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India’s first international tourist cruise ship launched from Chennai to Sri Lanka

Shri Sarbananda Sonowal flags off India’s First International Cruise Vessel from Chennai to Sri Lanka.

Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal today flagged off India’s first international cruise vessel MV Empress from Chennai to Sri Lanka for tourists today.

This marks the beginning of the international cruise tourism terminal at Chennai, built at a cost of Rs 17.21 crores, heralding a new age of cruise tourism & maritime trade in the country.

The cruise service will sail to three Sri Lanka ports–Hanbantota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanturei. The tour packages on board MV Empress will be offered for 2 nights, 3 nights, 4 nights and 5 nights after which MV Empress will be returning to Chennai.

Speaking on the occasion, Sonowal said, “Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as we launch the maiden cruise service between Chennai and Sri Lanka a new chapter in the cruise tourism sector in the country has been opened in the country. As the affordability and access to world class cruise services becomes a reality, the people can enjoy and  relish luxurious amenities, entertainment, and breathtaking views.”

The cruise service is the result of an MoU signed during the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022 between Chennai Port and M/S Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd to start domestic and international cruise service.

With an overwhelming response by 85,000 passengers availing the cruise service through 37 vessels for the domestic circuit, it is expected that the opening up of international circuit will further ramp up the business of cruise tourism in the region.

The modern cruise terminal developed at Chennai Port is spread over an area of 2,880 square meters with an ability to host 3,000 passengers at a time.

The minister also said, “I am happy to share that three new international cruise terminals are likely to be completed and become operational by 2024. We expect that the volume of cruise ships will increase from 208 in 2023 to 500 in 2030 and upto 1100 by 2047. Consequently, the number of passengers availing cruise services is also likely to increase from 9.5 lakhs in 2030 to 45 lakhs in 2047.

“In order to boost demand for cruise services on the western, southern and eastern coasts of India, we are working on Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, Cultural and Scenic Tours, Ayurveda Wellness Tours & Heritage Tourism. There are plans to develop new cruise tourism terminals in Andamans, Puducherry and Lakshadweep circuits. We are also studying the feasibility of developing ferry circuits across India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar,” he added.