Kolkata: Come September, Kolkata is set to witness the comeback of a UK-built Paddle Steamer, 'P S Bhopal', which is also the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent for its heritage value, in a new avatar with a charm of the British era for the public in the river Hooghly on the eve of Durga Puja.
Constructed by William Denny & Company in 1944 at Dumbarton Shipyard in Scotland for the India General Navigation and Railway Company during the British rule in India, the Paddle Steamer has a length of around 63 meters and breadth of 9.2 meters.
It was earlier used as a training vessel by Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SMP), Kolkata (erstwhile Kolkata Port Trust) at No.22 Kidderpore Dock. As the lease agreement of 'Bhopal' with the training institute ended in 2019, SMP, Kolkata– according to it's chairman Vinit Kumar– wanted to refurbish the vessel "which has a heritage value" to throw it open to the public.
Subsequently, SMP Kolkata went for a long term lease of the vessel which was at that point of time in a dilapidated condition and did not have its own propulsion. The long term lease was selected through open tendering with the condition that the vessel would remain a property of SMP, Kolkata throughout the lease period.
As per the lease condition, 'P S Bhopal' will remain in the river moored adjacent to the shore or jetty and will be self propelled with its own power, the SMP said. It will have an exhibition space, restaurant and small assembly. The vessel is on the verge of completion.
Few trials in the river have already taken place to ensure its safety of operation with passengers on board. Mr Kumar said, "SMP Kolkata is planning to inaugurate the refurbished vessel, the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent, in the beginning of next month."
Though the Paddle is not operational now, the basic structure of the vessel has not been altered except the new main engines with propulsion which have been installed so that the vessel can sail in the river with passengers on board so as to bring the real feel of the vessel when built in 1944.