KOZHIKODE : The Kerala Maritime Board (KMB) is exploring the possibilities of starting a passenger ship service connecting Beypore and Kochi with Gulf countries.
The KMB and the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) are expected to issue an open tender in January to pick companies that are ready to launch the service. A feasibility study too will be held to find out the type of ships than can be used, the possible number of passengers who will be willing to use them, fares, and the number of days required to reach the destination.
According to sources, a cruise-cum-passenger type hybrid ship may have to be used for the service. It is yet to be known if such ships are available and the companies are willing to run the service on the route. Each ship need to have a carrying capacity of 1,000 to 2,000 passengers. The journey will take at least four to five days. The ticket rates could be around ₹4,000 to ₹5,000 less than the average air fares. The service can be held only with the concurrence of the State government, the sources added.
Responding to a question from Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden in the Lok Sabha on December 8, Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shri Sarbananda Sonowal had said that discussions had been held with stakeholders, such as the Shipping Corporation of India, Directorate-General of Shipping, Cochin Shipyard Limited, KMB, and NORKA Roots. At a meeting of officials from the Shipping Corporation of India, NORKA Roots and the KMB held on November 10, it was also decided to float an open advertisement seeking offer from interested parties/operations with suitable vessels readily available to start operations between Kerala and Gulf, the Minister added.
The service is expected to help passengers from Kerala, especially Malabar, who are hit by the frequent hike in air fares. The decision to start the venture from Beypore was taken in view of the high number of expatriates in Malabar. It will also help tourists.