Unlocking the Potential: Reviving the India-Sri Lanka Ferry Service – The Financial Express

The Financial Express
The geographical closeness of India and Sri Lanka has been historically instrumental in fostering connections between these two nations, facilitating the exchange of people, trade, and goods for centuries. However, this crucial link was severed in the 1980s due to security concerns. While a ferry service between Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and Colombo in Sri Lanka was briefly introduced in May 2011, it met its untimely demise in November the same year, primarily due to commercial unviability and long travel times. But now, there’s a new ray of hope on the horizon.
Ferrying Progress: Nagapattinam to Kankesanthurai
In a recent landmark agreement during the visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India in July 2023, both countries decided to resurrect the ferry services, breathing life into the Nagapattinam port in Tamil Nadu and the Kankesanthurai port in Sri Lanka. These ports are a mere 60 nautical miles apart, which translates to approximately 110 kilometers, and under favourable sea conditions, this distance can be traversed in a mere 3-4 hours.
Also Read: Neighbourhood First: India and Sri Lanka Pave the Way for Regional Hub Development
To facilitate this renewed connection, the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board (TMB) has secured a grant of Rs 8 crore from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for the modernization of the Nagapattinam port. The improvements include dredging the harbour channel, refurbishing the Passenger Terminal Building, and upgrading the approach road. This investment underscores the commitment to the success of the ferry service.
Setting Sail: The Inauguration
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MOPSW) have approached the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) to take charge of operating the ferry service between Nagapattinam and Kankesanthurai. The SCI has deployed the Cheriyapani vessel, capable of carrying up to 150 passengers, heralding the revival of the India-Sri Lanka ferry service.
The inaugural journey is set to embark on the 14th of October 2023, offering a window of connectivity until the 23rd of October 2023 when the North East Monsoon season makes operations challenging. However, fret not, for the ferry services will rekindle their operation during the post-rainy season, potentially as early as January 2024 when fair weather prevails, ensuring a consistent link between these nations.
Unlocking Opportunities: The Advantages of Ferry Services
The reintroduction of ferry services between India and Sri Lanka brings a myriad of benefits that can’t be ignored:
Enhanced Connectivity: The service bridges the southern regions of India and the northern parts of Sri Lanka, fostering travel and tourism.
Shortened Travel Time: A swift 3-4 hour journey offers a substantial improvement over the previous ferry service, making it an efficient mode of travel.
Generous Baggage Allowance: With an impressive 50 kg baggage allowance, travellers can seamlessly carry their belongings to northern and eastern Sri Lanka, eliminating the need for arduous air travel followed by lengthy road journeys.
Pilgrim Pilgrimage: Pilgrims visiting India now have a more convenient way to reach sacred destinations like the Saneeswaram temple at Thirunallar, Rameshwaram, Madurai, Tanjore, Velankanni Church, Nagore Mosque, and various Buddhist sites, promoting interfaith unity.
Tourism Boost: Indian tourists can easily explore the picturesque tourist sites in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, strengthening cultural ties and boosting tourism revenue.
Facilitating Trade: The ferry service also opens doors for trade and commerce between the two nations through cargo services, encouraging economic growth and cooperation.
The reintroduction of ferry services between India and Sri Lanka is more than just a rekindling of an ancient link; it’s a testament to the shared interests, mutual cooperation, and a commitment to a brighter future for both nations. With shorter travel times, improved convenience, and broader opportunities for trade and tourism, this initiative ushers in a new era of connectivity and collaboration between India and Sri Lanka, one that holds immense promise and potential for years to come.
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