Luxury cruises from the city may soon become a reality
In a bid to promote passenger traffic, the Port Trust is reviewing expressions of interest it received last month to choose a suitable operator to operate the service.
Short vacations are all the rage these days. And imagine if you can board a passenger ship and reach Pondicherry or Karaikal by sea from Chennai! A journey along the coast, watching the land go by, greeting fishing boats and tasting delicious food aboard a cruise liner. It could very well become a reality in about six months to a year.
Two operators have expressed interest in operating passenger ferry services from the port of Chennai to destinations such as Puducherry, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Karaikal.
Port Trust chairman P. Ravindran said the Chennai Port Trust requested an expression of interest (EoI) last month, following which it received these responses. âWe will carefully review the EoIs and authorize a qualified operator to operate the service. In addition, the ports of Pondicherry and Cuddalore are in the process of creating facilities mainly to handle cargo, which can also be used for passenger services, âhe said.
The Port of Chennai does not seek to derive revenue from this exercise, but aims to facilitate the movement of passengers at sea. âWe would provide mooring and other facilities. The port already grants several concessions to international cruise ships and those of the Andamans. This is in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of the Navy, âsaid Mr. Ravindran.
The Port of Chennai has a dedicated cruise facilitation center to handle cruise and passenger ships, and holds a considerable market share in cruise traffic. Currently, it manages seven to eight international cruise calls and approximately 30 passenger ship calls at Port Blair in a year. Its cruise terminal has passenger elevators, escalators, baggage scanners, CCTV cameras, public address system, electronic immigration / landing counters, duty-free shops, cafeteria and ATMs.
The passenger ferry service operator may own or lease the ferries / vessels. The Port Trust would provide facilities, including berths, piloting stations and terminals, for efficient service delivery. The port has the right to collect the charges linked to the vessel for the provision of the infrastructure. However, it would not invest or contribute anything to the project except the provision of existing infrastructure and facilities.
The operator would need to design, build, implement, operate and maintain the project facilities and would need support facilities such as baggage handling, counters and also obtain all the necessary permits for the commissioning of the project. .
Tourism experts said the Jalesh cruises from Mumbai port and Louis Cruises from Kochi were popular, but had to be stopped due to the pandemic.
âNow is the time to renew this industry of Chennai as it is one of the most sought after and exciting segments of the tourism industry. Cruise tourism combines elements of exotic hotels, exquisite food and drink, sightseeing, entertainment, travel and shopping in one place and as a great value option â , said Anand, a city-based tour operator.
MP Ajit Kumar, founding member of the South India MICE Association, said that a cruise option between Chennai and Puducherry would certainly attract thousands of leisure visitors not only from Tamil Nadu but also from across the country at a time when people are looking at different travel options after being stranded at home due to the pandemic.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) segment is another way for the cruise industry to take advantage. âIf there are cruise ships with conference facilities, a one-day conference could be arranged and delegates could later descend to their destinations for sightseeing. All the facilities come together as a package in a cruise, âadded Mr. Ajit Kumar.