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Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Mumbai aims to be international cruise destination

According to a report by Latendu Mishra in The Hindu, Mumbai is aiming to be an international cruise destination with the Mumbai Port Trust giving high priority to developing this sector under its new business plan. The Mumbai Port is transforming itself to become the gateway of international cruises in the country and a leading hub of automobile exports, a top official said. “We are aiming to be the most important cruise destination in the region. In just two months, we have tied up with 59 cruise ships that will be visiting our port this year,” said Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust. 

“We are aggressively discussing with cruise shipping lines and are expecting this number to go up to 100 next year. Our objective is to make Mumbai the gateway of international cruises,” he said. While such attempts have failed in the past, port authorities are confident they can make it happen this time. They are investing in a new international cruise terminal which will be opening shortly. “The first phase of the terminal will open on October 29. The whole terminal is getting upgraded and will be better than an airport,” Bhatia added. Costa Cruise line is making Mumbai its home port and the port authorities are streamlining various facilities to make the city attractive for foreigners coming in on cruise lines. 

According to experts, lack of infrastructure and complicated customs rules are the major deterrents for the growth of cruise tourism in the country. “Mumbai must have an international-level cruise terminal. Last year, it was operating from the same cargo terminal and was not up to the mark. No international tourist would like to visit. We have to make e-visas available so that they do not have to waste time. Customs formalities should be conducted on board the vessel,” said Subhash Goyal, Chairman,  Stic Travels, which is the general sales agent for three international cruise lines in India. “There is a need for good quality hotels, shopping malls, taxi service, and easy connectivity to the nearest tourist destinations to make their visit exciting. There has to be a recreation area too,” he said. Internationally, the cruise business is a trillion dollar industry but India is not getting even one per cent of that business. 

Mumbai will have to go a long way before it reaches the level of major cruise destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore and even Dubai. While Hong Kong and Singapore receive about 500 cruise ships a year, Dubai and Sydney get about 200 each. Barcelona and Alaska get about 800 each approximately. Meanwhile, the Mumbai Port Trust is developing a marina which will open up a sea front for recreational purposes. It is also working on land development for which an international consultant has been appointed. Bhatia said the port is aggressively promoting RORO (roll-on and roll-off) facility at the port and so far, over two lakh cars have been exported from here. Besides this, the port is focusing on export and import of petroleum products and ship repair to enhance its business.