THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:The proposal to start a ship service to the Gulf sector for expatriates has been a proposal that has been doing the rounds since 2001 but has failed to take off as serious doubts have been raised about its feasibility by experts in the tourism and maritime sectors.
In 2001, trail runs were conducted between Kochi and Muscat via Manama and Doha by private shipping companies. At that time, attractive fares, as low as Rs 4,000 for a trip, were touted as the major attraction. However, the proposal did not find many takers primarily due to the time factor.
In 2003, Norka Roots and the Departments of Tourism and Ports had revived the ship service project. Even though three shipping companies had expressed willingness to conduct services, there was reportedly no follow-up action. ‘
In 2012, the plan was finally abandoned after an expert committee report warned that there would not be sufficient number of passengers for the project to become a reality,
Representatives from the tourism sector say that the average travel duration of three to four days between Kerala and Gulf countries and that too in bunker-class ships would deter most of the passengers. They also warned of steep port charges and the non-availability of adequate number of passengers during off-peak season.
According to maritime experts, seaports will have to be converted as customs and emigration points as is the case with airports. They also suggest that proper studies need to be done about the feasibility of such projects before it is launched.