The government is planning to abandon the practice of levying port charges on cruise ships on the basis of their weight as part of its efforts to promote cruise tourism. It is formalising a policy under which they will be charged on passenger basis. Officials said that a draft policy has been shown to the cabinet secretary. The policy, as part of “ease of doing business”, envisages attracting 700 cruise ships to India and creating around three lakh jobs.
Officials are fine-tuning the policy that will be out by next month. It will be uniform for five major ports identified for development of cruise tourism: Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, New Mangalore, and Goa.
“How can you charge cruise ships on the basis of the weight of tourists? We are going to change it,” said Union road transport, highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday. He said that the Mumbai port is taking the lead in promoting cruise tourism by preparing a separate terminal. He added that other four ports are gearing up to increase their servicing capacity for cruise business.
Gadkari said that several systems end up being needless inconveniences for international cruise ship passengers. “There are systems like health officials insisting on vaccination of passengers. Then sometimes there are security concerns. It feels like we create a lot of inconvenience.”
A global consultant engaged to chalk out a road-map for enhancing cruise tourism potential has highlighted that the current immigration system at ports, especially e-visas, are inconvenient. It has called the system time consuming and not in consonance with global practices. The consultant has recommended that passengers of a cruise ship be given entry into a port city en masse on the basis of the ship ID.
At a meeting to discuss the recommendations, cruise operators spoke against “e-landing cards” saying that the process would take a lot of time for passengers to get clearance to disembark. An immigration representative at the meeting pointed out that various Acts of Parliament govern the entry into India and cannot be waved off for cruise tourism.