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India, Sri Lanka to restore sea link
George Iype in Kochi | November 18, 2003 16:39 IST
Last Updated: November 18, 2003 16:42 IST
India and Sri Lanka are preparing to launch a ferry service, twenty years after the cancellation of such a facility between Colombo and Chennai.
But the service, which starts December 1, will be on a different route, thanks to stiff opposition from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to the renewal of the Colombo-Chennai link.
The air-conditioned ferry, which can accommodate 500 passengers, will be between Colombo and Vizhinjam port, near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Officials at the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation say the service will be thrice a week, and at nearly half the price of an air ticket [Rs 3,750], it will help boost travel.
"We are getting ready to start the service... It will greatly help boost people to travel cheap between the countries. It will also immensely help sectors like tourism, industry and trade in both India and Sri Lanka," says KSINC Managing Director K N Sathis.
Kerala Transport Minister R Balakrishna Pillai says strict security will be in place to make sure that Liberation Tigers Tamil Eelam terrorists do not use the service to enter India.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe had cleared the service during the latter's visit to New Delhi in October.
The KSINC has signed a pact with Colombo-based Golden Cruiser Lines to run the service.
Till 1983, the Colombo-Chennai service was a great boon to hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Tamil. But New Delhi cancelled the ferry as scores of Sri Lankan Tamils sought refuge in Tamil Nadu.
More reports from Kerala