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India, Sri Lanka Ferry service from Oct. 2023

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It may take at least six months for the passenger ferry to operate between Nagapattinam and Kankesanthurai in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

The preliminary work on establishing a passenger terminal at the Nagapattinam port has begun. It is learnt that the work will be completed in four to five months, subject to the severity of the northeast monsoon, which is expected to set in by the third week of October.

The Ministry of External Affairs has sanctioned INR 8 crore for the project. It is a matter of time before the amount is received by the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board (TNMB), which looks after minor ports like Nagapattinam, a State government official said.

A journey in the Nagapattinam-Kankesanthurai sector, which is about 64 nautical miles long, is estimated to take three-and-a-half to four hours. A ferry can carry 150-200 passengers. On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the service in New Delhi during the visit of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

On July 14, the India-Sri Lanka Joint Committee held a virtual meeting. It discussed the resumption of the ferry service between the two countries from mutually agreed points. Rajesh Kumar Sinha, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, led the Indian team. K.D.S. Ruwanchandra, Secretary, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, headed the Sri Lankan side.

The announcement has triggered curiosity among observers of India-Sri Lanka relations because it will be after nearly 40 years that regular ferry services will be operated between Tamil Nadu and the Northern Province. S. Niranjan Nanthagopan, a Singapore-based entrepreneur with roots in Jaffna and managing director of IndSri Ferry Services, appealed to the TNMB to expedite the work on the terminal for the service to start before the middle of November.

Speaking from Jaffna, Sritharan Thirunavukkarasu, president of the Social Democratic Party of Tamils, said he does not see any problem in the sector drawing adequate passengers. “Historically, people had travelled on this route. Besides, given the proximity of Nagapattinam to places of religious importance such as Nagore, Velankanni and Chidambaram, people of different religions would like to use the service,” said Thirunavukkarasu.

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