KOLKATA: A paddle steamer of yore may soon make its way back on the Hooghly with people interested in heritage. In the next couple of days, Kolkata Port Trust ( KoPT ) plans to hold discussions with a company that has expressed interest in reviving Paddle Steamer Bhopal that is now moored at an empty berth inside the Kidderpore Docks. The restored vessel is also likely to have a restaurant on board for guests.
PS Bhopal, built in 1944, was part of a flotilla of steamers that sailed the Hooghly before being replaced by vessels with diesel-driven engines. These were much like the steamboats (though smaller) that sailed the River Mississippi in the US in the 19th Century, carrying men and material to uncharted territory. The novelty of these vessels were the two large paddles on either side driven by steam engines. The port management, which has already started heritage cruises on modern vessels, believes that the paddle steamer will be a huge success.
“This will be something new for heritage enthusiasts as well as people just interested in a relaxing sail along the Hooghly. The steam boilers will no longer be used. There will be diesel engines to propel the boat. The engines will also generate sufficient power to keep the paddles moving, just to give passengers a feel of how it used to be in the past. We shall be holding meetings with the agency that has shown interest in the next few days,” KoPT chairman Vinit Kumar said.
Kumar has laid a lot of stress on heritage at a time when KoPT is set to turn 150 (in 2020). PS Bhopal was used by a training ship by the port before being sent to its present location. As per the conditions laid down by KoPT, the hull and superstructure of the vessel will be repaired and painted at a dry dock inside the port premises before being taken out. Initially, it was planned to moor the steamer close to the riverbank as a floating restaurant. Later, it was planned to add new engines for the vessel to move on its own.