With the signing of a memorandum of understanding, one more formality has been completed towards resuming the passenger ship liner service from Tuticorin to Colombo, the route of the Kappalottiya Tamizhan (the Tamil helmsman), V.O. Chidambaram Pillai.

VOC, as he was popularly called, launched the service to compete with the British vessels in 1906. Long after his death in 1936, the ships continued to strengthen people-to-people bonds between the two countries. The ethic strife led to the suspension of the services in the early eighties.

Now, with the end of the militancy, people have been demanding cheap and affordable transportation between the two countries.

Hence the ship service, which will allow for large baggage allowances, cheaper fares and a relatively quick passage. The baggage allowance has now been fixed at 100 kg, a source said. But some potential passengers are not very happy about this rate.

One passenger, who is a regular trader, and who did not want to be named, said that he now manages to transport 65 kg free on one of the airlines because he is a platinum card holder. Most other airlines allow 50 kg for frequent fliers.

In any case, the date of the first journey seems a little farther than the Pongal deadline that the government had informally set.

High Commissioner of India to Colombo Ashok K. Kantha and Sri Lanka's Secretary to the Ministry of Ports and Highways Sujatha Cooray on Friday signed the MoU on Passenger Transportation by Sea.? It was inked in the presence of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a ceremony at Temple Trees.

The MoU envisages putting in place ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and Talaimannar and Rameswaram.

A joint committee meeting will be held on January 10-11 in Colombo, where officials from both countries will discuss the modalities to start the service.? 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 Tuticorin and Colombo, which could commence shortly.

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