Chennai: Heralding a new age of cruise tourism and maritime trade in the country, India’s first international cruise vessel – MV Empress, set sail for Sri Lanka from here today. It was flagged off by the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal.
During its run at the sea, MV Empress will be touching 3 ports in Sri Lanka before returning to Chennai. The cruise vessel will sail to three Sri Lankan ports – Hambantota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanturei. The tour packages on board MV Empress will be offered for 2 nights, 3 nights, 4 nights and 5 nights.
This marks the beginning of the international cruise tourism terminal at Chennai, built at a cost of ₹17.21 crores over an area of 2,880 square meters with an ability to host 3,000 passengers at a time.
As the ‘historic’ moment coincided with World Environment Day, Sonowal along with the port officials also planted 2500 tree saplings at the port today.
Sonowal highlighted the “immense” potential of cruise tourism in India and that plans were afoot to develop new cruise tourism terminals in Andamans, Puducherry and Lakshadweep circuits. “I am happy to share that three new international cruise terminals are likely to be completed and become operational by 2024,” he said.
The Chennai – Sri Lanka cruise service is the result of an MoU signed during the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022 between Chennai Port and Waterways Leisure Tourism Private Limited 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.
Sonowal said the volume of cruise ships is expected to increase from 208 in 2023 to 500 in 2030 and up to 1100 by 2047. Consequently, the number of passengers availing of 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 on the western, southern and eastern coasts of India, we are working on Gujarat pilgrimage tours, cultural and scenic tours, Ayurveda wellness tours and heritage tourism,” he said.
“We are also studying the feasibility of developing ferry circuits across India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar,” the Minister said.
– global bihari bureau