Kerala ports lack effective search and rescue system

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The lack of facilities, inadequate safety measures at sea make fishermen vulnerable.

Saravanapoyka was 40 nautical miles from shore when the crew received a storm warning and instructions to return. Rocked by strong winds and rough seas, the engine stopped running halfway, leaving the crew stranded. Their SOS calls to the fisheries department were unanswered and two other fishing boats came to their aid.

“We had to wait for hours with three injured people on board when no law enforcement vessel was in a rush to respond. They didn’t offer us any help, ”says Rajesh, a crew member.

Despite the growing number of fatalities, most of the state’s ports do not have an effective system for conducting maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations. The lack of facilities and inadequate safety measures at sea often make fishermen vulnerable. Another challenge is rescue teams without proper training.

Rented boats

The Fisheries Department uses rented fishing vessels for maritime law enforcement, and officials agree that current facilities are not sufficient for rescue operations. They believe that stylish lifeboats instead of fishing boats will help the department work more efficiently.

The government decided to form sea rescue teams after Cyclone Ockhi and selected fishermen received training at the Goa National Institute of Water Sports. The idea was to ensure the availability of ships with an emergency crew to respond to distress calls.

“It is true that the fishermen do not receive immediate help and there are many reasons for this. A fleet of lifeboats capable of handling strong winds and waves as well as a team of experts are needed in an emergency. Although the fishermen have received certificates, they cannot be used for high risk rescue operations. Appropriate and ongoing training is needed for this, ”says Dolphin Ratheesh, a lifeguard.

Coastal police station

Kerala’s first Coastal Police Station was commissioned in 2009 in Neendakara and today the state has 18 stations in nine coastal districts. While some stations are understaffed, others operate with minimal facilities. Neendakara station was allocated three boats in 2009, which are in poor condition due to wear and tear.

In addition to their woes, Kollam, a district with a long coastline, has only one coastal police station. “It takes more than three hours for a boat from Paravur to reach Azheekkal in bad weather. We need at least two more stations in neighborhoods like Kollam, ”an official said.


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