MUMBAI: Ministry of Shipping is all set to usher in the DAWN OF CRUISE TOURISM IN INDIA. The push to promote cruise tourism in India came from the Prime Minister himself, when he asked Minister of Shipping, Shri Nitin Gadkari; “Why do we not see cruise ships along the Coast Line of India?”
Minister of Shipping, Shri Nitin Gadkari under the guidance and leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister set the ball rolling by identifying the reasons preventing the growth of cruise tourism in India.
Broadly, the issue was: lack of defined procedures for various Government Departments/agencies for dealing with cruise vessels and tourists. Secondly, the absence of world class infrastructure.
All relevant Government agencies such as Port authorities, Security Agencies, Immigration Authorities, Customs authorities, Port Health authorities were identified and formed into a task force to first assess the “as is” condition of the procedures being followed within the Country and then look at the global best practices leading to formulation of Standard Operating Procedures which would be uniformly applied to all cruise vessels and tourists at all Major Ports in India.
A leading Global Consultant was hired to bring about a holistic approach including inputs from private sector, cruise operators, cruise owners, ship agents, tour operators, transport agencies, etc. Officials from all relevant agencies visited some of the best global Cruise Tourist Ports to get a first-hand experience.
As a result of the interim measures that have been implemented, the number of cruise ships arrivals in India has jumped to 158 arrivals in 2016-17. Similarly, the number of cruise passengers embarked/disembarked at Major Ports has jumped to 1,92,000 in 2016-17. Mumbai has become a home port for cruise vessels.
The Key items identified for success of cruise tourism are:
• Creating and developing the right market atmosphere
• Easy immigration process for cruise tourism
• Security procedures that do not impede movement
• Taxation regime that allows for a platform for growth.
• Customs & Duties procedures that do not tie the industry.
• Internationally comparable tariffs.
• Port and tourism infrastructure that meets the needs of the cruise lines and visitors today and tomorrow.
The Key Recommendations of the studies are:
• Single window system for all pre cruise requirements for cruise operators to save time
• Separate dedicated approach road and entrance to the cruise terminals.
• Uniform and consistent security procedures by CISF at all ports.
• Coordination between Immigration and CISF.
• Training all departments dealing with Cruise tourism with Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for better handling of passengers.
• Use of technology in clearances, providing passenger manifest to CISF
• Implementation of green lane/red lane at existing terminals with random custom checking as is done in the airport.
• Declaration of only limited items of inventory of the cruise ships in place of the existing requirement of having the complete inventory for all the stocks in the ship.
Steps already taken for growth of cruise tourism:
• SoPs for handling cruise vessels and passengers have been implemented.
• Foreign flag vessels carrying passengers allowed to call at Indian ports without obtaining license from DG (Shipping).
• Port-level Committees constituted to address manpower, coordination and logistics issues for handling cruise vessels at ports.
• A discount of 40% is given at Major Port in Port charges.
• Additional rebate of 25% for home port cruise vessels in addition to 40% rebate for coastal cruise transportation.
• E-Visa facility and e- Landing card extended to five Major Ports.
• Uniformity in port charges for cruise vessels at all Major Ports- About Rs. 1,600 per person as against earlier practice of charging per tonnage of ship- cargo ships and cruise ships are not the same- now charges are comparable to Singapore and other global ports for cruise tourism
• Plans to develop more port destinations other than the 5 Ports of Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai
• New infrastructure at Mumbai at a cost of Rs. 300 cr- tender awarded for civil construction of terminal building
The preparedness of Mumbai Port and Ministry of Shipping to host cruise vessels in the Country was revealed to a worldwide audience at an event “The Dawn of Cruise Tourism in India”, held in Mumbai recently. The event also saw the launch of three reports, ‘Mumbai Port SoP’s for CruiseOperations’, ‘Road Map for Sea Cruise Tourism’ and ‘Cruise Terminals in India’.