In line with the announcement made by the leaders of the two countries in July 2023 during the visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India, the ferry service between Nagappatinam in India and Kankesanthurai (KKS) near Jaffna in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka commenced on Saturday (October 14, 2023).
Speaking at the launch event virtually, Indian PM Narendra Modi said: "India and Sri Lanka are embarking on a new chapter in diplomatic and economic relations and the launch of a ferry service between Nagapattinam and Kankesanthurai is an important milestone in strengthening the relations."
The Prime Minister recalled his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015 when direct flights between Delhi and Colombo were launched. Later, the Prime Minister added, the landing of the first international flight in the pilgrim town of Kushinagar from Sri Lanka was also celebrated.
He said that direct flights between Chennai and Jaffna began in 2019, and now the ferry service between Nagapattinam and Kankesanthurai is yet another important step in this direction.
“Our vision for connectivity goes beyond the transport sector,” the Prime Minister emphasised as he underlined that India and Sri Lanka collaborate closely in a wide range of areas such as fin-tech and energy.
Noting that digital payments have become a mass movement and a way of life in India due to UPI, Modi informed that both governments are working on fin-tech sector connectivity by linking UPI and Lanka Pay.
He also touched upon connecting the energy grids between the two nations to enhance energy security and reliability as energy security is crucial for the development journey of both India and Sri Lanka.
The high-speed ferry operated by the Shipping Corporation of India has a capacity of 150 persons.
The distance of about 60 nm (110 Km) between Nagapattinam and KKS will be covered in approx. 3.5 hours depending on sea conditions.
In order to commence the service, the Government of India supported the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board in upgrading facilities at the Nagapattinam port, read a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Similarly, the Government of Sri Lanka has created necessary infrastructure at the port of KKS.
"The Government of India’s efforts to start the ferry service are in line with the Government’s priority to enhance connectivity with neighbours and in the wider Indian Ocean Region. A direct passenger ferry between Sri Lanka and India will provide an efficient and cost-effective means of travel for the people of the two countries, boost tourism and trade links and strengthen people-to people ties. The ferry will also enhance economic activity around the two ports and invigorate local economies," read the statement.
It may be recalled that direct air connectivity between Chennai and Jaffna, which was suspended during the Covid pandemic, was resumed in December 2022.
Enhancing direct connectivity with the Northern Province of Sri Lanka complements Government of India’s other ongoing development initiatives in the region.
Vessel Cheriyapani travelled with 50 passengers on its inaugural journey to Sri Lanka and will return back to India by evening with passengers from Sri Lanka.
"The Governments of India and Sri Lanka will continue to work towards the commencement of ferry services between other ports, including the traditional route between Rameswaram- Talaimannar," read the MEA statement.