Passenger shipping service between Tuticorin and Colombo is likely to be launched shortly, according to G.K. Vasan, Union Minister of Shipping. Addressing journalists in Udhagamandalam on Wednesday, he said officials from Sri Lanka and India were engaged in talks. Probably in three months, shipping service would start.

The Tuticorin and Chennai ports would be developed at Rs. 3,686 crore under the Eleventh Five Year Plan. In Chennai, a mega container terminal would be built and the foundation for the works would be laid soon.

The first phase of the work would be completed by 2013 and the second phase by 2017, Mr. Vasan said.

At Sriperumbudur, a dry port would be developed at Rs. 100 crore. Around 125 acres was purchased for the purpose. The port would be named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

In Ennore, a multi-purpose container terminal would be built as part of the expansion plans at Rs. 110 crore. The same would facilitate export of around three lakh cars.

The Minister said the government was engaged in increasing the capacity of the 13 big ports and 200-odd minor ports in the country. The capacity of big ports, which accounted for 72 per cent of the country's sea cargo movement, would be expanded from 614 million tonnes to 1,000 million tonnes and the volume of cargo from small ports would be increased from 300 million tonnes to 500 million tonnes.

Decision on alliance

On Tamil Nadu politics, the Congress leader said it was for the party high command to take a call on the alliance. The United Progressive Alliance government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was performing exceeding well and would help India grow into a superpower.