Kerala Maritime Board holds talks with shipping companies on services to West Asia

Published - March 27, 2024 07:49 pm IST - KOCHI

Senior officials of the Kerala Maritime Board (KMB) on Wednesday met representatives of more than 20 shipping companies to discuss issues related to a proposal to introduce shipping services to West Asia and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries from Kerala.

KMB Chairman N.S. Pillai said the talks with shipping service operators were positive. The meeting was an exploratory one to address the concerns and queries of the companies, Mr. Pillai added.

The government has extended support to the shipping companies to launch services at the earliest considering the requirement of such a service and a long-standing demand from the expatriate community. Mr. Pillai said the companies would study the proposals and submit Expression of Interest (EoI) in the project on April 22.

The KMB has christened efforts to launch regular services to Gulf countries ‘Gateway to Blissful Voyages’, offering a huge opportunity to operators. KMB is a statutory board under the Department of Ports and has sought EoI from competent firms with expertise in operating passenger ships/cruises/vessels/inland vessels or having relevant experience in operating passenger ships/vessels connecting West Asia/GCC with Kerala, utilising the port infrastructure available in the State.

The Kochi port has facilities for receiving even big ships, and the government will discuss the possibilities with the port authority, which operates under the Shipping Ministry. There are also other ports like the one at Beypore under the State government where the proposed ships can call at. Historically, the sea route between West Asia and Kerala has always been a prominent highway for passenger movements.

West Asia, particularly the GCC region, has a substantial Indian diaspora, and Kerala, in particular, stands out with a significant expatriate community. Frequent travel between the home State and the GCC region, often involving family members, is a common practice among Indians, including Non-Resident Keralites.

This has resulted in a spike in air fare, particularly during the peak season. The ticket rates have touched ₹50,000 in the recent past. Providing a cost-effective and convenient option can create a competitive edge, especially during peak seasons.

By facilitating seamless transportation between these destinations, KMB aims to unlock new avenues for economic growth, cultural exchange, tourism development and meet the travel needs of NRKs.

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