Defective planning, lack of coordination has led to lack of transport infrastructure in the islands: Bishnu

Port Blair, Aug. 19: In a letter to the Hon’ble President of India and copies to the Prime Minister and others concerned, the Member of Parliament, Shri Bishnu Pada Ray has highlighted the delay in construction of 400 Passenger capacity vessel of A&N Administration ‘MV Mayabunder’, which has been causing immense hardship to the people of Southern Group of Islands.

The MP wrote “The Govt. is well aware of the geographical isolation of A&N Islands and the problems being faced by the islanders for the past many years due to poor connectivity, especially those living in the Southern Group. The Ship acquisition plan of the Govt. has always remained a dream to the islanders and none of the ships ordered with Indian Shipyard was delivered as per schedule”.

He noted that the passenger ship MV Mayabunder with 400 pax capacity was ordered with M/s Alcock Ashdown, Gujarat Ltd. sometime in 2001. The target was to deliver it by 2003 or so but it is yet to be delivered after a decade.

The MP further explained that the UT Administration had made a plan to acquire 25 new ships during the 11th Five Year Plan, of which only two 500 passenger capacity ships have been ordered so far. The ships available with the Administration for plying between Port Blair and Southern Group are very old and not fit even to carry cows and buffalos. These old ships remain non-operational due to prolonged repairs due to vintage of those obsolete machineries.  

He further said that the attempt by the UT Administration and SCI to charter ships as a stop gap arrangement has also proved a failure. A 1975 vintage ship ‘MF Samsun’ was chartered in a haphazard manner costing Rs. 60 Crores approx. chartering charges per annum. This ship he said, though appears to be a luxury but the fact is it is not fit to travel as the air conditioner of this compact ship always remains under repair, putting untold sufferings to the travellers.

The ship ‘MV Mayabunder’ was ordered with a defunct PSU at a contractual cost of Rs. 63 crores in 2001, which halted progress some time in 2004. The UT Administration has already released Rs. 55 Crores approx. out of which some portion of the amount was released even after the work was halted. Now with the delay, the estimated cost of completion of the ship is roughly around Rs. 170 Crores, which the UT Administration has to bear and the shipyard has no liability or any kind of penalty.

The MP blamed it on the defective planning, lack of coordination, improper selection of agencies and cumbersome Govt. procedures as the factors that lead to lack of transport infrastructure. He therefore has appealed to the President of India and others for an immediate intervention in the issue in order to resolve the burning ship connectivity problems of A&N Islands.