‘Working to develop coastal connectivity of Mumbai with Surat and Saurashtra via ferry services' Mandaviya said.
In a boost to the sea tourism in Gujarat, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya virtually flagged off cruise services from Essar bulk terminal at Hazira in Surat to Diu, a union territory on the Saurashtra coast, on Wednesday.
The development of cruise tourism, Mandaviya said, has been the prime focus of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
“We are working in the direction to develop coastal connectivity of Mumbai with Surat and Saurashtra, via ferry services, RoPax services and cruise services, so that many people are benefitted… The development of cruise tourism has been the prime focus of central government under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.
Before 2014, the Minister said, there were around 1.07 lakh cruise passengers per year in India. The number of passengers travelling on cruise increased to 4.63 lakhs per year in 2019-20, he said.
“Indians visit England, Singapore, Bangkok and other countries and enjoy cruise travel. Why cannot we attract foreign tourists in terms of cruise tourism then,” the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Ports, Shipping and Waterways said.
The cruise service, Jai Sofia Mumbai Maiden, has been provided through a non-profit initiative by Mumbai’s SSR Marines.
Jai Sofia ‘Mumbai Maiden’ owner Sanjiv Agrawal said, “We were running a cruise service from Surat to Mumbai around a year back but due to the pandemic it has been stopped. Once the situation is normal, we will resume it again. The Hazira to Diu, cruise services will run two days a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. The cruise will start in the evening and reach its destination on the next morning, thus completing its journey in around 13-14 hours.”
The cruise has been updated with all amenities, plush interiors and can carry 300 passengers at a time.
Highlighting that the cruise service will provide a “better alternative” to people travelling from Surat to Saurashtra, Mandaviya said, “We want to make Surat a water transportation hub. We are also setting infrastructure for RoPax ferry services in Mumbai. Such infrastructure is already there in Surat, and we are also extending it to Saurashtra. By interlinking all these coastal lines, we wanted to connect Mumbai, Surat and Saurashtra and give a boost to industrial development. We are also promoting private sector players and are ready to provide all necessary support.”
The Minister said six international cruise terminals were being developed across the country. “The work on international cruise terminals in Mumbai and Goa is in progress. One month ago, our PM inaugurated an international cruise terminal in Cochin. We are planning to develop international cruise terminals in the eastern coastal areas, like Vishakhapatnam, Chennai and Kolkata. Through the seaways, the distance gets reduced… Earlier, if a person wanted to travel from Old Mumbai to New Mumbai, he or she has to spend around 4 hours, but if take the ferry services, it will take around 20 minutes,” Mandaviya added.
He said that Gujarat has the longest coastal line and Saurashtra is home to several industries. “The cargo of these industries reaches Southern India and Mumbai and have to cross the Gulf of Cambay. Today, 25 lakh people from Saurashtra have shifted to Surat for their livelihood. Daily 5,000 buses ply between Saurashtra and Surat via the Gulf of Cambay. Modiji, when he was the Gujarat chief minister, had the vision to reduce the distance and thus the Ghogha Dahej Ferry service was flagged off by him. But due to some technical reasons, it was stopped. Around 21 weeks ago, Modiji virtually flagged off ferry services from Hazira to Ghogha, which is operational and to date over 1 lakh passengers have travelled… This Ropex service has reduced the distance between Saurashtra and Surat.”
Mandaviya also requested SSR Marines owner to roll out ferry services from Surat to Ghogha as there is also good potential for passengers. “In the coming time, we are planning to connect Surat with Pipavav, Dwarka, and Somnath, and this will help lakhs of people hailing from Gir Somnath and Junagadh, etc, staying in Surat city, as their travel time will be reduced through a sea-route journey,” Mandaviya added.
Under the Maritime Vision 2030, the government was aiming to have more than 350 cruise ships and over 3,000 cruise calls per year and at least three cruise training academies and five million cruise passengers. “The passenger ferry service has seen a giant leap with the development of Hazira as a cruise tourism hub. This will also open up many opportunities for the tourism sector of Gujarat as well,” he added.
Prashant Ruia, director of Essar Capital said since its inception, Essar has been involved in the development of the Indian Maritime sector and it continued to do so. “We are delighted with this launch as the project is aligned to the Maritime India Vision 2030 of Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and paves way for accelerated growth of India’s Maritime Sector,” Ruia said.
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