The Centre is mulling introduction of hybrid electric boats for passenger and ro-pax services across the Ganges and the Brahmaputra locations. The proposed locations include Guwahati and Dibrugarh in Assam, Kolkata in West Bengal, Patna in Bihar and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

The routes fall under the National Waterways 1 and National Waterways 2.

According to an official in the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, the proposal to introduce hybrid electric boats was made by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) during the Sagarmala Apex Committee meeting held earlier in May.

Cochin Shipyard Ltd – the country’s largest shipbuilder – was reportedly suggested as the choice of supplier of these boats – which will reportedly have a capacity of 100 passengers, including 50 seating and 50 standing capacity.

The move comes as a part of the Centre’s push towards green shipping initiatives and eco-friendly urban mobility measures.

Ministry officials said the possibilities are being explored to deploy fully electric ferry and hydrogen-fuelled ferries on Inland Waterways to enhance river cruise tourism; Electric Catamaran Water Taxi deployment at Varanasi and Guwahati in the first phase. Additionally, Hybrid Electric Roll-on -Roll off (Ro-Ro) vessels having a dual fuel system (LNG+ battery) are also being considered at Guwahati for river crossings.

When contacted by BusinessLine, Cochin Shipyard refused to comment on the matter.

“Cochin Shipyard is a logical choice as it already has the expertise in the matter. They are working on mobility solutions like hybrid electric ferries, autonomous zero-emission vessels, pilot project on hydrogen fuel cell ferry, hybrid electric Ro-Ro, and so on,” the Ministry official told BusinessLine.

Electric Boats

The shipbuilder, it may be recalled, recently handed over one electric hybrid boat – of 100 pax capacity – for a water metro ferry under the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd.

There is an order for 23 such electric hybrid ferries. Another three to four such ferries are expected over the coming months.

Cochin Shipyard has also signed a contract for the construction and supply of two autonomous electric ferries for ASKO Maritime AS, Norway, with the option of building two more identical vessels.