Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Seaplane plans in troubled waters

Given the large and small waterbodies that dot the country, India provides an ideal opportunity for seaplane operations. Unlike a conventional aircraft, a seaplane can land both on a waterbody and on land, thereby opening up more opportunities for business and tourism.

Realising this, the government decided to make a second attempt at seaplane operations when it allowed scheduled operators to start their businesses. The first attempt was made by the Manmohan Singh government in 2010 when it launched seaplanes in Juhu in Mumbai and then operations in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Those attempts met with a quick death.

 The Kerala government recently decided to withdraw permission for seaplane operations in the State due to apprehensions expressed by the fishing communities that the project could affect their livelihood as also the reported differences between the investors in the consortium that intended to run the project.

Withdrawing from the project, the State government directed the dismantling of all the water-dromes set up for the service at Punnamada, Kumarakom, Ashtamudi and Bakel as well as re-deploying assets like speedboats and jetties in these locations for the promotion of adventure tourism.

“The objective of setting up seaplane operations is to increase connectivity in remote places without the huge cost of building highways and runways,” Dhall argues.

He points out that Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, the North-East, Andamans, Lakshadweep and other coastal areas are some destinations that could be amenable to seaplane operations.
Such optimism also perhaps explains why SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore opportunities to acquire small amphibious aircraft to improve air connectivity to places that do not have airport infrastructure. SpiceJet signed the MoU in October last year for acquiring upto 100 amphibian aircraft. The deal is valued at $400 million, with the aircraft being able to land both on land and water.
19/09/18 V Sajeev Kumar/Ashwini Phadnis/Business Line