The long-suspended historical ferry service between India and Sri Lanka, which started in 1906 and got disrupted due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, is expected to resume from March 1 — after a gap of almost 30 years.
A multi-agency officials’ group from Colombo is visiting Tuticorin next week to take a look at the preparedness on the Indian side. Diplomatic sources in Lanka said the ferry service — between Tuticorin and Colombo — could have started in February but for some last-minute pending logistical work.
The service will cost 30% less than the present airfare and will be of immense commercial value as around 10,000 Indians on an average visit Sri Lanka every month.
“The service will begin tentatively from March 1 and we expect it to be very popular, as there is a heavy flow of traffic — for tourism, business, pilgrimage and education, among others - between both the countries,” secretary, ministry of shipping, K Mohandas said.
“The Buddhist sites in India and the Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka are major attractions for religious tourism and this ferry service will enhance its prospects,” he said.
The ships meant for ferrying shall have a container, Ro-Ro (rolled on-rolled off) facility for easy loading and offloading, and will carry about 800 passengers, initially on alternate days from one side.
The duration of the journey will be around 10 hours.
The link will be the first of the two ferry links to be established between the two countries. The second one, between Talaimannar in north Sri Lanka and Rameshwaram, is likely to be inaugurated in the middle of this year.
Diplomats on both sides feel that the sea links could further strengthen the traditional links between the two neighbours.
“Sea passenger transportation between India and Sri Lanka is being established...to speedily restore the traditional links between the two countries,” a recent Indo-Lanka joint statement said.