The unique Ro-Ro (Roll-On, Roll-Off) / Ro–Pax ferry services have been greatly under-utilised despite the country having a number of rivers. But, this mode of transport is likely to get a major boost, with the Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways’ (MoPSW) plans to promote it across 45 projects with a financial support of ₹1,900 crore under the Sagarmala program.

“Such water-based transportation service is an effective measure to lower the logistics costs, reduce travel time; reduce traffic congestion on roads/railways; reduce noise pollution and promote coastal shipping on several feasible routes,” Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, said in the Lok Sabha recently.

Ro-Pax ferry service

Projects are now planned at Pipavav and Muldwarka in Gujarat and Ghodbunder, Veldur, Vasai, Kashid, Rewas, Manori and J N Port in Maharashtra. Four more projects in Andhra, two projects in Odisha and one each in Tamil Nadu and Goa are being planned.

At least two routes have been operationalised so far — the Ro-Pax ferry service between Ghogha – Hazira in Gujarat (in November 2020) and Mumbai – Mandwa in Maharashtra (in March 2020). According to the data available from the Ministry, these services have transported more than 7 lakh passengers and 1.5 lakh vehicles already.

M2M, which runs Maharashtra’s first Ro-Pax ferry service between Mumbai and Mandwa, said on its website that, instead of navigating 111 km of congested roads, users can traverse the 19 km by sea. “We welcome upto 500 passengers and 145 vehicles. Passengers can travel with or without vehicles. We can accept all types of vehicles – cars, buses, motorbikes and cycles. Bring your pets along; we have a separate area on-board,” it said.

An user who took the ferry service in June this year, tweeted, “The management team of the Mumbai Ro-Ro ferry needs to be appreciated not only for their super efficient service, but also the way they discipline errant drivers trying to overtake/ break lanes.”

Guidelines notified

The ministry has issued draft guidelines to operationalise the Ro-Ro and Ro-Pax ferry service along the coast of India after incorporating the preliminary inputs received from the stakeholders. Two focus areas include concessions for terminal operation and licence for operation of the vessels.

These guidelines will homogenise and streamline the development and operations of ferry services, eliminate unnecessary delays, and also help the State/UT Governments and port authorities in implementing such projects by standardisation of procedures, the ministry said.

Fuel exemption

Meanwhile, the Centre continues to push measures so as to popularise “more such services”. In a recent move, the MoPSW has directed all major ports to exempt all berth hiring, and vessel related charges being currently levied to the passenger ferries for the next six months, with immediate effect.