Into the blue: TN gets passenger ferry service to Sri Lanka after 40 years...Here's all you need to know!

For the first time after forty years, Tamil Nadu has got a passenger ferry service to the neighbouring country of Sri Lanka. The ferry was inaugurated on Saturday - October 14 and it will ply from Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam to Kankesanthurai in the northern province of Sri Lanka. The ferry will take four hours to reach its destination from either sides. 

The ferry was launched by Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Tamil Nadu Ministers EV Velu and Ragupathy, and higher officials. An international, high-speed ferry has revived after forty years. Named 'Cheriyapani', the ferry began its trip from Nagapattinam port on October 14 at around 8.15 am and it was headed by Captain Biju George. 

The ferry has a capacity to carry 150 passengers and a dozen crew members and on Saturday, it embarked its journey with 50 passengers and 12 crew members. Welcoming the revival of the passenger ferry and hailing the diplomatic efforts, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe had highlighted the importance of launching the ferry service between the two nations. 

In a video message, Narendra Modi said that the launch of the ferry is a new chapter in ties with Sri Lanka and stated that the ferry service will help strengthen cultural, commercial, and civilisational ties between the two nations. By citing that the connectivity is the central theme of the joint vision of economic ties between India and Sri Lanka, Modi further said that India will take measures to revive the operation of the ferry service between Rameswaram and Talaimannar. 

While speaking during the occasion, Sri Lanka's President Wickremesinghe said that this was an important step towards improving connectivity between the two nations. Addressing the event virtually, Union External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that the launch had affirmed the neighbourhood first policy of India and it would also help improve cooperation in disaster management, maritime security, and ease of business between the two nations. 

How you can book the tickets and what's the fare?

According to reports, the Shipping Corporation of India has tasked a private agency to sell the tickets to the ferry. The ferry will start its service daily from the Nagappattinam port at 7 am and will reach Kankesanthurai at 11 am. The return journey will start at 1.30 pm from Kankesanthurai and will reach Nagapattinam at 5.30 pm. After a brief daily service till October 23, the booking facility will be available online from January 2024 and the bookings can be done 24 hours in advance.  

The passengers must send their passport copy and visa details and they can also pay the price online. As far as the fare is concerned, a one-way ticket will cost around Rs 7,670 including taxes and the round trip cost of the service would be over Rs 13,000. Each passenger is allowed to carry around 50 kg of luggage. It has been reported that the ferry is equipped with all safety facilities approved by the Indian government. 

Speaking to The Hindu, Captain M Anbazhagan, state port officer, said that the daily service will continue till October 23 and as the ferry can't be operated in rough weather owing to the Northeast monsoon, the operations will be temporarily suspended for two months and will resume in January 2024. The ferry service between India and Sri Lanka was suspended in 1980s as the Indo-Ceylon Express was stopped in 1982 in the wake of the Sri Lankan civil war. Now, after four decades, the passenger ferry service was revived and had sparked a wave of excitement among the people of both the countries.