The maiden international cruise vessel between Chennai and Sri Lanka “MV Empress” was formally flagged off by the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal here on Monday.
The occasion also marked the inauguration of an international cruise tourism terminal, set up at a cost of ₹ 17.21 crore at the Chennai Port. The facility spread across 2,880 square metres would be able to host 3,000 passengers.
The launch of the cruise service comes in the backdrop of the memorandum of understanding signed between Chennai Port and Waterways Leisure Tourism for domestic and international cruise service at the Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022.
“With our rich heritage and 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,” Sonowal was quoted as saying in a PIB release.
As the affordability and access to world-class cruise services become a reality, people can enjoy and relish luxurious amenities, entertainment and breathtaking views, he said.
The newly-launched cruise service would sail to three ports – Hambantota, Trincomalee and Kankesanturai in Sri Lanka. Sonowal said three new international cruise terminals were expected to become operational by 2024.
As more and more people are likely to experience cruise tourism in the near future, the government remains deeply committed to developing world-class infrastructure to support and enable the growth of cruise tourism and maritime trade, he said.
“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 up to 1,100 by 2047,” he said.
Following this, the number of passengers availing cruise services was also expected to rise from 9.50 lakh in 2030 to 45 lakh in 2047, he said.
“Plans are afoot to develop new cruise tourism terminals in Andamans, Puducherry and Lakshadweep circuits. We are also studying the feasibility of developing ferry circuits across India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar,” he said.
The Ministry was also working on rolling out pilgrimage tours in Gujarat, cultural and scenic tours and ayurveda wellness tourism and heritage tourism to boost demand for cruise services in the western, southern and eastern coasts of the country, he said.
Commemorating World Environment Day, Sonowal also launched an initiative to plant 2,500 tree saplings at the Chennai Port, the release said.