The direct ship service between Thoothukudi and Maldives poses a threat to mechanised coastal sail vessel service between these two destinations.
The service was inaugurated on September 21. Besides carrying 16 containers, the maiden ship left Thoothukudi for Male with 2,000 tonnes of other cargo – mostly construction materials, fruits and vegetables. The service has opened new business avenues for exporters but mechanised sail vessel industry, which was operating vessels to Colombo, Lakshadweep and the Maldives from Thoothukudi, is facing a threat.
The Old Harbour, the base of mechanised coastal sail vessels, which once handled up to 35 vessels, now has 19 vessels. While nine vessels shuttle between the Maldives and Thoothukudi with 450 to 500 tonnes of cargo, 10 vessels take cargo to Lakshadweep.
After enjoying excellent business for decades, the mechanised vessel industry initially faced problem from Chinese products. Even as the quantum of materials exported to the Maldives is steadily coming down, the economic meltdown worsened the problem further.
“Now, the direct shipping service may blow death knell to the mechanised sail vessel industry, feeding around 6,000 workers of this industry directly and indirectly,” says S. Lasington Fernando, president, Mechanized Coastal Sail Vessel Owners’ Association.
The industry, which was flourishing till 1990 by taking fruits, vegetables, dry fish, construction materials, manure and other essentials, started wilting after growth in container traffic. While service to Colombo was stopped completely in 2010, only 15 vessels are being operated to Maldives from where metal scrap is being imported.
“The Indian government should ensure that our industry doesn’t get decimated by the introduction of another service. It should allocate certain quantity of cargo for the sail vessels so that it will also be afloat along with the direct shipping service,” says Mr. Lasington.
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