India and Sri Lanka are set to revive a ferry service between Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and Colombo in March nearly 30 years after it was disrupted because of the civil war.
A multi-agency officials’ group from here is visiting Tuticorin next week to take a look at the preparedness on the Indian side Diplomatic sources here said the ferry service could have started in February but for some last-minute pending logistical work here.
When the service begins in March, it is likely to cut down on costs compared to airfares between Colombo and a number of destinations in South India.
It is also likely to give an impetus to tourism, especially Indian tourists coming to Sri Lanka. Statistics with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) show that the largest number of visitors to Sri Lanka in 2010 was from India.
According to SLTDA figures, 111,129 Indians had come to Sri Lanka in 2010 excluding the month of December with a monthly average of nearly 10,000.
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. Sea passenger transportation between India and Sri Lanka is being established consequent to the Joint Declaration issued on June 9, 2010 following talks held in India between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
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
As of now, two ships, one from either side, would operate between Colombo and Tuticorin. Initially, it will operate thrice a week; the frequency could be increased later.
The Shipping Corporation of India has already received Expression of Interest from potential ferry service operators in India and is examining them in order to finalise the grant of a concession to operate ferry services between the two cities.
Reports here said at least six ships could eventually operate in the sector and ferry 300-500 passengers on each trip which is likely to last eight hours.