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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Government may open up cruise shipping to FDI

Government may open up cruise shipping to foreign direct investment as part of its efforts to promote tourism and also amend the Merchant Shipping Act to simplify registration procedures for foreign cruise companies.

An exclusive policy for cruise tourism is being evolved which is likely to spell out details of FDI regime besides measures to upgrade ports and other related infrastructure.

A high power steering group under the chairmanship of Minister of Shipping and the Minister of State for Tourism as its co-chairman has already been set up to finalise a cruise policy, an official statement saidon Wednesday.

The Government might consider liberalising FDI norms and also have a re-look at Section 21 of the Merchant Shipping Act to relax registration procedure for foreign cruise companies, it said, adding the objective of all these efforts is to make India an attractive cruise tourism destination.

The Shipping Ministry has already relaxed cabotage to allow foreign flag cruise vessels do coastal legs without hassle in the absence of Indian flag vessels in this segment.

"The Government is working on simplifying the cruise shipping affairs and this invites greater interest among global cruise operators," Shipping Minister TR Baalu had said recently.

With the Indian economy growing at an impressive rate of over 7 per cent annually, Indians can spend more on travel and tourism. A large number of Indians go every year for cruise shipping in South Asian region, the statement said.

The government is also contemplating developing seven ports as cruise shipping stations. These are - Cochin in Kerala, New Mangalore in Karnataka, Marmugao in Goa, Mumbai in Maharashtra, Kolkata in West Bengal, Port Blair in Andaman & Nicobar and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, the statement said.

Besides this, small berthing places will also be developed at various sites for small vessels. Special tourism circuits pertaining to each port will also be prepared keeping in view local cultural heritage, it said, adding Cochin could be linked with health circuit-ayurvedic massage and extended to backwaters, beaches and Munnar in Kerala.

Similarly, New Mangalore could be linked with tourism circuit of Bangalore, Bellur, Helebid and Hampi while Mumbai can have the destination Ajanta-Ellora, Elephanta in the package available to the tourists landing there. Tuticorin can be linked with the circuit of temples.

Cruise shipping in the country has not been fully exploited so far. The number of cruise vessels and passengers carried calling on Indian ports has been fluctuating during the past five years. A total 45,521 cruise passengers arrived in ports like Mumbai, Cochin and Mormugao in 2000-01 but the figure declined to 15,784 in 2001-02 and further to 11,850 in 2002-03.

Source: Hindustan Times

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