What is Gujarat’s Ro-Ro ferry service?

The first phase of the Ro-Ro ferry service will reduce the distance between Gujarat’s Ghogha and Dahej towns from 310 km by road to 30 km

The ro-ro ferry will ply the Gulf of Khambhat between peninsular Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Ghogha situated in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra lies 17 nautical miles (32 km), across the gulf from Dahej in Bharuch district.

A first of its kind in India, the ferry will be able to carry up to 100 vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) and 250 passengers between the two ports. The ro-ro ferry services are vessels made to carry wheeled cargo that are driven on and off the ferry on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle. The wheeled cargo includes, cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars.

The term ro-ro is generally reserved for large ocean-going vessels. The vessels have either built-in or shore-based ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port. This is in opposite to the lift-on and lift-off (lo-lo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.

This ferry service project cost stands at Rs.614 crore. The central government has allocated Rs.117 crore for dredging work at both Ghogha and Dahej under the Sagarmala initiative. The Gujarat government body in charge of marine and ports affairs along the state’s 1,600 km coastline, floated tenders for the project in 2011.

The service shall reduce the travel time between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat, from about seven or eight hours, to just over an hour. The distance between the two places would be reduced to 31 km from the current distance of 360 km. When fully operationalised, it will also enable movement of vehicles. The ferry service is aimed at boosting the connectivity and infrastructure in Gujarat.

Earlier, an attempt was made by a private firm with the support from the state government to launch a modern passenger ferry service (the “Kutch-Sagar Setu”) between Okha in Devbhumi Dwarka district and Mandavi in Kutch district across the Gulf of Kutch in 2016. However, it had to be suspended after it faced technical and financial challenges.

The service will come particularly handy for those working in the diamond cutting and polishing hub of Surat in South Gujarat, as most of these workers belong to the Saurashtra region in the western part of the state.

The first phase to be inaugurated on Sunday would be a passenger-only service, Ajay Bhadoo, the chief executive officer of Gujarat Maritime Board that is executing the Ro-Ro project, said.

In the second phase, which would be ready in two months, cars, too, would be carried between the two towns.

In the final phase, ferries would be able to carry trucks as well.

The service was thought of in early 1960s but the foundation stone was laid in 2012 by Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

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