Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tuticorin-Colombo sea route reopens Padmini

Feb 11, 2011,MADURAI:

Shipping of cargo between the Tuticorin and Colombo in Sri Lanka will resume after a gap of three years on February 12 when 350 tonnes of commodities will set sail from the southern port. The small mechanised boat, M S V Raj, will carry turmeric, salt, chilli and tamarind and reach Colombo the following day.

The bustling port town on Tamil Nadu\'s east coast, has a hoary past, as it was here that freedom fighter V O Chidambaram Pillai launched his own swadeshi shipping service with his ship S S Gaelia, between Tuticorin and Colombo on November 12, 1906, in a bid to destroy the business prospects of the British company.

Tuticorin was one of the major Indian ports since ancient times and there are records to show that trade flourished between this port and other countries even way back in the 6th century AD. Cargo vessels, that is mechanised boats were operated by many agents through this port to Sri Lanka and Maldives for many years, but the trade to Colombo was called off in 2008 at the height of the ethnic violence in the Island nation.

Now, with normalcy returning in Sri Lanka, the two countries decided to allow cargo services. The passenger ferry service on this route is expected to begin soon, Union shipping minister G K Vasan had announced recently. The Association of owners of Mechanised boats has identified Ms Snow Shipping Services (SSS) for the cargo transport and the loading of the 350 tonne cargo including turmeric, salt, chilli and tamarind into the vessel started on Thursday. The cargo vessels are operated at the Old Port which is called Zone B.

S Dhanabal of SSS told TOI that the firm would be the only cargo operator for now and that the vessel would sail once a week. The first journey will start at 6 am on Saturday and will reach Colombo in 24 hours. \"We had to call off the earlier services due to various reasons including security during the violence in Sri Lanka, when most of the commodities perished before they were off loaded in that port,\" he said.

Tuticorin Port Trust chairman A Subbiah said the port had nothing to do with this cargo transport as it was purely a commercial aspect and agencies were entrusted with the job. \"But, the port is now ready for passenger traffic between Tuticorin and Colombo with work with regard to customs and immigration services being completed. The shipping firm Flamingo had been awarded the contract for the passenger vessel for a period of seven years and everything was ready for passenger traffic to resume on this route from the first week of March,\" he said.

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