Port opens its arms to cruise ships

Cruise tourism has not developed in Chennai despite there being a dedicated jetty and passenger terminal.

Chennai: Cruise tourism has not developed in Chennai despite there being a dedicated jetty and passenger terminal. Like last year, the Chennai Port Trust (CPT) received only five luxury liners in 2013.

But the city port, which is clearly moving towards cleaner cargo, cars, containers and cruise ships, is all set to upgrade facilities for passengers by building an aerobridge and escalators, apart from improving security measures, fire fighting services, water and maintenance services.

CPT chairman Atulya Misra said the modernisation of the cruise terminal would begin in 2014 at an estimated cost of Rs 22.14 crore. “We have got Rs 8.5 crore from the Central government for development of a cruise tourism facilitation centre, as the Ministry of Tourism has identified Chennai port as one of the ports for development of cruise tourism in India. We will source the remaining money by developing the terminal in a PPP mode,” he added.

According to Misra, a skywalk, through which passengers can board the ship directly without the need to stroll on the wharf, would be constructed. The port would also install scanning machines to do away with the security threat to luxury liners.

Further, the authorities are looking at air-conditioning the entire cruise terminal and installing escalators to facilitate passengers. Passport reading machines, which will facilitate the work of immigration officials and quicken the whole process, are also on the cards.

While the cruise terminal has two duty-free shops, the port chairman said that basic facilities, like restaurants and coffee shops, would be set up on a temporary basis when the luxury liners reach the city.

Further, the port would also provide bunkering facilities in the jetty once the planned barge terminal got commissioned. While the number of luxury liners visiting the port has not risen in the last two years, Misra hoped that more ships would come calling to Chennai in the next two months as November to February was the main cruise tourism period.

This lackadaisical activity despite having the second-best cruise terminal in the country after Mumbai, is a major concern for Chennai port, which is losing revenue due to non-handling of dusty cargo.

Giving the example of Maldives, which was once surviving on the tuna fish trade, but had now emerged as a tourist destination, R. N. Joe D’Cruz, the Sahitya Akademi award winner and former vice president of the country’s largest shipping agency J. M. Baxi & Co, said India should develop the entertainment industry and have control over it. “We are rich in art and culture. We have an 8,000-odd km beach. We need to preserve it and market it well,” he added.

In June 2011, the training cum cruise ship MV Amet Majesty was launched in Chennai, but it wound up within a year as it was not economical to operate in India. Joe said that the country should look at 300-seater vessels for promoting cruise tourism.

While noting that the cream of Indians and Chinese formed the major chunk of cruise tourists across the world, Joe said it was very difficult to get the locals to enjoy a trip on a luxury liner in India.

Another shipping industry captain said Indians preferred to go to the high seas and return the same day instead of relaxing on the ship for a few days. “So we have to return to the port every day, which means we need to pay extra berth and parking charges,” he added.

Next: More sops sought for promoting cruise tourism

More sops sought for promoting cruise tourism

J. V. Siva Prasanna Kumar |?DC

Chennai: Despite immense potential for cruise tourism, the high charges being levied by the harbour for ship calls is turning away cruise operators.

Recently, the world’s fifth largest cruise line operator wound up its operation at Cochin, citing high charges. Chennai and several coastal towns boasts of British monuments and ancient churches to attract the foreigners and the city’s unique heritage and culture has been captivating the foreign nationals. “Most of those opting for Tamil Nadu by sea are transported from the cruise liner, which invariably keeps away from the harbour,” a senior tourism official says.

The operators, in most cases, conduct their passengers around the city taking them to the Armenian church, high court, Fort St. George and wind up with a brief sojourn at the historic Mamallapuram near here.

“They don’t much interact with the local tourism officials as they would have an arrangement with their local agent. Sometimes, the luxury cruise liners provide guide services. They devise a package to showcase colourful Indian cities,” the official added.

Cruise tourism is still in nascent stage in the country and it could be effectively promoted only when the union tourism mi­nistry offers special concession, says experts in the sector. Though Tamil Nadu government has been taking several steps to encourage cruise tourism, banking on Chennai and Tuticorin ports, the expectations of the cruise operators appear to be more.

The fact is, encouraging cruise tourism with the active participation of the regional promoters and international liners, would help to effectively showcase the rich maritime heritage of the state.

Moreover, with Tamil Nadu’s rich history of establishing maritime links with the world much before the Europeans came to India, the ancient temples, which are the treasure trove of our culture besides forts and palaces, could draw more adventurous visitors from the sea, says sources in the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC).

( Source : dc )
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