Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of Ro-Ro ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej in Gujarat on October 22, 2017.

On October 22, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Ghogha-Dahej roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro for short, signifying that vehicles can roll in and out of these ships) ferry service between Ghogha in Bhavnagar and Dahej in Bharuch district of Gujarat across the Gulf of Khambhat.

Calling it his “dream project”, PM Modi said the ferry service was his "invaluable gift to India" and claimed “This may be a project between Ghogha and Dahej, but it is a landmark project not only for India but also for entire South East Asia. The ferry service is a first of sorts.”

We fact-checked Modi’s claim and found it to be false, either as a first or in size. Lager ro-ro ferries have been in operation across at least five south-east Asian nations for several years.

The Ghogha Dahej Ro-Ro ferry will cover 31 km between Ghogha in Bhavnagar and Dahej in Bharuch district across the Gulf of Khambhat. The ferry is expected to reduce the travel distance by 360 km and travel time by at least five hours between the two towns.

The Philippines has been at the forefront of running ro-ro services in south-east Asia, with the first starting 14 years ago in 2003. A Ro-Ro ferry allows trucks, buses, and cars to roll on and roll off the vessel, as we said, without unloading, eliminating the need for time-consuming and costly cargo-handling and portside equipment and attendant regulatory procedures.

Here are some south-east Asian ro-ro services:

  • Intra country service in the Philippines: In 2003, the then president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, introduced the first ro-ro service to improve transportation between the country’s islands, according to this 2010 Asia Foundation report. The ro-ro policy has transformed the maritime sector in the Philippines, vastly improving inter-island economic linkages, increasing competition, and driving down costs with minimal public investment, the report said. Other sources also confirm that the official ro-ro service in the Philippines was launched in 2003 (here and here).
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Source: The Philippines Archipelago

  • Philippines-Indonesia service: In April 2017, a ro-ro service was launched between Indonesia and Philippines, connecting Davao and General Santos in the Philippines with Bitung in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi Province, the Manila Times reported on April 28, 2017. This is a part of the Philippines’ larger goal to improve ro-ro connectivity among the 10 countries that comprise the Association of South-East Nations (ASEAN).
  • Malaysia: Ro-ro ferries have been running since 2013 (here and here).
  • Ro-ro routes in China, Japan and Korea: There are 15 ro-ro routes between China and South Korea, six ro-ro routes between Japan and China, and five ro-ro routes between Japan and South Korea, according to this September 2017 report by the United States Agency For International Development (USAID).

(Saha is an MA Gender and Development graduate from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)