Last Updated: June 05, 2023, 21:24 IST
Union minister for ports, shipping, and waterways Sarbananda Sonowal flagged off India’s first international cruise headed for Sri Lanka from the Chennai Port on Monday as part of a series of initiatives set off by the Centre to jump-start cruise tourism across the country.
The luxury ship, MV Empress, will reach the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Wednesday, touch Trincomalee on the island nation’s northeastern coast and Kankesanturai in Jaffna district, before heading back to Chennai. The cruise features shopping areas, bars, swimming pools, cinemas, and more.
A government release on Monday said the International Cruise Terminal at the Chennai Port, built at a cost of Rs 17.21 crore, becomes operational with the flagging-off of MV Empress.
Speaking to News18 afterwards, Sonowal said the International Cruise Terminal in Mumbai and similar initiatives at Visakhapatnam, Mormugao in Goa, and Kolkata stand testament to the union government’s comprehensive push to build “modern infrastructure” to leverage the east and west coasts.
“Our Hon’ble Prime Minister has been telling us that there is enormous potential to develop cruise tourism in India. Under his guidance, the ministry of ports is taking several initiatives to develop modern infrastructure facilities,” the minister said, adding that the adoption rate since 2014 has gone up five times, helping the government realise the targets laid out in the Maritime India Vision 2030 policy.
Sonowal qualified the significance of the launch on Monday by saying it was the first time an international cruise was flagged off from Chennai. “This is a beginning on a global scale too – India’s cruise liners are playing a big role, giving a boost to enhance our capacity and the growth of cruise tourism.”
According to a government release in February, the Maritime India Vision (MIV) 2030 envisages “mega Ports, transhipment hubs and infrastructure modernization of ports, estimating investments over Rs 1,00,000–1,25,000 crore for capacity augmentation and development of world-class infrastructure at Indian Ports. The upcoming ports at Vizhinjam (Kerala) and Wadhawan (Maharashtra) have natural drafts in excess of 18m that would enable ultra large container and cargo vessels to call on the ports.”