Weekly service likely from January

The proposed Kochi-Maldives ferry service will commence by the beginning of the next year, a meeting of the stakeholders here on Friday has decided.

In the meeting held on the Cochin Port Trust premises, it was decided to structure the ferry service as a cargo-cum-passenger service with passenger capacity of 300 and also to carry about 15/20 containers and about 500 tonnes of break bulk cargo. The weekly ferry service is proposed to be commenced by January/February, 2012.

Pursuant to the decision announced by the Prime Minister of India and the President of Maldives at the SAARC Summit in November this year at Male, to launch a ferry service between Kochi and Male, a team of officers from Maldives Ports Ltd. led by Hussain Naeem, Deputy CEO, Maldives Port Ltd (MPL) held discussions with the Cochin Port Trust to finalise arrangements for the service.

The Shipping Corporation of India has been mandated to invite Expression of Interest (EOI) and identify an operator to take up the ferry service. The EOI will be floated after receiving confirmation from the Maldivian side that they are ready for the service. The Maldivian team also held discussions with representatives of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Cochin Chamber of Commerce. They met representatives of shipping companies, custom house agents and Seafood Exporters Association in Cochin. In Cochin Port, the ferry will be berthed at the BTP Jetty and will use the cruise terminal being developed at a cost of Rs.7 crore. The work on the cruise terminal is expected to be over by March, 2012. The Maldivian team wanted the ferry to touch Kulhuduffushi Port also. However, since the port expansion work is yet to be completed, it was decided to start the ferry as a Cochin-Male-Cochin service and incorporate an option to extend it to Kulhuduffushi Port when the work is completed.

Good for goods

The ferry service brings up the potential of cargo movement from Cochin to Male since presently large amount of cargo from Kerala and South Tamil Nadu to Male routing through intermediate ports such as Singapore and Dubai. There is limited movement of cargo from Tuticorin to Male. The transit time between Cochin and Male in a modern ferry is one day and will be ideal for movement for perishable cargo.