Union minister for ports, shipping and waterways Sarbananda Sonowal said on Thursday that Indian cruise traffic has the potential to grow 10 times in the next decade due to India’s growing economy and higher disposable incomes. Two years after the pandemic-induced slowdown, the global cruise shipping business is staging a comeback, he said.
The minister who was speaking virtually to media at a Mumbai Port Authority’s event to promote cruise shipping, said the cruise business grew 35% year-on-year to 0.4 million in 2018-19. Around 200 ships visited India in that year. However, the industry suffered a serious financial setback during the pandemic and the business had to be halted.
There has been a positive traction after the pandemic and several enquiries have been received from the global cruise operators to operate in both sea and river segments, he said. “India has vast beautiful coastline, virgin forests, idylic islands, art and cutlture, that brings uniqueness to the proposition. Government wants to promote India’s art and culture through both sea and river cruise,” he said.
Under the Maritime Policy launched in 2021, it has been planned to develop the cruise industry around five themes – pilgrimage, heritage, auyervedic & wellness, island tourism, and regional international circuit. The ministry also plans to establish cruise hubs at Chennai, Vizag, Kolkata and Andaman on the East coast and Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi and Lakshdweep on the West Coast, the minister said.
The policy will also incentivise global cruiseliners to make India their home ports. The government will offer single rate at all ports, remove cabotage charges (charge on transfer of goods between two domestic ports) and ousting charges (berth hire charges) for foreign ships, and provide discounts ranging from 2% to 67%, E-visa will be implemented at all ports. Besides, the ports of Chennai, Vizag, Andaman will be connected with Goa to receive maximum foreign tourists.
The Mumbai International cruise terminal is expected to be commissioned by July 2024. It will have the capacity to handle 200 ships and 1 million passengers. It will cost around Rs 495 crore out of which Rs 300 crore will be incurred by the Mumbai Port Authority and rest by private operators, Sonowal said.