First Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service by March 2011: Vasan

Tuticorin (TN), Feb 19 (PTI) The first passenger ferryservice between this port city and Colombo is slated to beginby March after completion of some formalities, ShippingMinister G K Vasan today said.

"The Shipping Ministry is waiting to complete therequired formalities. There are lot of technical aspects.

Though we have got the Home Ministry''s clearance, some moreformalities need to be completed. We want to begin the ferryservice as quickly as possible," he told reporters here.

Vasan said around 1.08 lakh passengers are expected tobe ferried in the first year and the figure is expected totouch 2.50 lakh over the next five years. "The service willbenefit ethnic travellers, students and traders," he said.

Asked how many companies have been shortlisted tooperate the service, he said the ministry has appointedShipping Corporation of India as the nodal agency to form aconsortium comprising two companies -- Flamingo Duty Free Shopand Tradex Shipping Corporation Ltd.

This consortium would pay an annual fee of Rs 7.2crore to Tuticorin Port Trust for seven years, which could beextended another three years, he said.

Port Trust chairman A Subbiah said the Letter of Awardfor the contract has been given to the consortium and thefirst vessel would be deployed later this month at Tuticorinport.

He said the service would initially comprise "two"voyages per week in the first three months and later it wouldbe examined if the frequency needs to be increased.

Tuticorin Port Trust officials said the distancebetween the port city and Colombo is about 50 nautical miles,a 12 hour journey on a one way trip.

Vasan rubbished reports that the recently inauguratedInternational Container Transhipment Terminal at Vallarpadamin neighbouring Kerala would hit operations at Tuticorin Port,saying it would not lose its "significance".

"The importance of Tuticorin harbour will not be lostas container ships from here will be rerouted to Vallarpadam(in Kerala) instead of Colombo as at present," he said.

He said 993 labourers have been inducted into the PortTrust as permanent employees as per the request of CargoHandling workers'' Union and would be eligible for allbenefits.

"An order to this effect was issued yesterday," hesaid.

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