Recently- River cruise on Ganga appeared on Conde Nast Traveller’s six must do cruise experiences
Recently- River cruise on Ganga appeared on Conde Nast Traveller’s six must do cruise experiences

India eye one million cruise arrivals at its five ports; exempts biometric till 2020

Cruise Tourism is one of the fastest growing components of the leisure industry worldwide and can be a major growth driver for the Indian economy by generating huge employment opportunities believes The Minister of Shipping and  Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. Speaking at at the National Workshop on Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India, in New Delhi on 27 June 2017 Gadkari said that a clear policy is in offing to stimulate cruise tourism in India. The workshop was also attended by Minister of State for  Culture and Tourism (I/C) Mahesh Sharma, and representatives of all stakeholder organisations – both from the government and the private sector – including regulatory agencies which deal with issues impacting cruise tourism.

Nitin Gadkari addressing the inaugural session of a workshop on “Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India”, in New Delhi on June 27, 2017.

Nitin Gadkari addressing the inaugural session of a workshop on “Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India”, in New Delhi on June 27, 2017.

Pointing out that tourism has the highest investment to employment multiplier Gadkari said that on an average, employment generation on a cruise ship is 1 job for 3-4 passengers. With India having the potential to cater to 700 cruise ships per year as against 158 handled this year, the cruise industry can generate more than 2.5 lakh jobs for ten lakh cruise passengers, giving a big boost to the country’s economy. He further informed that cruise terminals are being developed at five major ports – Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Mangalore and Chennai. In addition, the transport potential of 111 inland waterways will  also be tapped. Work will start for developing ten inland waterways by the end of this year. This includes the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra on which work is already in progress, he informed.

Gadkari called upon state governments also to play an active role in promoting cruise tourism by developing, packaging and marketing  their tourists attractions to draw more and more tourists.The Ministry of Shipping has been working actively with all relevant ministries and organisations of the government to promote cruise tourism in the country.  A joint task force headed by Secretary Shipping and Secretary Tourism was constituted for the purpose, and a global consultant was engaged for drawing up an Action Plan. The objective of the said workshop was to discuss this Action Plan which requires various arms of the Government to take action for creating an enabling business eco-system for growth of cruise tourism in the country.

Mahesh Sharma addressing the inaugural session of a workshop on “Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India”, in New Delhi on June 27, 2017.

Mahesh Sharma addressing the inaugural session of a workshop on “Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India”, in New Delhi on June 27, 2017.

Speaking on the occasion Mahesh Sharma said that India is fast growing as an attractive tourist destination. To realise the full potential for cruise tourism in the country there was a need for all stakeholders to work together, in cooperation with each other, and create a favourable ecosystem for growth.

Highlighting the efforts of the Shipping Ministry for promoting cruise tourism, Alok Srivastava, Special Secretary (Shipping), informed that e visa, e-landing and incentives like minimum rebate of 30% on all cruise vessel related charges and additional rebate of 25% for coastal cruise movement have already been implemented. Further to this, a joint task force has been set up by the Ministry of Shipping & the Ministry of Tourism and an action plan for deriving standard operating procedure has been drawn, which would be implemented in a time bound manner after discussion with various stakeholders.

Here, Secretary Tourism Rashmi Verma said that the coming together of the Shipping and Tourism ministries to promote cruise tourism in the country would help maximise the benefits that the sector has to offer.

Stakeholders discussed several regulatory issues pertaining to various aspects of cruise port operations namely security, immigration, customs, ports in the workshop. They worked towards drawing up Standard Operating Procedures for all govt. organisations for cruise vessel handling.

News Update|July 11 2017 |  Ministry of Shipping draws up Cruise Tourism Reforms

Further to the the workshop organised by the Ministry of Shipping to bring together all the stakeholders to deliberate upon and draw up a concrete action plan for implementation to promote cruise tourism in the country. The Ministry of Shipping, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, has announced reforms to the regulatory processes governing the cruise tourism industry in the country. The objective is to revolutionise this industry which has a high employment generation potential, by simplifying the rules and procedures pertaining to various aspects of cruise port operations like security, immigration, and customs. According to Special Secretary, Shipping, Alok Srivastava, the promotion of cruise tourism requires not just improvement in infrastructure but also uniformity, transparency and predictability in the procedures followed by multiple government  organisations . In other words, Ease of Doing Business is critical for the success of cruise tourism.

The reforms are based on the recommendations of a global consultant engaged by the Ministry to draw up an Action Plan for providing a customer friendly and hassle free logistics process for the cruise tourism industry and develop an enabling ecosystem necessary to promote and sustain cruise shipping in India.

Key recommendations given by the consultant which can be immediately implemented are:-

(i) Single window system for all pre cruise requirements for cruise operators like entry of vehicles, personnel and guides electronically doing away with checking of registration, license papers of vehicle at each time.

(ii) Create a separate dedicated approach road and entrance to the cruise terminals.

(iii) A uniform and consistent security procedures by CISF at all ports.

(iv) Providing adequate security and access to the port for passenger over-night and visiting local venues.

(v)  No face to face check after dis-embarking formalities.

(vi) Security checks for embarking passengers would be done only once.

(vii) Joint collaboration between the Bureau of Immigration and CISF and redesign the existing procedure to give a pleasant experience to the cruise tourists visiting India.

(viii) Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) to be framed for training and education of the personnel carrying out the process for better handling of passengers.

(ix) Use of technology for clearances, providing passenger manifest to CISF and doing away with manual time consuming process.

(x) Implementation of green lane/red lane at existing terminals with random custom checking as is done in the airport.

(xi) Declaration of only limited items of inventory of the cruise ships in place of the existing requirement of having the complete inventory for all the stocks in the ship.

 A committee has been set up to work out the modalities and requirements for implementing the above recommendations in a time bound manner. The Consultants have also been asked to suggest five  potential cruise circuits for international, domestic and river cruise, that can be immediately taken up for development and to prepare Techno-Economic Feasibility Report (TEFR) for these circuits.  Specific ports/terminal would also be considered for development for international cruise tourism as per a suggested Model Terminal Design, and suitable policy/regulatory framework based on international best practices, strategies of cruise terminal operation.

News Update| 02 January 2018| Cruise tourists with e-visa exempted from the requirement of biometric enrolment

In order to promote cruise tourism in the country, and make India an attractive cruise tourist destination, the Ministry of Home Affairs has, on request of the Ministry of Shipping, exempted cruise tourists arriving with e-visa from the requirement of biometric enrolment for a period of three years i.e. till 31.12.2020. This will make immigration clearance of such passengers faster, leaving them with more time to spend on shore. This is also an important factor that helps cruise lines decide whether or not to include a destination in their itinerary.

The Ministry of Shipping has been working towards simplifying the immigration clearance procedure and providing passengers with a customer friendly and hassle free logistics process when they embark on or disembark from their cruise at the Indian ports. E-Visa has been in place in the five major ports of Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin & Chennai. Till now biometrics of passengers were required at port of first arrival for immigration clearance.

However, with the existing facilities at the cruise terminals at these ports, the immigration procedure was taking more than the internationally accepted norm of clearing immigration for all cruise passengers in a maximum of 90 minutes. This is especially significant because, as per the schedule of arrivals of cruise ships for the current cruise season 2017-18 and 2019-20, many of the cruise ships coming to India are mega ships with 2000-4000 passengers on board. Most of these cruise passengers are expected to arrive on E-Visa, and biometric enrolment of all these passengers would slow down immigration clearance. Hence the need for the exemption.

This simplified immigration clearance procedure is part of a series of steps to attract and to enhance cruise passenger experience at the major ports. The standard operating procedures to handle cruise was revised earlier and is being implemented uniformly at all ports. In November, 2017 major ports reduced their tariffs for 3 years by 42 – 67% to make it attractive for cruise lines to visit India. Major ports now change a single comprehensive uniform rate of USD$ 0.35 per GRT.

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