Pandaw has issued a response to a recent collision between the Kindat Pandaw and a pontoon bridge on the Upper Ganges.
As reported in the UK-based Sunday Times (subscription required), the Kindat Pandaw collided with a pontoon bridge and “began dragging it along,” causing passengers to be called to their muster stations for an evacuation.
In a blog post responding to the incident, Pandaw founder Paul Strachan said that an investigation by the river cruise line found that the ship accidentally bumped into a floating bridge that had been opened to allow the ship to pass through, holing the hull above the waterline.
Strachan went on to say that the evacuation was ordered by a freelance tour guide who had “panicked.” “This should have been the master’s decision not the guides,” Strachan wrote, claiming that the ships are designed to cope with such events with bilge pumps and water-tight bulkheads. “It could be argued that this was a correct precautionary measure, but it was a complete overreaction. It caused considerable distress for the passengers. For this we can only apologise. What was a relatively minor incident quickly became a drama. We are really sorry that the passengers had this experience.”
In another report by the same journalist, this one on River Cruise Passenger, the journalist described the head guide “shouting at everybody to grab their lifejackets and get on the tender” and other people on the bridge “running in a panic.” After tugs hauled the boat off of the bridge, passengers had to walk back along the riverbank to where the ship was tied up and pack their things before being ferried to a hotel.
In his blog post Strachan blamed the challenges involved in navigating the Ganges, which can have highly variable water levels, as well as working with a new local partner, who was operating the ship. “Given the difficulties of management in India we appointed a local partner 'Indus Cruises' to manage the ships,” Strachan wrote. “Having just come back from India myself I was very pleasantly surprised by their progress. Long experience of set ups on new rivers in new destinations has taught me that it usually takes a year or two before a new routing streamlines. Indians are quick learners and they are getting there fast.”
Strachan said that, following this incident, the line will work with its Indian partners to improve crew training, and that it will revise the Upper Ganges itinerary to avoid the section with pontoon bridges. The line will instead transfer passengers overland for the final leg between Ghazipur and Varanasi. Pandaw is also working with the IWAI (Inland Waterway of India) to improve navigational aids and channel markings.