The maiden voyage of the Cargo Ferry Service between India and the Maldives will be jointly launched on September 21 by Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya, Minister of State for Shipping (Independent Charge) of India, and Mrs. Aishath Nahula, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation of the Maldives in a virtual ceremony. The ceremony will also be attended by representatives from Tuticorin and Cochin ports, as well as officials from the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and the Foreign Ministry of Maldives.
The Cargo Ferry Vessel MCP Linz operated by the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) will connect Tuticorin and Cochin ports in India with Kulhudhuhfushi and Male ports in the Maldives. The vessel is expected to arrive in Kulhudhuhfushi on September 26 and Male on September 28. The MCP Linz is a combination vessel which can carry 380 TEUs and 3000 MT on bulk cargo, and will have a turnaround time of 10-12 days for its voyages. The vessel has reefer plugs for refrigerated containers. This vessel provides direct cargo connectivity between India and the Maldives on a predictable and affordable basis for the first time, and will lower costs and times for traders in both countries.
In his address to the People’s Majlis during his State Visit to the Maldives in June 2019, PM Narendra Modi announced India’s commitment to start a ferry service connecting India and the Maldives. An MoU was signed between the Ministry of Shipping in India and the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Maldives, on the sidelines of the State Visit. A team from SCI had visited Maldives in July 2019 to undertake preliminary studies. Thereafter, FICCI undertook a feasibility study on a cargo ferry service between India and the Maldives, earlier this year. The decision to commence the Cargo Ferry Service between the two nations was announced during a virtual meeting between EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on August 13, 2020. To begin with, India will subsidise the service at approx. USD 3 million.
Nourished by close historical and cultural ties, Indians and Maldivians have traded for centuries. Yet, India is only the 4th largest trading partner of the Maldives today. The Cargo Ferry Service is visioned as a key instrument to upgrade the trade partnership and unfetter logistics on both sides. Alongside the expansion of the Hanimaadhoo Airport (through an Indian Line of Credit), the Cargo Ferry Service connectivity to the northern port of Kulhudhuhfushi will underpin the economic development of northern Maldives and facilitate investments in tourism and other engines of prosperity. Beside the expansion of markets for MSMEs in India, the Cargo Ferry service will provide an opportunity to Maldivian exporters of tuna and other marine products to scope the vast Indian market and springboard to Europe through Cochin and Tuticorin ports. For instance, Cochin Port has weekly connectivity to Europe through a 6500 TEU vessel.
The Cargo Ferry Service is another commitment delivered by India to connect Indian and Maldivian markets, unlock the trade and investment potential between the two nations, and, strengthen people-to-people contacts for mutual prosperity. It manifests the synergies between the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of India and the ‘India First’ policy of the Maldives under the leadership of PM Modi and President Ibu Solih.