Phase 1 of the roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej in Gujarat was inaugurated on October 22, 2017. The ro-ro ferry will ply between peninsular Saurashtra and south Gujarat in the Gulf of Khambhat.
Ghogha, situated in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra, lies 17 nautical miles (32 km) across the gulf from Dahej in Bharuch district in south Gujarat. The service has been designed to reduce the travel time between Ghogha and Dahej, from seven to eight hours to just over an hour reducing the distance between the two ports from over 360 km to 31 km.
Allowing vehicles and passengers on board, the ro-ro service is expected to save not only time but also fuel. It will also help decongest roads as more and more people avail of the service, and is expected to go a long way in reducing fuel consumption and the carbon footprint of vehicles travelling between the two ports. The ferry service is also expected to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the state and give an impetus to Saurashtra’s economy. The ro-ro service has been designed to ferry up to 100 vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) and 250 passengers.
The project is being developed in three phases. In the first phase, only passenger services will begin, while after the completion of the second phase, light vehicles will also be carried aboard the ferries. The second phase is likely to be commissioned by the end of January 2018. In the final phase, the ferries will have facility to carry trucks on board as well.
The Ghogha-Dahej ro-ro facility project is a part of the Gujarat government’s efforts to develop the 1,600 km coastline as a means to increase trade and transport between south Gujarat and Kutch.
The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) invited bids for the project in early 2011. The engineering, procurement and construction contract of the project was awarded to Essar Projects Limited. The scope of Essar Projects’ contract included the design and construction of ro-ro service terminals at both Ghogha and Dahej, an approach bund of 609 metres, a trestle of 562 metres, seven Dolphins spread over 84 metres, a link span of 96 metres and a pontoon, besides land reclamation works and the construction of a bund or rock revetment of 488 metres. The contract also included the construction of security gates with check-in and check-out control, a vehicle checking gate, a paved marshalling area, a sewage treatment plant, a water tank, terminal buildings, car parks, an access trestle, administration buildings, a bus terminal, and passenger amenities, among others.
The capital dredging work was awarded to Hyderabad-based Dharti Dredging and Infrastructure Limited for Rs 1.92 billion. Terminal operations have been assigned to Surat-based Saurashtra Enviro Projects Limited, Gurugram-based Star Ferry India Limited, and American company Black Ball Transport, Inc.
Construction work on the project commenced in January 2012 and was scheduled to be completed within a period of 15 months. According to the initial plan, after the construction of the two terminals at Dahej and Ghogha, GMB planned to run two-three ferry vessels daily, for which bids were to be invited from ferry operators. However, project implementation was delayed owing to environmental concerns.
The high investment involved in terminal construction and the subsequent delays in project execution escalated the cost of the project. Phase I, which was estimated to entail an investment of Rs 2,960 million, was completed at an investment of Rs 6,150 million. The overall project cost of Rs 6,150 million (for Phase I) has been funded partly by the Gujarat government and partly by the central government under Sagarmala. Of the total fund allocation, the central government allocated Rs 1,170 million for dredging work and the removal of sediments from the Khambhat bay.
Upon completion, the ferry service will be extended to locations across the Gulf of Khambhat and the Gulf of Kutch. The plans to connect Gujarat to Mumbai and other southern states by the ferry link are also under consideration.
To boost the state’s infrastructure, GMB has planned a few other ro-ro ferry projects to be taken up in the future. These include the Mumbai-Porbandar, Mumbai-Ghogha, Mumbai-Dahej, Mumbai-Hazira, Mumbai-Pipavav, Hazira-Pipavav, Pipavav-Porbandar, Porbandar-Okha and Okha-Mundra links. Besides, the scope for expanding the ro-ro passenger ferry network in the Gulf of Khambhat and identifying places for ro-ro ferry operations in the Gulf of Kutch is being explored.
Ro-ro services are used in other parts of the country as well. In March 2017, the Ministry of Shipping announced the successful berthing of a vessel at a state-of-the-art ro-ro terminal on the Brahmaputra river in Assam’s Dhubri district. In June 2017, Cochin Shipyard Limited delivered two ro-ro vessels to the Kochi Municipal Corporation. Besides, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Goa also have car ferry services.