Chennai: The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday flagged off the maiden International Cruise Vessel – MV Empress, India’s first international cruise vessel – from Chennai to Sri Lanka in Chennai today.
This marks the beginning of the international cruise tourism terminal at Chennai, built at a cost of ₹17.21 crores, heralding a new age of cruise tourism & maritime trade in the country. Coinciding on the occasion of Environment Day, Union Minister Sonowal along with the port officials also planted 2500 tree saplings at the port today.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal said, “Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways have been taking multiple steps to develop the avenues of cruise tourism in the country and bolster opportunities of maritime trade of India.
With our rich heritage & culture around our coastal region, the potential of cruise tourism in India is immense. Today, as we launch the maiden cruise service between Chennai and Sri Lanka, it has ushered a new chapter in the cruise tourism sector in the country. As the affordability & access to world-class cruise services becomes a reality, the people can enjoy & relish luxurious amenities, entertainment, and breathtaking views.”
The cruise service is the result of an MoU signed during the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022 between Chennai Port and M/S Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd to start domestic and international cruise services. With an overwhelming response by 85,000 passengers availing the cruise service through 37 vessels for the domestic circuit, it is expected that the opening up of the international circuit will further amp up the business of cruise tourism in the region. The modern cruise terminal developed at Chennai Port is spread over an area of 2,880 square meters with the ability to host 3,000 passengers at a time.
Speaking further, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal said, “As more and more people are likely to experience cruise tourism in the near future, the government remains deeply committed to develop world class infrastructure to support and enable growth of cruise tourism and maritime trade. I am happy to share that three new international cruise terminals are likely to be completed and become operational by 2024. We expect that the volume of cruise ships will increase from 208 in 2023 to 500 in 2030 and upto 1100 by 2047.
Consequently, the number of passengers availing cruise services is also likely to increase from 9.5 lakhs in 2030 to 45 lakhs in 2047. In order to boost demand for cruise services the western, southern and eastern coasts of India, we are working on Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, Cultural and Scenic Tours, Ayurveda Wellness Tours & Heritage Tourism. Plans are afoot to develop new cruise tourism terminal in Andamans, Puducherry and Lakshadweep circuits. We are also studying the feasibility of developing ferry circuits across India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar.”
The cruise service will sail to three Sri Lankan ports; viz. Hanbantota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanturei. The tour packages on board MV Empress will be offered for 2 nights, 3 nights, 4 nights and 5 nights. During its run at the sea, MV Empress will be touching 3 ports in Sri Lanka before returning to Chennai.