Mumbai prepares to cruise away
The Mumbai Port Trust has set lofty targets for the next five years to jumpstart cruising in the city. Under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Shipping, this just might become a reality. However, it's not all smooth sailing for the sector as the issue o
After the colossal 8 lakh crore-Sagarmala programme that is being orchestrated by the Ministry of Shipping, the cruise tourism project seems to be one that has involved a lot of key government agencies which have put in coordinated effort towards a common goal. This comprises all the five major ports of India including Mumbai Port Trust, Ministry of Tourism, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Bureau of Immigration, the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) and of course, the ministry.
Playing a key role in ushering in this sunrise tourism is Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust (MPT). He had started the process of developing cruising in Mumbai in 2015 when the task force was set up. “Both the Secretary of Shipping and Secretary of Tourism are cochairing this task force, apart from every agency that is a stakeholder and a facilitator,” Bhatia says.
International consultants, Bermello and Ajamil (B&A) published a report that showed the potential that exists in India. “It also said that we need to take these 30 steps to be able to tap this. The report is divided into various aspects such as regulatory, port facilities, etc., and it is in four volumes. In short, it says that we can take the current 0.2 million cruise passengers to four million (40 lakh). Of this, 3.2 million (32 lakh) is just in Mumbai. It can become like Miami where we will have to reserve five berths for cruise ships alone!” Bhatia adds.
Ever since MPT took action a year ago, 158 ships have come into Mumbai. But the potential is for 955 ships which can take the passenger count per ship from about 1,250 today to 4,200 passengers when the demand increases. The economic and employment effect of this is huge. Facilities for passengers
Most of the five major ports – Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Chennai – will have e-visa facilities and e-landing cards from this season. “There is an issue of biometrics, which we are getting resolved by putting additional machines of 30 each at Mumbai and Kochi ports. Then, for security, so that passengers are not stopped multiple times, a majority of the ports now have access control and RFID on vehicles so that everyone can swipe and enter. This will be introduced at Mumbai port from September 2017,” Bhatia reveals.
After separating the cargo and cruise terminals at all five ports, they now have electronic permits and e-payments, and single-window systems. Port charges are also getting reduced. Mumbai, of course, is getting an upgraded terminal reportedly at the cost of ` 225 crore for a modern passenger terminal. “The only issue that still needs resolution is taxation. The industry does not want GST here and excise duty in international waters is an issue. Income Tax is another issue that needs discussion. We will sort this aspect out soon too,” Bhatia adds.
Both the Secretary of Shipping and Secretary of Tourism are cochairing this task force, apart from every agency that is a stakeholder and a facilitator
Sanjay Bhatia Chairman Mumbai Port Trust (MPT)