The government has advertised in both Sri Lankan and Indian newspapers for a passenger ferry service operator between Tuticorin and Colombo after the previous operator shut down services as it was uneconomical. Ceylon Shipping Corporation officials told the Business Times that the advertisements calling for Expression of Interest (EOI) were made in India's Business Line newspaper as well as in the Sri Lankan media.
The deadline for submitting EOIs is February 20. Currently the authorities are looking out for those with a vessel capacity of 500 or less. Officials noted that the previous operator's capacity was for 1000 passengers but had been carrying only about 200 passengers. This had caused issues for the continuation of the operation as the vessel was too big.
It was also mentioned that while the bunker consumption was very high, the prices were high as well. Issues with the Indian port authorities arose in relation to baggage allowance that the Indian Customs provided for only 30 kilos whereas the vessel operator would allow upto 100 kilos, officials said. Moreover, the Indian authorities did not have the required infrastructure via rail to provide transport for those landing at the Tuticorin port.
Officials noted that these issues would be discussed with the Indian authorities once the operator is selected. While previously, an Indian operator was allowed to conduct the service, this time the Sri Lankan authorities believe it is necessary to re-start operations with a local or foreign operator.
The operator is expected to provide facilities for around 200, with a roll-on and roll-off service of vehicles, entertainment and a duty free area within the vessel. It was pointed out that in terms of the load factor this new venture needs to provide adequate benefits and privileges to the passengers without which it couldn't be improved.