India will launch a new cargo ferry service to the Maldives, which will link Kochi and Tuticorin with Male, in the third week of September to further bolster bilateral trade relations.
A vessel operated by the Shipping Corporation of India, capable of carrying 200 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) or containers and 3,000 tonnes of general cargo, will be used for the service, the Indian high commission in the Maldives said in a tweet on Thursday.
The turnaround time for the cargo ferry service will be 10 days, the high commission said.
“Sea-connectivity for prosperity! A direct ‘Cargo Ferry Service’ connecting Kochi/Tuticorin with Malé will be flagged off in the 3rd week of Sept,” the mission tweeted, adding the service will fulfill a commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Maldives in June 2019.
“It is expected to revolutionise bilateral trade linkages & support dvpt. of the northern atolls with extension of the service to #Kulhudhuffushi in future,” the mission said in another tweet.
The launch of the ferry service was discussed during a virtual meeting between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Maldives counterpart Abdulla Shahid on August 13.
During the same meeting, India unveiled a $500-million package to help the Maldives build a connectivity project linking its capital Male with three islands, and provided $250 million as budgetary support to help the Indian Ocean archipelago cope with the Covid-19 crisis.
People familiar with developments said the direct cargo ferry service will be an opportunity for India to replace other countries and become the top trade partner of the Maldives. Exports from India had registered a relative increase amid the Covid-19 pandemic, making the country the second largest exporter to the Maldives, the people said.
“With many bilateral projects slated to commence in the next few months, this is the right time to start a cargo ferry service with the Maldives,” said one of the people cited above.