Kerala looks to sea route to ferry returnees from Middle East

Thiruvananthapuram, June 3 (IANS) The Kerala government is considering pressing into service ships to transport Keralites settled in the Middle East who wish to return home during the coming holiday season.

The government is weighing the option since these expatriates face difficulties in returning home due to unavailability of sufficient seats on airplanes and exorbitant air fares around this time of the year.

July, August and September are the peak holiday season months for more than two million Kerala natives who prefer to visit their ancestral homes from Middle East countries. This year, the harvest festival of Onam falls in August.

However, various airlines operating in the region exploit this rush of passengers and jack up air fares.

A return ticket from the United Arab Emirates to any of the three airports in Kerala – ordinarily costing between Rs.7,000 and Rs.15,000 during off-peak season – goes up to Rs.50,000.

Thus, returning home during festival season every year becomes difficult for an average Kerala worker.

State Transport Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said that there was a proposal to operate ships from the Middle East, particularly after the government managed to evacuate Indians from Yemen by sea route after trouble broke out in that country recently.

“Yes, we have an option. But we have to find out if our people are interested in travelling by ships. We will look into the matter and if people are willing to travel by the sea route, we will certainly do the needful,” Radhakrishnan said.

A former Indian Navy captain and INS Mumbai ex-chief engineer, Ramesh Babu told IANS that the option of pressing ships on the route was viable.

“The Kerala government can either contact the Lakshadweep administration since ships available with it are not operated during monsoons, or it can get ships from Shipping Corporation of India,” Babu said.

“One can reach Kerala from any Middle East destination by sea within two days and a one-way ticket costs only around Rs.5,000. And it comes with three-star luxury,” he added.

With the Kerala assembly session begining next week, the issue is likely to crop up for discussion in the house.

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