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

TravTalk - India - - CRUISES - HAZEL JAIN

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)

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