Luxury cruises from city may soon become a reality

Short holidays are the in-thing these days. And just imagine if you can hop onto a passenger ship and reach Puducherry or Karaikal by sea from Chennai! A trip along the coast, watching the land go by, waving to fishing boats and trying out delectable food on board a cruise liner. This could very well become a reality in about six months to a year.

Two operators have shown interest in operating passenger ferry services from Chennai port to destinations including Puducherry, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Karaikal.

Port Trust Chairman P. Ravindran said the Chennai Port Trust had called for an Expressions of Interest (EoIs) last month following which they had received these responses. “We will scrutinise the EoIs and permit a qualified operator to run the service. Also, ports in Puducherry and Cuddalore are in the process of creating facilities mainly to handle cargo, which can also be used for passenger services,” he said.

Chennai port is not looking to earn revenue from this exercise, but aims to facilitate passenger movement at sea. “We would provide berthing and other facilities. The port already provides several concessions to international cruise liners and those from the Andamans. This is in accordance to the directions of the Ministry of Shipping,” Mr. Ravindran said.

Chennai port has a dedicated cruise facilitation centre to handle cruise and passenger vessels, and has a considerable market share in cruise traffic. Presently, it handles seven to eight international cruise calls and around 30 passenger vessel calls to Port Blair in a year. Its cruise terminal has passenger lifts, escalators, baggage scanners, CCTV cameras, a public address system, immigration/e-landing counters, duty free shops, cafeteria and ATMs.

The passenger ferry service operator can own or lease the ferries/vessels. The port trust would provide facilities, including berths, pilotage and terminals, for efficient implementation of the services. The port shall have the right to collect vessel related charges for providing the infrastructure. However, it would not invest or contribute anything towards the project except the provision of existing infrastructure and facilities.

The operator would have to design, build, implement, operate and maintain the project facilities and would be required support facilities like baggage handling, ticket counters and also obtain all necessary clearances for commissioning the project.

Tourism experts said Jalesh Cruises from Mumbai port and Louis Cruises from Kochi were popular, but had to be stopped due to the pandemic.

“Now is the right time to renew this industry from Chennai as it is one of the most sought after and exciting segments in the tourism sector. Cruise tourism combines elements of exotic hotels, exquisite food and beverage, sightseeing, entertainment, travel and shopping all at one place and as a value-for-money option,” said Anand, a city-based tour operator.

M.K. Ajit Kumar, founding member, South India MICE Association, said a cruise option between Chennai and Puducherry was sure to attract thousands of leisure visitors not only from Tamil Nadu, but also from all over the country at a time when people are looking at different travel opportunities after being stuck in their homes due to the pandemic.

The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) segment, is another way for the cruise industry to benefit. “If there are cruise ships with conference halls, a day conference could be conducted and delegates could later alight at the destination for sightseeing. All facilities are put together as a package in a cruise,” Mr. Ajit Kumar added.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 9:45:06 AM |

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