KOZHIKODE: It’s that time of the year again when expats will soon return to Gulf countries after their summer vacation. It is also that time of the year when airfares witness a steep hike, almost three times the normal.
Once again, the demand to revive ship service, mooted in 2001, between GCC countries and Kochi is assuming significance. As air travel becomes costlier for Non-Resident Keralites, there is a steady demand from NRK organisations to introduce ship service.
Tickets purchased in advance are also very costly, they pointed out. Ship service has been suggested by them as an alternative to confront the price hike and ease the suffering of NRKs.
“NRKs have to pay only `10,000 for first class facilities, while flights impose heavy fares up to `24,000 one-way during peak season,” Pravasi and Gulf Returnees Coordination Committee patron C E Chakkunni.
According to him, a trial journey conducted by a private ship company from Kochi to Muscat via Manama and Doha in 2001 had found that a trip can be arranged for as low as `4,000.
“Now, a first class trip can be provided at `10,000, and `7,000 and `5,000 for second and third class facilities respectively,” Chakkunni added. “Owing to the steep hike, companies grant employees leave only once in three years instead of yearly leave with free air tickets. NRKs can come home every year with company tickets if ships are operated at such moderate rates,” said K V Abdul Kader MLA, Kerala Pravasi Sangham state general secretary.
Lamenting on the laxity of the State Government on tapping the potential of ship service, Chakkunni said that the ship service project mooted, in 2003, by Norka Roots and Tourism and Port Departments had to be abandoned. Alleging irregularities, he added that three ship companies had expressed willingness to conduct services but the authorities failed to follow up, while falling to the interests of flight companies. “Ship companies are still ready to operate services if essential steps are taken by the authorities,” he added.
Citing the long travel time which may impede NRKs from relying on ships, Port director Sheikh Pareeth and Norka Roots Chief Executive Officer P Sudeep were apprehensive on the viability of the service. Dismissing such apprehensions, Chakkunni said that it will take only three days for a trip.