India's role in rejuvenating maritime connectivity extends beyond funding operational costs
After a six-month hiatus, the passenger ferry service between Nagapattinam, India, and Kankesanthurai (KKS) in Sri Lanka is poised to resume operations on May 13, 2024. This international maritime link, originally launched in October 2023 by the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), faced a temporary halt shortly after its inauguration due to the monsoon season. 

According to information shared by the Indian High Commission in Colombo, the service will now be managed by IndSri Ferry Services Private Limited, a Chennai-based private operator selected by SCI in consultation with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).

In a bid to ensure affordability and convenience for passengers, the Indian government will shoulder the operating costs at Nagapattinam Port, amounting to over LKR 25 million per month for a year. This financial support reflects India's commitment to facilitating cross-border travel and fostering stronger economic ties with Sri Lanka.

Additionally, GOSL has reduced the deviation tax on passengers departing Sri Lanka by ship or ferry, reducing the financial burden on travelers. The two governments are determined to make the service accessible and economically attractive, encouraging greater movement between the neighboring nations.

An Infrastructural Boost for Economic Partnership

India's role in rejuvenating maritime connectivity extends beyond funding operational costs. It has also provided a grant of USD 63.65 million to rehabilitate the Kankesanthurai Harbour. It was originally slated for development under a Line of Credit. The ferry service aligns with the strategic vision document for economic partnership, jointly adopted during Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India in July 2023.

IndSri Ferry Services Private Limited's vessel, 'Sivagangai,' will offer travelers a 60 kg baggage allowance at no extra charge, flexible date changes up to 72 hours before travel, and full refunds upon cancellation within the stipulated period. With tickets priced at USD 50 plus taxes (around INR 4,920), the service remains competitively priced. 

In his remarks during the ferry service's initial launch in October 2023, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that connectivity transcends geographical proximity and fosters closer ties between nations and their people. He highlighted how the ferry link exemplifies the people-centric policies of the Indian government and heralded the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, which promises to enhance multimodal connectivity for Sri Lanka following its introduction at the G20 summit in September 2023.

The resumed service signals a significant stride toward enhanced maritime connectivity, a crucial element of the expanding partnership between India and Sri Lanka. 

"In the future, connectivity with Sri Lanka will be further enhanced through electricity grid interconnection, two-way multipurpose pipeline and setting up a land connectivity economic corridor," the Indian High Commission said.