The Ghogha-Dahej roll-on, roll-off passenger (ro-pax) service was inaugurated on October 27, 2018. The ro-pax ferry, Voyage Symphony, will ply the Gulf of Khambhat between Ghogha in Saurashtra and Dahej in south Gujarat.
Ghogha, situated in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra, lies 17 nautical miles (32 km), across the gulf from Dahej in Bharuch district. The service has been designed to reduce the travel time between Ghogha and Dahej from seven-eight hours, to just over an hour, by reducing the distance between the two ports from over 360 km to 31 km.
Earlier, in October 2017, Phase I of the roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service was inaugurated. The Ghogha-Dahej ro-ro facility project is a part of the Gujarat government’s effort to develop the 1,600 km coastline as a means to increase trade and transport between southern Gujarat and Kutch.
The terminals at Ghogha and Dahej have been constructed on an engineering, procurement and construction basis by Essar Projects Limited. The scope of Essar Projects’ contract also included the construction of 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 reclamation and construction of a bund or rock revetment of 488 metres. It also included the construction of security gates for check-in/check-out control, a vehicle checking gate, a future marshalling area, a paved marshalling area, a sewage treatment plant, a water tank, a terminal building, a car park, an access trestle, an administration building, a roofed space (for arrivals), a bus terminal, a future extension area, and passenger amenities. Construction work on the project commenced in January 2012 and was scheduled to be completed within a period of 15 months. However, project implementation was delayed owing to environmental concerns.
With the project being completed, a concession agreement has been signed between Surat-based Indigo Seaways Private Limited and GMB for ferry operations. Built in South Korea, Voyage Symphony is a double-ended ferry with a length of 110 metres, gross registered tonnage of 6,543 tonnes and draught of 3.8 metres. Sailing at an average speed of 15-17 knots, the ferry is capable of carrying around 500 passengers and 100 vehicles. The ferry service will make six round trips per day.
Phase I of the project, estimated to entail an investment of Rs 2,960 million, was completed at an investment of Rs 6,150 million. The high cost of terminal construction and the delays in project execution resulted in an escalation of the project cost. The total project cost of Rs 6,150 million (for Phase I) has been funded by both the Gujarat government and the central government under the Sagarmala project. Of the total fund allocation, the central government allocated Rs 1,170 million for dredging works and removal of sediment from the Gulf of Khambhat.
The charge for an unladen truck on the ferry will be Rs 4,500, with an additional Rs 125 per tonne up to 34 tonnes gross weight. For luxury passenger buses, the charge is Rs 7,000 for 36 passengers, while for cars, the tariff is Rs 800 plus the passenger fare. Medium-sized trucks such as Eicher tempos will pay Rs 3,000 if empty and Rs 125 per tonne of load. Further, scooters and motorcycles will be charged Rs 150 and passengers will pay Rs 200, Rs 300 and Rs 400 for economy, executive and VIP seating respectively.
Future expansion plans
Going forward, the ferry service will be extended to locations across the Gulf of Khambhat and the Gulf of Kutch. Plans to connect Gujarat to Mumbai and other southern states via a ferry link are also under consideration. These links include Mumbai-Porbandar, Mumbai-Ghogha, Mumbai-Dahej, Mumbai-Hazira, Mumbai-Pipavav, Hazira-Pipavav, Pipavav-Porbandar, Porbandar-Okha and Okha-Mundra.
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 delivered two ro-ro vessels to the Kochi Municipal Corporation. Besides, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Goa also have car ferry services.