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Chennai ferry service to Lanka postponed

[Express Buzz, Monday, 11 July 2011 07:23 No Comment]

The Chennai-based AMET Shipping’s plan to start a Chennai-Trincomalee cruise has been postponed indefinitely because the necessary approvals from the Indian and Sri Lankan governments have not been acquired yet, says Capt Nalin Peiris, general sales agent for the cruise in Sri Lanka.

The cruise, using the luxury liner AMET Majesty, was to have been inaugurated on July 4.

Peiris told Express on Sunday that the Indo-Lanka agreement on shipping services referred to the Thoothukudi-Colombo and the Rameswaram-Thalaimannar ferry services, and not services between other ports in the two countries.

“We were under the impression that we could start the service because there was no explicit ban on any other service. But a month ago, we discovered that approvals were necessary, and we applied. We were expecting the approvals to come through before July 4 but they did not. We are confident that they will come through however,” Peiris said.

In his view, the cruise between Chennai and Trincomalee will be of great use to the Tamil-speaking people of North and East Lanka as these have a lot to do with TN. Comparing the cruise with the Colombo-Thoothukudi ferry, Peiris said: “The ferry is handicapped by the fact that, at present, Thoothukudi has little to offer. A passenger will necessarily have to travel to Chennai to get anything done, which means another long journey.”

Visa Issue Hampers Ferry Service 

Meanwhile, an issue relating to the Indian visa is hampering the full use of the ferry service which was inaugurated recently.

As per a rule introduced about a couple of months ago, any one wanting an Indian visa has to indicate the port of entry in India and stick to it. Otherwise, he will be deported.

“While this is alright for a passenger seeking a new visa to go to Thoothukudi, those already having a long term Indian visa will also have to apply afresh to get endorsement for Thoothukudi,” said A M Jaufer, MD of Arugambay Travels and Tours, a sales agent for the ferry.

“Not many Lankan travellers to India know about this. When confronted with the new regulation, some lose interest in the sea journey,” he told Express.

At the moment, the ferry service caters to be about 150 passengers per trip, though the vessel’s capacity is 1,200.

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