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Ferry service put off at Lanka’s request

[Express Buzz, Saturday, 28 May 2011 11:08 No Comment]

The much-delayed Colombo-Tuticorin passenger ferry service, which was to start on Friday, has been postponed at the request of the Sri Lankan authorities.

An official of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC), which is responsible for running the service on the Sri Lankan side, told Express here on Thursday, that there were two reasons for seeking a postponement: “First, the area around Colombo harbour is now being used for the Victory Day celebrations and many roads are blocked. Second, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is keen on having a grand ceremony to inaugurate the service and wants to invite people from India for the historic occasion,” the official said.

According to him the inaugural ceremony will be held in a week’s time. However, other reports claim that the service would begin only in the first week of June.  

For the time being, an Indian ship would ply on the route. Eventually, a Sri Lankan ship would be joining it, the official said.

Indian and Lankan traders and Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims are expected to make use of the service. About 1,00,000 people might use the facility in a year.  

Executive director of the CSC A T Chandradasa has been quoted as saying that initially, there would be two sailings per week, which would be increased if there was demand.

The fare is yet to be fixed, but the media here has quoted Deputy Minister for Shipping and Aviation Rohitha Abeygunawardene as saying that the fare for the 10 to 12-hour journey over 280 nautical miles would be 30 per cent less than the air fare between Colombo and Chennai. A passenger would also be allowed to carry 80 to 100 kg as baggage, he added.

Passenger terminals with customs and security facilities had to be created afresh at both Colombo and Tuticorin, as passenger services were being revived after a long gap.

The Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service was too postponed before due to technical reasons and there was diversion as well of the earmarked Indian vessel to evacuate Indians stranded in war-torn Libya.

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