Kerala to offer new incentives to seaplane operators

Will Kerala’s ambitious seaplane project finally take off? Reports are emerging that the State government is looking to offer new incentives to seaplane operators. New guidelines in this regard are expected soon.
First launched back in June, 2013, the seaplane service, a Kerala Tourism Department initiative in association with private aviation companies, was expected to provide a big boost to tourism in the state, especially backwater tourism destinations. However, the project, touted as the country’s first sea plane service, failed to take off amid protest by traditional fishermen who claimed it threatened their livelihood and marine ecology. Fisherfolk had protested inside the ‘waterdrome’ and forced the inaugural flight to return without landing on the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha.
An expert committee set up by the government to study the issues raised by the fishermen has since submitted its report. However, with government yet to come out with a clear directive on implementation of the recommendations, uncertainty remains. Aviation companies are reluctant to bring their aircraft over fearing the project may not take off.
The government though had gone ahead and announced early bird incentives to attract potential seaplane operators and officials had assured imminent start of services. In last November S Anil Kumar, managing director of Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited (KTIL) said seaplane services would commence by end of the year before the 35th National Games. In February this year G Kamala Vardhana Rao, Tourism Secretary, Government of Kerala, said service will commence in March. “We have been able to clear all apprehensions of the fishermen community regarding the project,” he said.
The Hindu reports that three operators are interested in launching services. According to the tourism department, a Colombo based operator has also expressed interest in seaplane operations in the state. Consensus building measures and a clear assurance from the government that services can be operated without hindrance would instill confidence in aviation companies to go ahead with the project.