The Union Shipping Ministry on Thursday decided to form an “empowered group” that will find solutions to re-start the stalled Ro-Ro ferry service in Gujarat. The committee is expected to submit solutions within 7-10 days.
In a high-level meeting chaired by Union Shipping minister Mansukh Mandaviya in New Delhi, the issues surrounding dredging — that caused the ferry service to be stalled for the last four months — was discussed threadbare. It was then decided to form an empowered group which will be headed by an additional secretary of the Government of India and will consist of officials from both the Centre and the Gujarat government, as well as experts.
The ferry services launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2017 was suspended on September 24, 2019, after Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) cited heavy siltation from the river Narmada.
Officials from the Dredging Corporation of India, experts from IIT-Chennai which is already studying the siltation in Gulf of Khambhat have been taken on board.
“This empowered group will hold technical discussions and will submit solutions in a few days to restart the ferry service,” the release added. A number of options to restart the service were discussed during the meeting where officials from the Gujarat Maritime Board and representatives from the ferry operator Indigo Seaways Pvt Ltd were present.
The ferry service launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi between Gogha in Bhavnagar district and Dahej in Bharuch district have seen frequent breakdowns due to lack of dredging in the navigational channels. The ferry has carried 2.8 lakh passengers between the two destinations since October 28, 2018 and September 24, 2019 when it was suspended due to “heavy siltation” from an overflowing Narmada dam.
Apart from passengers, the ferry has also transported about 45,000 cars, 12,500 trucks and close to 26,000 two-wheelers.
The Indian Express has already reported that a four-fold rise in dredging costs and heavy siltation in the channels had forced the state government to ask the Centre to take over the project including the assets as both GMB and the ferry operator had started bleeding financially while trying to keep the project running.
However, the official release on Thursday stated that the state government has asked “technical help” from the Shipping ministry.
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