Cordelia Cruises has expressed interest to explore possibilities to bring its 11-deck ship to West Bengal as the cruise liner plans to expand services and add new destinations for the next sailing season on the east coast, officials said on Wednesday.
Authorities of Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, Kolkata are also keen to bring such big ships to promote cruise tourism in the state, they said.
However, the major challenge for large cruise liners to operate in Kolkata is the low draft in the Hooghly river system, a port official said, adding that the options of docking big ships at Haldia dock complex (HDC) in East Medinipur district or the mouth of the river at Sagar or Raichak in South 24 Parganas seem to be feasible as these places have a better draft.
Large vessels, such as the 11-deck ship, require at least a nine-metre draft constantly, he said.
“Haldia dock complex has at least nine metres draft which can handle the large vessel, while the Kolkata dock system has around eight-metre draft on an average depending on tides in the river system,” he said.
The interest from Cordelia came after the authorities of SMP, Kolkata invited cruise liners to explore this part of the country, the official said, adding that there are only a few river cruises that originate from the eastern metropolis.
Cordelia’s operation is currently restricted to Vizag-Puducherry and Chennai on the east coast but the premium cruise liner wants to showcase new destinations to Indians and foreign tourists.
“We are interested in exploring new destinations and will initiate this process in August-September for the next year’s sailing season,” Cordelia CEO Jurgen Bailom told PTI.
The cruise liner, which has a focus on India, received a “good response” on the east coast during its maiden sailing, he said.
September onwards, the cruise will go back to operate on the west coast of the country and the season for the east coast will begin again from May next year, Bailom said.
India, which has the world’s third-largest coastline of 7,500 km, offers immense potential for cruise liners and the outlook is in line with the government’s projection of a 10-fold growth for this industry over the next decade from 0.4 million at present to 4 million passengers, he said.
Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, Kolkata Chairman Vinit Kumar said the port has invited cruise liners to come and explore the possibilities to commence their services from here.
“There are options to bring large vessels at Raichak, Diamond Harbour and even in Sagar. We will take up dredging if required to accommodate bid ships. A fully-loaded large ship will require nine metres draft and such need may be less if the capacity is not full. We will discuss these factors and see how we can bring large cruise vessels,” Kumar told PTI.
He said the port authorities will try to overcome hurdles to meet its objective.
“To diversify the service offerings and increase the revenue potential of SMP for its future sustainability, we have planned to explore new business opportunities such as the development of a domestic and international cruise terminal at Kolkata,” Kumar said.
The Hooghly riverfront land resource will be developed to support cruise tourism in the city and also for leisure, recreation, adventure, amusement and entertainment so that tourists visiting the city can enjoy, Kumar said.
According to the government, the economic potential of cruise tourism in India is expected to go up from USD 110 million to USD 5.5 billion in the years to come.