New Indian coastal traffic corridor to avert ship-boat collisions

A designated traffic corridor for merchant vessels sailing along India’s western seafront is to be introduced with the aim of reducing the increasing number of mid-sea collisions involving commercial ships and fishing boats. Consultations are in the final stages for “a concrete traffic separation scheme for the west coast”, from the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Khambhat down through the coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and Kerala until some distance beyond Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. It was hoped that a map of the corridor would be produced by the end of September 2018.

KP Jaya Kumar, nautical adviser in-charge at the Directorate General of Shipping said that the traffic corridor was a result of a recent surge in mid-sea collisions, especially along the Kerala coast, where there is considerable fishing activity.

“The process is now under way to finalize the project – to mark the corridor on the map – which will be done in about 10 to 15 days,” Captain Kumar told The Hindu.

It was understood that the final draft would be issued and publicized in concordance with the provisions of international maritime regulations for merchant ships.

The Indian Coast Guard said the proposed corridor was 20nm wide and about 15nm from the coast.

Part of the difficulty of creating the corridor is that some areas that the path would logically take are dense fishing zones. Sanatan Jena, Coast Guard Commander for Kerala and Mahe, said that “we cannot ruin the livelihood of fishermen”. Because of this the Coast Guard is taking inputs from State Fisheries Departments to ensure that zones rich in fishing resources are kept out of the contours of the proposed corridor. Jena added that it was important to “sensitize” the fishing community that it had to avoid the corridor once it was in operation

Another senior Indian Coast Guard officer said that a sustained campaign was needed to make fishermen aware of marine fishing regulations.

“Specifically to Kerala, a good percentage of fishing boats are registered and colour-coding compliant. But there’s serious lapse in carrying lifesaving equipment on board. Basic things like ensuring that the seagoing personnel on board know swimming or the fundamentals of communication would go a long way in saving lives”.