Firm studies ferry service


A Saudi firm has appointed a consultant to study the feasibility of resuming the passenger ferry service from Bahrain to Kerala this summer.

Riyadh-based Tamak Establishment, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kerala government last year, was scheduled to start the service this month.

However, the project was put on hold following the Iraqi war and an increase in fuel charges, said Tamak divisional manager Thomas Mathai.

"We have now appointed Jeddah-based Centre for Marine Studies director Captain Mohammed Abood Babiadan to carry out a feasibility study on the whole project," he said.

"We hope the results will be positive. If so, we hope to launch the service in June."

The first passenger ferry service between the Gulf and India was launched from Bahrain in June 2001 by Tylos Ferry, a division of Bahrain-based Sanad Travel.

However, the company was forced to cancel the operation of M V Al Salam Taba after a few months as it failed to get the sea-worthiness certificate from the federal Mercantile and Marine Department in India.

"We have studied in detail the reasons for the failure of operations by the first ever ferry service from the Gulf to Cochin," said Mathai, who is on a short visit to Bahrain.

"We are collaborating with the Maritime Navigation Company to press a new vessel into service.

"It will meet all safety requirements set by the Indian government."

Among the vessels under consideration is one with 1,140 seats - 280 first class, 560 second class and the remaining economy class, said Mathai.

A return ticket on these classes, Bahrain-Cochin-Bahrain, is expected to cost respectively BD150, BD130 and BD100.

Tamak got the go-ahead to launch the service after Mathai signed a memorandum of understanding with Kerala's former transport minister K B Ganesh Kumar during the Global Investors Meet (GIM) held in Cochin last year.

Mathai said the Kerala government's Inland Navigation Corporation had agreed to provide jetty facilities at the Cochin port.

"They are currently collaborating with the Cochin Port Trust and the Indian Shipping Ministry to develop a jetty with immigration and customs facilities for about 1,200 passengers," he said.

"We hope to transport passengers from Dammam to Manama through the causeway.

"It will take five days for the ship to reach Cochin from Bahrain via Dubai. We are planning to operate three such services per month."