Kochi-Male biweekly service soon

India will soon launch a cargo-cum-passenger ferry service between Kochi and Male, the capital of Maldives, giving an impetus to Kochi-based exporters to open up new business ventures.

The shipping ministry has plans to operate two biweekly services in this sector and it is expected to start operations within a few weeks.

"Cochin Port will soon invite private operators interested in operating the service," said K Mohandas, secretary, Shipping Ministry of India. Last July, a delegation led by Mohandas and Mohamed Latheef, permanent secretary, ministry of transport and communication of Maldives, agreed to operate ferry service between Kochi and Male. Later, at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, which concluded in Maldives recently, both the governments took the decision to complete the preliminary work for the service by the end of this year.

"Initially we will operate a cargo ferry service, similar to the one between Colombo and Tuticorin, from Kochi port to Maldives," a senior official at Cochin Port Trust (CPT) revealed.

"Currently a relatively smaller ferry is operating between Tuticorin and Male through the shallow waters of the Palk Strait. It transports vegetables and groceries from Tamil Nadu. The new service is expected to improve the trade between India and Maldives, and groceries from south Tamil Nadu could be sent to Maldives markets on relatively bigger ferry from Kochi," the official explained, adding: "Using a larger vessel would also bring down the cost of transportation."

"Maldives now imports goods, including light engineering merchandises and automobiles worth $1 billion per annum, mainly from Dubai and Singapore. The new ferry service from Kochi would help India develop a new market for our engineering products like motors in Maldives, and we expect this trade of value-added products to increase gradually in the coming years," the port official said.

CPT is now preparing for the launch of the ferry service by getting the berth and terminal for passengers and cargo ready. This month, a team of senior port officials from Maldives is expected to visit Kochi to discuss the arrangements to be made at their end to facilitate the ferry service.

Times of IIndia