THE PORT OF KOCHI IS SEEING A BOOM IN CRUISE TOURISM BUSINESS

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More than 40 cruise liners are expected to visit the port this financial year, even as the port looks forward to a busy season. The major cruise liners that call on the port on a regular basis include Cunard Lines, Royal Caribbean Lines, Aida Cruises, and Costa Cruises. Moreover, the port operates ‘Samudrika’, a state-of-the-art cruise facilitation centre that issues all statutory clearances through a single window. Cruise tourism services at the port are supported by a dedicated round-the-clock cruise cell. The port authority also offers several facilities including walk-in-berthing, assured quality bunkers, fresh water services, and grey water reception. The introduction of facilities for passenger cruise has seen the business expand steadily over the years. The number of cruise vessels calling at the port has gone up from 26 in 2005-06 to 44 in 2016-17. Though there have been minor fluctuations in numbers, the trend has been more or less steady.

Besides, the Union government had relaxed cabotage restrictions for foreign cruise vessels to make it possible for them to transport Indians from one port in the country to another. Meanwhile, cruise business at major ports in India is set to get a major boost with the introduction of a facility exempting e-visa holders from biometric enrolment for a period of three years until December 31, 2020. The step was taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs at the request of the Ministry of Shipping. The objective is to make India attractive to cruise passengers and to promote cruise tourism in the country.
Most cruise ships that visit India during 2017-18 and 2019-20 are mega ships with 2,000 to 4,000 passengers on board. e-visa has been in place at the five major ports of Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Kochi, and Chennai.

A majority of cruise passengers are expected to arrive on e-visa. Biometric enrolment of passengers is required at the port of first arrival for immigration clearance. With the existing facilities at the cruise terminals at the five major ports, the immigration procedure follows the internationally accepted norm of clearing all cruise passengers in a maximum 90 minutes. Major ports in India had reduced their tariffs in November last year for three years by 42% to 67% to make them attractive for cruise liners. Major ports now charge a single comprehensive uniform rate of $0.35 per gross register tonnage (GRT).

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