Catching a glimpse of the Royal Bengal tiger in the Sundarbans while the ferry takes one through the many twists and turns of the misty riverine route that surrounds this mangrove forest, means a day well spent but just to take the excitement a notch higher, soon tourists may be able to do the same thing, except that they may be able to reach the wild mangroves or the historical forts of Murshidabad from Kolkata on a seaplane.
This isn’t a dream anymore as the Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port (SMP), Kolkata is carrying out a project feasibility survey in West Bengal to chalk out some routes where seaplanes can be operated. The project is being jointly considered by the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
The SMP chairman, Mr Vinit Kumar, told The Statesman that the port has been given the responsibility to carry out the surveys to determine whether some routes for seaplanes can be indeed be opened up in Bengal. He added that the port carries out hydrological studies from time to time and has the necessary equipment to carry out an extensive survey that would include measuring the depths of water level and the length of open sea channel which are vital parameters concerning the operation of a seaplane.
A senior port official said “A minimum of one kilometre of open sea channel and a depth of three to four meters is necessary for the operation of the seaplane. The locations where the survey is being carried out include Kolkata, Sunderbans, Sagar and Murshidabad.”
Asked about the chances of the feasibility of the project in Bengal, a port official confirmed a basic report has been compiled which indicates positive chances but a final project feasibility report is yet to be submitted. It is learnt that the project would be executed jointly by the two ministries given their respective expertise in both waterways and operating in the air.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that the aim is to build about 14 water aerodromes by the end of this financial year and by 2024 more such facilities are to be set up under the central government’s UDAAN scheme.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in 2020 launched the first seaplane service between the Sabarmati Riverfront and the Statue of Unity in Gujarat
This apart, port officials said that during the recent visit to Kolkata by Shantanu Thakur, the Union minister of state for Ports and Shipping, in a meeting with the SMP officials, the minister examined the progress of four projects- seaplane project in Bengal, development of passenger jetties, development of Ro-Ro and cargo transportation on the Icchamoti River and development of ship/barge repair facilities in National Waterways-I area of West Bengal.