Ministry eases laws for foreign cruise ships


Bangalore: Foreign cruise ships can now take passengers all along India’s coast without restriction, after the government eased a law banning foreign-registered ships from calling at more than one Indian port without a licence from the country’s maritime regulator.

The relaxation is for 10 years and takes effect immediately, the shipping ministry said in a notification on Thursday.

Coastal trade for transporting goods and passengers is reserved for Indian-registered ships. Foreign ships can be hired only when Indian ships are not available, and with the approval of the director general of shipping.

The relaxation opens a window for global luxury cruise ship owners to run ships in the Indian market, said Aman Bhatia, India head at MSC Cruises, an Italian cruise ship operator. Currently, no global cruise ship operator offers services in the country.

The cruise ship industry is growing globally at 12% a year and generates $14 billion (Rs72,380 crore) in revenues annually, according to the shipping ministry. The global passenger base of at least 10 million is expected to double by the end of 2009, of which India’s share is a mere 2% despite its vast coastline of at least 7,000km.

The government is looking to promote cruise ship operations in India, but currently no Indian shipping firm owns a luxury cruise line. Till that happens, foreign cruise liners are being encouraged to undertake coastal runs though existing laws restrict cruise ships from calling at more than one port in India.

Last year, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved a cruise shipping policy that provides a zero-tax regime for cruise ship operators.