A task force, under the chairmanship of the secretary (tourism), with the secretary (shipping) as co-chairperson, has been constituted to promote cruise tourism in the country, reports Megha Manchanda.
After tasting success at its maiden cruise holiday venture at the Mumbai port, the ministry of shipping has planned to extend this tourism initiative to other destinations in the country by facilitating and streamlining seamless travel and hassle-free immigration facilities at major ports in order to encourage luxury liners to choose their home ports in India.
Cruise shipping is a fast growing component of the leisure industry worldwide, with the potential to earn huge amount of foreign exchange by providing the right policy environment and infrastructure for the growth of cruise shipping and tourism.
India has seen a decline in cruise traffic over the last five years on account of inadequate port infrastructure and no domestic liners operating on the Indian coast, according to an official.
According to a person close to the development, the ministry of shipping has appointed B K Associates as consultants, which would submit its proposal on the subject by the end of May.
A task force, under the chairmanship of the secretary (tourism), with the secretary (shipping) as co-chairperson, has been constituted to promote cruise tourism in the country.
The report would focus on information on the potential sites for the home port and related infrastructure development alongside it.
In order to streamline the operations and facilitate tourism, the government has allowed foreign flag vessels carrying passengers to call at Indian ports without obtaining a licence from the DG (shipping).
The facility for the same has been extended from February 2019 to February 2024.
Standard operating procedures for cruise vessels have been finalised in consultation with stake-holders.
Port-level committees have been constituted to address manpower, coordination and logistics issues for handling cruise vessels at ports.
By way of incentivising cruise ships, the government would offer a minimum rebate of 30 per cent on port charges for cruise vessels and not levy any priority or shifting charges for berthing cruise vessels if informed 30 days in advance. However, subsequent shifting for ship convenience is chargeable.
The government would also provide additional rebate of 25 per cent for coastal cruise movement and walk-in or preferential berthing to home port cruise without extra charge.
In addition to the existing terminals at Cochin, Mumbai, Goa and New Mangalore Port Trusts, one cruise terminal is currently under development at Chennai.
To facilitate a liberalised visa regime including e-visa at these five ports, 65 additional immigration counters have opened -- 15 counters each in Mumbai, Cochin and Mormugao, 10 each in New Mangalore and Chennai.
The Costa Neo Classica cruise ship has made Mumbai Port as a home port, with approximately 1,400 passengers per voyage, three days of stay and stopover at New Mangalore, Goa and Cochin Ports while going to Maldives.
Till date, seven voyages have been confirmed once every fortnight; the first voyage was completed on December 22, 2016.
There are 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Managlore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, VO Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) -- in the country and the cruise tourism facility is likely to be extended to all major ports in the future.