Home / Politics / Policy /  Narendra Modi to inaugurate roll-on roll-off ferry service in Gujarat

Ahmedabad: The much-awaited Ro-Ro (roll-on roll-off) ferry connecting Ghogha in Saurashtra with the industrial hub of Dahej in South Gujarat will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Speaking at a gathering of party workers on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on Monday, Modi said the project would be extended to other places such as Hazira in future.

Plans are being worked out to link the project to other cities such as Porbander, Jamnagar, Mandvi, Okha and even Mumbai at a later stage, a senior state government official said on condition of anonymity. He, however, added that future plans have yet to be firmed.

The project, partly funded by the central government’s Sagarmala initiative, is being developed by the Gujarat government through the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), the state’s maritime regulator.

“The concept is quite popular in Europe and the US like the English Channel Ferries and places like Seattle and Vancouver. However, in India, the concept has not yet been developed and there are only a few locally run examples. This is now set to change and the government is making this as priority at the policy level and subsequently enabling the requisite infrastructure with substantial investments in inland waterways and coastal shipping," said an official of the GMB who did not wish to be named.

Surat-based Detox Group’s subsidiary Saurashtra Enviro Projects Pvt. Ltd, in partnership with US-based Black Ball Transport Inc., has been selected as the ferry operator through competitive bidding, he added.

The project will drastically reduce the distance of 360km and travel time of 8 hours between Saurasthra and South Gujarat, to 31km and just one-and-a-half hours. It would also ease congestion on the state highway circumnavigating the gulf.

The terminals at Dahej and Ghogha will provide berth accommodation for ferries, facilities for loading and unloading of vehicles and passengers and administrative facilities.

A pilot run was conducted on 14 October on a passenger ferry between Ghogha and Dahej. The ship named M.V. Jai Sofia completed the journey in less than two hours. This vessel has a draft of 2.6 m and a gross tonnage of 2,418 tonnes with a passenger capacity of 200. Another pilot run, carried out a day later, completed the journey in one-and-a-half hours.

Conceptualized decades ago, the project was set into motion by Prime Minister Modi in 2010 when he was chief minister of Gujarat. While construction on the project started in 2012 and was expected to be completed by 2014, it got stuck due to issues of dredging and changes in design.

“The cost of the project is about Rs615 crore which includes the cost of the terminals set up on both sides. This is higher from the Rs300 crore estimated a decade ago," said a second state government official seeking anonymity.

“Ro Ro/Ro Pax developments are relatively new to the Indian market and need more flexibility in the public-private partnership (PPP) structuring. There is a tendency for the government to be too prescriptive with the requirements. Such projects will take off only if government focuses on performance, safety and social and environmental requirements and allows investors to arrive at their own technical solutions," said a Mumbai-based port sector expert on condition of anonymity.

“Application of the standard PPP model and benchmarking the concession with existing mature sectors can also be a deterrent to the private sector participation," the expert said, adding that the risk sharing mechanism and framework needs to more pragmatic.

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