The project soon restructured. The research and development (R&D) activities were split from
the boat manufacturing activities. The latter was handed over to the trainee workers to be
managed as a commercial venture, and was renamed Boat Building Centre, Muttom (BBC
Muttom). The former became the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) - reflecting the
new understanding of technology in relation to society. The R&D initiatives at CAT were soon
concentrated on finding an appropriate technological solution to fit the needs of the local
Pierre Gillet, the Belgian engineer who initiated the boat-building project, recruited to CAT
Mr. F.M. T. Raj, better known as Raju. Raju, an educated fisherman who had worked on the
traditional crafts, had experimented on the new boat designs that were built before 1978.
Together they set out to build a new craft to replace the kattumaram. The technological
parameters for this new R&D venture were clearly laid out. Like the kattumaram, the new
craft had to be unsinkable, light, and easy to operate from the surf-beaten beaches.
It had to provide more carrying capacity, be more comfortable than a boat powered by sail
and oar, have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years, and be within the financial reach of the fishermen.
Box 1. Traditional Fishing Craft of South-west India
Until quite recently, fishing in south-western India was dominated by the small-scale or artisanal
sector, characterised by simple, low-cost techniques combined with a high degree of skill and
extensive traditional knowledge. A variety of timber nets, craft, nets, hooks, and lines were and are
used, but today the influence of modern technology is readily apparent. Increasingly the outboard
motor is replacing the sail and oar, nylon nets have replaced cotton, plywood and fibreglass boats are
replacing timber, and small mechanised trawlers dominate the fishing harbours.
Traditional fishing craft fall into tow main categories:
The vallam or thoni
These are based on a hollowed-out log or dug-out canoe, are a often constructed with planks stitched
onto the sides. They are found mainly in central and northern Kerela, where the larger are of
continental shelf moderates the ferocity of the south West Monsoon surf.
This is the main craft type of South Kerela and the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu, where the
South West Monsoon surf conditions are the most severe. Literally a tied-log raft (in the Tamil
Language Marram means log, and Katu means tied). It is constructed if light-weight timber logs
(Albizia or Kapok) which are shaped and lashed together to form a very sea-worthy craft.
Figure 2: Traditional boats in South India. Credit Practical Action/Paul