Gujarat: Dredging for Ro-Ro ferry service — ‘Rs 111 crores spent’

The ferry service linking Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra region with Bharuch district in South Gujarat region was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2017.

In the past two years, more than Rs 111 crore has been spent on dredging the seabed for the Ro-Ro (roll-on roll-off) ferry service being operated across the Gulf of Khambhat between Dahej and Ghogha in Gujarat, the state government told the Gujarat legislative assembly on Thursday.

A total of Rs 48.40 crore was spent for dredging the channels near both the terminals in year 2017-18 and Rs 63.04 crore was spent during 2018-19, the state government stated in a written reply to a question from Congress MLA Kanubhai Baraiya who represents Talaja. The ferry service linking Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra region with Bharuch district in South Gujarat region was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2017.

The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) had given the dredging contracts to two firms, Ahmedabad-based Adani Port and SEZ Limited (APSEZ) and Hyderabad-based Dharti Dredging and Infrastructure Limited, the government said in response to supplementary questions by the MLA.

The government also said that it had received two complaints in the past two years which said that the contractors were not doing their job. GMB then imposed a fine of Rs 85 lakh on those responsible and issued instructions to the contractors to complete the work.

Surat based firm Indigo Seaways Pvt Ltd, which has been operating the ferry service, told The Indian Express in the past that the Ro-Ro vessel was getting damaged because it was forced to ply on shallow waters, as dredging was not being done regularly. Due to this, the vessel has broken down thrice in the past two years, once mid sea with 400 passengers on board in November 2018.

The ferry operators said that what was promised in the agreement signed with Gujarat government was a draft of five metres at chart datum (lowest of low level), which is needed for smooth movement of the vessel, but it was not being delivered.

Due to the lack of draft, the propeller blades run too close to the seabed, damaging the vessel, the operators said.