KOCHI: A total of 47 cruise ships are expected to call at Kochi this fiscal, the highest in recent history.
While 11 had already come, 36 more are expected to arrive in the coming months, Cochin Port officials said, reports The Hindu.
The arrival of cruise vessels at the port had declined to 33 in 2015-16 as compared to a peak number of 44 in 2011-12.
Saturday witnessed the arrival of Emerald Princess, heralding the formal arrival of the cruise ship season in Kochi. It brought 3,200 high-end tourists and 1,200 crew members. The vessel that is on a global voyage, left the port by dusk.
Arrangements were made to take the guests to tourists locales in Alappuzha, Vaikom, Fort Kochi, and Mattancherry in 70 coaches, apart from pre-paid taxi cars and autorickshaws. The port authorities had recently decided to grant concession up to 50 per cent on berthing and related charges to cruise ship operators to encourage more such vessels to halt here.
While medium-sized cruise ships call at the port’s BTP berth, larger ones are berthed at the Ernakulam Wharf which predominantly handles cargo. Interestingly, the demand for setting up a cruise terminal in Kochi made the Centre sanction Rs.25 crore for the purpose.
“It [cruise terminal] will become a reality in two years. The facility, complying with international norms, will come up near the wharf. A consultant will be appointed shortly to finalise the norms, following which tenders will be invited. The Shipping Ministry has said the terminal must have counters for immigration and customs under one roof for the benefit of cruise tourists,” a senior port official said.
Speaking on the impact of cruise liners on the local economy, Rajesh P.R., a tourist guide, said each guest would spend an average of $250 during his eight-hour Kochi stopover, benefiting a whole lot of people from autorickshaw drivers to tour operators and handicraft dealers.