The government will connect neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka and India to its growing ferry transport network, Minister for Transport and Communication Adhil Saleem said today.
The government is in discussions with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to add its member countries to Maldives Transportation Network, under phase two of the rollout of the ferry network.
There is currently no scheduled passenger ferry service between the Maldives and other countries, with travellers forced to fly to their destinations.
Domestically, all provinces have at least a skeletal ferry service in place, Minivan News understands, while the Ministry’s statistics show that the new ferry transportation network has completed over 311,000 ferry trips since it began operation last year. A government bus service has completed an additional 49,204 trips.
Inter-island ferry transportation in the Maldives has historically been limited to private operators working to sporadic timetables. More commonly, passengers to an island such as Maalhos in Alif Atoll would travel on an unscheduled vessel owned by someone on the island, such as a shop owner, for a variable price. Chartering a local vessel could cost up to Rf 1000 (US$77).
Now, a government ferry from Male’ to Maalhos costs a fixed Rf 50 (US$3.90). Inter-atoll island hopping is set at Rf 20 (US$1.50).
Speaking at the Transport Ministry today, Adhil said that the transportation network had proven to be “very successful”, with “much more demand than we estimated.”
The service was intended to commence after three years, he said, but upon request by the government the ferries had commenced with the best available service possible.
”This year the work of establishing ferry terminals will commence, and in some areas has already begun while in others has been completed,” he said.
”Today we can see short eats made on one island sold in another islands of that atoll, we can see mangoes produced in one island sold in other islands of the atoll, we can see horse mackerel caught in Thinadhoo’s reef sold and eaten in Fuvamulah,” he said. ”Many of the people are benefiting economically and socially through this ferry system.”