India-Sri Lanka ferry service restarted after 40 years

Rekindling Bilateral Ties: India-Sri Lanka Ferry Service

Sri Lanka : In a historic endeavour aimed at strengthening ties between two neighbouring nations, India and Sri Lanka, the age-old sea route from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu to Kankesanthurai in Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka, has been rejuvenated with the inauguration of the “Nagapattinam-Kankesanthurai Ferry Service.”

This newly launched passenger ferry, aptly named ‘Cheriyapani,’ has set the course for an exciting chapter in the region’s history, promising to enhance bilateral relations, boost tourism, and bolster trade opportunities for local traders on both shores.

Sri Lanka Ferry Start Updates

The ferry service, which embarked on its maiden voyage this past Saturday, offers travellers a unique opportunity to traverse the serene waters of the Indian Ocean. A one-way ticket for this remarkable journey costs approximately Rs 7,670, and passengers are permitted a generous baggage allowance of up to 40 kilograms.

The voyage commences at the picturesque Nagapattinam port at 7 am, providing passengers a chance to relish the beauty of the Bay of Bengal as they make their way to Kankesanthurai, reaching their destination by 11 am. The return trip to Nagapattinam begins at 1.30 pm and concludes at 5.30 pm, ensuring a seamless travel experience for all aboard ‘Cheriyapani.’

The maritime connection between India and Sri Lanka has a storied past. The Indo-Ceylon Express or Boat Mail, which operated between Chennai and Colombo via the Thoothukudi port from the early 1900s until 1982, stands as a testament to the historical significance of this sea route. Unfortunately, the civil war in Sri Lanka disrupted these services.

Before the conflict erupted, Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar was a popular route. Passengers from Chennai would board the Boat Mail Express, a train from Chennai’s Egmore railway station, and then transfer to a coal-powered steam ferry in Dhanushkodi, which would carry them to Talaimannar in just about two hours.

Efforts to restart ferry services have been ongoing for years, gaining momentum after the end of the war in 2009. Although a passenger transportation MoU was signed in 2011 and a similar service was launched, it faced a premature demise due to lackluster public response.

Various proposals, including routes from Rameswaram to Talaimannar and Karaikal to Kankesanthurai, have been explored, but they have faced numerous challenges.

The resurrection of this ferry service carries substantial potential. Beyond connecting tourists to religious sites, such as Colombo and southern Sri Lanka from India, it is expected to boost regional commerce and trade.

The Tamil Nadu government is actively investing in infrastructure development to cater to the surge in travellers. E V Velu, Minister for Public Works, is coordinating with various departments of the Union government to ensure a seamless experience for passengers.

The Nagapattinam port, under the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board, has recently undergone an Rs 8 crore upgrade, sponsored by the Union Ministry of External Affairs.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe hailed the revival of the ferry service as a significant step towards strengthening connectivity between India and Sri Lanka in a video message.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding this rejuvenated sea route, there are initial challenges. The Shipping Corporation of India’s initial plan to operate services daily for ten days has been rescheduled to operate thrice a week. Factors contributing to this decision include the onset of the northeast monsoon, ticket fare concerns, and issues with ticketing systems.

A top port official emphasized the need to reduce ticket rates and facilitate bookings through popular travel websites to ensure the service’s success.

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