomed Kerala boat designed to carry only 42 people'

October 28, 2009 20:52 IST

The boat owned by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, which sank in Thekkady in Sepetmeber, was designed to carry only 42 people, a top expert said on Wednesday. S K Pyarelal, head of CUSAT shipping department who on Tuesday submitted his report on the technical aspects of the doomed 'Jalakanayaka', said there were at least 87 passengers in the boat at the time of the mishap on September 30.

The design of the vessel was 'wrong' and it had a passenger capacity of only 42 people, Pyarelal, who was asked by the authorities to look into possible technical defects of the boat, told reporters.

"If a naval architect had been involved from tendering to inception of its operation, and the builder ensured the involvement of the designer throughout the construction process and fulfilled the contract requirement of getting a stability certificate from the Indian Register of Shipping, the mishap could have been averted," he said.

According to him, there were four major faults which led to the tragedy -- administrative failure, building failure, approval failure and design failure. The builder M/S Vigneesh Marine Services, Chennai, had made substantial changes in the vessel's design.

A staircase, which was originally planned in the middle of the boat as per design, had been placed on the starboard side. A bilge pump was set up on the starboard side and changes in the seating arrangements were also made, Pyarelal claimed.

This led to symmetry of weight -- 351 kg -- on the star board side, resulting in an angle of lift of 2.13 degrees to starboard, which is dangerous to any type of vessel, he said.

If the builder had involved Dr Ananthasubramanian, professor of IIT and the designer, at least during the final testing stage, he would have identified the fault and insisted on a corrective action, Pyarelal said.

As many as 45 people, mostly tourists from different states including Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, died when the boat capsized in Thekkady lake.

Four persons, including steersman Victor Samuel and Chief Inspector of Boats M Mathews, had been arrested in connection with the September 30 incident.

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