78-year-old paddle steamer in Kolkata gets fresh lease of life

The UK-built paddle steamer PS Bhopal has been refurbished and will soon open to the public

It was in 1944, much before India’s Independence, that PS Bhopal was born.  In case you are wondering who this PS Bhopal is, we are talking of a paddle steamer that was built in the UK’s Dumbarton Shipyard in ’44.

This paddler steamer was deployed as a training vessel at the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port formerly known as the Kolkata Port Trust. All of 63 metres in length and 9.2 metres in breadth, PS Bhopal later on fell into bad times and was on the verge of being relegated to the pages of history.

It was during this time, in 2019, that the training lease agreement came to an end. The Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port lined up plans to refurbish the vessel, owing to its heritage value. Post refurbishing, PS Bhopal was planned to be thrown open to the public so that they too could experience a slice of history. And so, Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata, decided to go 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.

Paddle steamer refurbished at Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port

The long term lease was selected through open tendering with the condition that the vessel will remain a property of Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port throughout the period of the lease.

Though not operational at the moment, the basic structure of the vessel has not been altered. Fresh main engines with propulsion have also been installed so that the vessel can move in the river with passengers on board so as to bring the real feel of the vessel when built in 1944.

With the lease allowed, it was decided that PS Bhopal will remain in the river, moored adjacent to the shore and will be self-propelled with its own power. The craft will have an exhibition space, restaurant, small assembly and more.

Set sail to get a feel of history

With the refurbishing now almost complete, the paddle steamer has undergone a few rounds of trials so that safety of operation with passengers on board was ensured. The newly-revamped PS Bhopal will soon be ready to take tourists out on a history ride.

Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Kolkata will inaugurate the refurbished vessel, which is being termed as the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent. If things go as per plan, the inaugural run of the new, refurbished PS Bhopal will happen in September. It looks like it is time to plan a Kolkata trip.

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