A heritage paddle steamer will make a comeback on the Hooghly in a new ‘Avatar’

Built at Dumbarton Dockyard in the UK in the 1940s, a ‘PS Bhopal’ paddle steamer is set to make its return to the Hooghly River soon and is expected to give a boost to the Port of Kolkata’s heritage tour programme, officials said Sunday.

The makeover of the 62.6 meter long and 2.4 meter wide ship is being done in a private yard near the eastern metropolis.

“The ship’s refurbishment is nearing completion and it is expected to be sailing the Hooghly River soon, possibly within the next couple of months. Once the steamer is commissioned, it will provide a boost to our heritage tour program as the new look ‘PS Bhopal’ will accommodate more heritage enthusiasts than the existing vessel used for such tours,” Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Chairman Vinit Kumar told PTI. , in Kolkata.

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paddle steamer
Photo: Twitter/@SMPort_Kolkata

The private party involved in the renovation and operation of the heritage vessel will use it for commercial purposes instead of a royalty payment of Rs 50,000 to the port authorities, he said.

Overhaul of the 80-year-old vessel is being carried out at a cost of over Rs 3 crore, he said.

The ‘PS Bhopal’ was part of a flotilla of steamships which were brought from the UK during the British period and deployed mainly on the rivers of undivided Bengal to haul cargo, and many of these vessels are still available in neighboring Bangladesh, said Goutam Chakraborty, Honorary Heritage Advisor of SMP, Kolkata.

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The paddle steamer, which had two large paddles on each side driven by steam engines, had cruised the Hooghly River for years before being converted into a training vessel, he said.

In a bid to restore the historic value of the ship, river port authorities have decided to keep the paddle and old machinery as artifacts in the renovated vessel, but the steam engines will no longer be used, Chakraborty said.

“The operator has modernized the steamer and retained its heritage features. There will be a small museum, encompassing the history of the ship and this will also be ready soon. The ship will be provided to us for 3-4 days a month to lead the heritage tour,” Kumar said.

Besides the museum, the renovated ship will have a dining area, an auditorium and a special gallery for port-related artifacts, Chakraborty said.

The Kolkata Port Trust, renamed Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, had in 2020 postponed the plan to bring back the heritage paddle steamer due to COVID-19.

The port of Kolkata, among the major ports in the country, pioneered the introduction of a heritage tour program in 2018 and has conducted about 28 such trips, Chakraborty claimed.

“The port authorities use Sea Land for heritage trips, but this vessel can accommodate 25-30 people for each visit and has certain shortcomings such as the movement of the vessel at high tide. So we have certain restrictions and have planned these visits keeping in mind weather conditions in mind.

“But the ‘PS Bhopal’, the only one of its kind in India, will not only allow us to accommodate more than 100 people, but will also give authorities more flexibility to plan heritage trips as it is more powerful than the existing one,” Chakraborty said. said.

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