Close on the heels of becoming the sole stopover port for the Volvo Ocean Race in South Asia, Kochi is set to reinforce its position as a prominent cruise destination in this part of the globe.
For the first time, the port would become a turnaround port for a cruise ship that would remain berthed here from October 22 to 27. “In addition, a few cruise ships are likely to have Kochi as their home port,” said the port’s Chairman N. Ramachandran.
Though dozens of cruise liners call at Kochi each season, this is the first time that a vessel – Germany-registered Aida Cara, has selected Kochi as a turnaround port.
Thus, the ship’s over 2,500 high-spending passengers and crew members would disembark at Kochi and fly off to their destinations. A fresh set of similar number of passengers and crew would gravitate to Kochi and board the vessel from here.
“This would bring in revenue to the port, the airport, hotels and resorts, travel operators, taxi and auto drivers and other stakeholders in the tourism sector,” Mr. Ramachandran said.
As of now, in the absence of a cruise terminal, vessels that come to Kochi at dawn leave the city by dusk.
The passengers – most of them senior citizens from Europe and the U.S. – go on short tours of the city, Kumarakom and Alappuzha, bringing revenue to tour operators, auto drivers and hotels.
A Mediterranean cruise ship company has expressed interest to have Kochi as its home port. Its ships would take tourists on short cruises in the region, ranging from four to five days.
The port’s BTP Berth, which was modified and cleaned up in connection with the Volvo Ocean Race would be converted into a hub for cruise ships.
“This would be until India’s first cruise terminal gets ready in the port in around two years time. Land has been earmarked and feasibility study is over. The project is awaiting clearance from the Planning Commission,” said Mr. Ramachandran.
The ship jetty would require Rs 80 crore, while setting up a Kerala village, five-star hotel, convention centre and other facilities, would need around Rs 320 crore.
The port is already on cloud nine as the organisers of the Volvo Ocean race have expressed their interest to have a Kochi stopover for its 2011 race as well.
The port is negotiating the terms with the organisers of the global race.
John L. Paul