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Monday, November 28, 2011

Ferry Services from Tuticorin to Colombo suspended [temporarily ?!?!?]

Subrahmanya Bharathiyar was a visionary – a Great Freedom fighter and the greatest among the Indian Poets wrote almost a century ago, of building a bridge to the island of Srilanka as also of running ships in the high seas !  He did not live longer to see these; infact did not live enough to see his dreams of freedom realize !! – he lived only for 39 years.

In June 2011, I posted about the launch of  passenger ferry service between Tuticorin and Colombo.  It was marked by a festive atmosphere at  Toothukudi (Tuticorin) the land  traditionally known for pearl fishing and shipping.    It was  the vessel  'Scotia Prince'  with 9 decks and a capacity of 1200 passengers and 300 tonnes of cargo.   The ferry  operated by Flemingo Liners, which ran as Nova Scotia in the Gulf of Maine, earlier.   

It is not good news – the vessel which left for the island capital on Nov 18, 11 has not returned since.   There are reports that the passenger ferry service has been stalled – though different reasons have been cited by different sources.  Some claim it to be a technical snag and that the services are likely to rescue in a week’s time. ??

The first of its kind in this part of the Region, ran into rough as not many have been patronizing.  Against its stated capacity of 1044, reportedly even on peak days, the carriage was not more than 350 passengers and perhaps its commercial viability was in question.  The numbers reportedly dwindled to about 150 passengers in the recent weeks.    Initially, it was patronized by traders who took bulk cargo like saris and other goods for sale in Sri Lanka. [kuruvi ??]  These traders took with them workers, most of them migrants from other states to carry additional cargo, which is permitted multi-fold at a cheaper price when compared to airlines.

There are also reports that the vessel was detailed at Colombo port fro non payment of dues to a local fuel supplier.  If you wonder, how a vessel not belonging to and not operated by the Lankans, could be detained – it is ‘action in rem’.    The detention is reported to be a result of a case filed in the Colombo Commercial High Court by a fuel supplier for non-payment of US$ 400,000.  The Operators were quoted as saying that  the supplier had gone to court even though they had paid an instalment only two days earlier.    In rem (Latin, power about or against "the thing") is a legal term describing the power a court may exercise over property (either real or personal) or a "status" against a person over whom the court does not have "in personam jurisdiction".  In rem is Latin for "against a thing". In a lawsuit, an action in rem is directed towards some specific piece of property, rather than being a claim for, say, monetary compensation against a person (which is an in personam or personal action). It focuses on proprietary title to property.

Some said that the suspension of services came even before the case was filed.   The SL sources quoting the state-run Ceylon Shipping Corporation  states  that the service was suspended for lack of passengers.   At the Indian side, it is stated that  connectivity at Thoothukudi end  was to  be enhanced with the recent introduction of a luxury bus service linking Thoothukudi port with Chennai, with timings to suit ferry passengers
Whether it was the detention, non viability, absence of patronage, connectivity, procedures, bunkering – or simply the business will – the services stand stalled now – with no communiqué on when it is likely to be resumed !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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