Express press service
PUDUCHERRY: The absence of a cruise shipping policy in Pondicherry resulted in the granting of permission to the ‘MV Empress’ operated by Cordelia Cruise to anchor in the territorial waters of Pondicherry and disembark passengers by boat at the port of Pondicherry. The luxury cruise ship from Visakhapatnam left the coast of Pondicherry on Friday – without anchoring here – for its destination, Chennai.
According to official sources, although the government did not reject the cruise liner’s application, it did not approve it. This comes as UT has no cruise shipping policy, estimated rate to collect, infrastructure and logistics at Pondicherry port. The port has not received cruise ships and infrastructure also needs to be put in place, the official added.
Pondicherry has also faced several difficulties as the port has not been used for some time. Now, after the desilting, the port is again ready to receive freight and ships. But cruising navigation is another matter.
Meanwhile, there was no time to set up the logistics as cruise lines requested their approval late. While an agent informally notified port authorities the first week of May, the request came in the third week of May for the ship’s arrival on June 10.
Upon receipt of the request, officials contacted the Port of Chennai for information on cruise ship management, procedures, tariffs (passenger charges, mooring, tonnage, boat ferry charges and others). They also inquired about checks on tourists arriving at the port and basic facilities (such as a rest room or kiosk), the official explained.
Although the ship has a casino, the cruise lines – in their application – said they would not operate it in territorial waters. But the question arises as to how this could be controlled, the official said, adding that a proposal has been put forward to the government to take a decision in this regard.
The government wants to allow cruise ships, but a policy should be put in place. “We will try to develop a cruise shipping policy in consultation with the Port and Line department to attract cruise ships. The Ministry of Tourism has advised the government to promote cruise tourism, marina and others,” Tourism Minister K Lakshminarayanan said.
The cruise lines had planned to take passengers to visit the Ashram, beaches, arts and crafts village with support from the Puducherry Tourism Development Corporation. In fact, around 460 people have expressed their desire to visit Pondicherry, although around 290 people have booked tickets with the intention of visiting UT by paying the fee, reliable sources said. Pondicherry lost valuable tourists, whom the government was eager to attract.
However, some sources doubt that the approval was not given for political reasons, with the cruise operated from Chennai and TN Chief Minister MK Stalin reporting as much on June 6. Chief Minister N Rangasamy kept the file on hold, neither granting approval nor rejecting it. Lieutenant Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan said she had not received any records from the government regarding the cruise ship’s anchor and would not allow anything that would spoil UT’s tradition. The AIADMK, a constituent of the NDA, objected to the ship anchoring near the coast and bringing tourists to Pondicherry.