Navigating Challenges: Uncertainties Surround Kerala-Dubai Passenger Ship Service Launch


The Kerala Maritime Board’s (KMB’s) plan to initiate a passenger ship service between Kerala and Dubai in the second week of January faces obstacles, as no suitable service provider has come forward.

Despite a meeting with a UAE-based company, the state ports department has been unable to secure interest in operating the service.

M S Pillai, chairman of KMB, acknowledged the challenges and mentioned ongoing efforts to identify a service provider suitable for both Beypore and Cochin ports.

He explained that despite preparations for a January launch, neither the central nor state ports ministries possess passenger service-ready ships. Attempts to engage potential service providers were met with disinterest, prompting the decision to issue a tender.

As of now, uncertainty prevails regarding the commencement of the Beypore-Dubai service in January.

On 8 November, the Union shipping ministry granted in-principle approval for a passenger service between Kerala and GCC countries.

The chartered ship service aims to reduce travel expenses for the Malayali diaspora in the Gulf, enhance cargo services between southern Indian states and GCC countries, and promote development in Kerala across various sectors.

Arab states of the Persian Gulf on map (Wikipedia)
Arab states of the Persian Gulf on map (Wikipedia)

According to Kerala ports minister Ahammad Devarkovil, the government intends to establish the shipping service with the support of the Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA), the official organisation of the Kerala ethnic diaspora.

“We anticipate a revolutionary shift in travel patterns, especially for the majority of Malayalis in the Gulf hailing from the Malabar region. With the suspension of large aircraft services from Karipur, passengers from Kozhikode, Malappuram, and neighbouring districts are restricted to a 30kg luggage limit. The Beypore-Kochi-Dubai ship service would enable each passenger to carry up to 200 kg of luggage at no additional cost,” stated C E Chakkunni, president of the Malabar Development Council.

Despite these prospects, concerns about the service’s feasibility have been raised.

“How can we justify issuing tickets for Rs 10,000 when even an average cruise service between the two countries comes at a significantly higher cost?” questioned K M Basheer, president of the Malabar Development Forum.

Basheer pointed to past failures, citing the unsuccessful passenger ferry service to Kochi from Khalid Port in Sharjah 25 years ago, which faced challenges due to high costs.

Expressing scepticism about the new Dubai-Kerala service, Basheer emphasised that air tickets are available for Rs 15,000 or less during the off-season, making a five-hour flight more practical than a five-day journey by ship, reports The New Indian Express.

He urged authorities to consider the limited annual leave of the average NRI, asserting that spending 10 days on a ship for a round trip leaves little time for other activities.