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White Paper on growing India's cruise sector presented to shipping minister Gadkari

Minister Nitin Gadkari and Subhash Chandra along with Jurgen Bailom (second from left), Sanjay Bhatia (third from left) and Nalini Gupta, executive committee member, INCLA (third from right) and other dignitaries at the Global Cruise Conclave
India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA) presented a White Paper on Recommendations for Indian Cruise Tourism to India’s Shipping and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari at its first Global Cruise Conclave in Mumbai Thursday night.

The White Paper outlines several necessary reforms in policy, tax and various regulatory laws, that are required to ensure a level playing field for the cruise business in India, compared to cruise operations based abroad.

Suggestions were also made for attracting investors, cruise ships and other stakeholders to set up cruise operations in India.

Key recommendations for growing cruise in India

The following are the INCLA recommendations for the Indian cruise industry:

  1. Indian cabotage laws to be further liberalized to allow foreign cruise ships to ply in Indian waters indefinitely
  2. Development of ports and related infrastructure as per international standards
  3. Relaxation of immigration regulations including visa regulations, filing of passenger manifest and issuance of Standard Operating Procedures on training and education of personnel handling the passengers
  4. Relaxation of custom laws and regulations relating to declaration of inventory and stocks present on-board a cruise ship and sealing it
  5. Relaxation of Indian entertainment and gambling laws for cruise ships
  6. Introduction of capital subsidy for sea / ocean cruises considering the capital intensive nature of cruise industry
  7. Direct tax reforms in the form of following clarifications under the Indian tonnage tax scheme
  8. Requisite clarification for cruise ships to be specifically included under the definition of ‘Qualifying ship’
  9. Clarification that income from sale of goods/provision of services on-board a cruise ship forms part of core activities of cruise business
  10. Relaxation of taxation provisions for international seafarers
  11. Requisite amendments under the Goods and Service Tax Law
  12. Permissibility of foreign direct investment in casinos operated on-board a cruise ship

Minister Gadkari, who delivered the keynote address at the meeting, said cruise terminals of international standard were being set up by the ports of Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai with the sort of immigration-friendly passenger facilities that were available at international airports, to help India become a cruise tourism hub.

‘Personally, I am not happy with the growth that the cruise sector in India has witnessed in the past three to four years,’ admitted Gadkari, who delivered the bulk of his address in the national language, Hindi. ‘In comparison, the road sector has been growing rapidly.

Indian government ready to invest in cruise sector

‘Our government is ready to invest in this sector for it to prosper, as it carries a lot of potential. Not only on the seas, but also the length of rivers and inland waterways in the country. Our work plans in the cruise tourism sector have created around 2.5 million job opportunities so far.’

The Indian cruise industry has been bolstered by the backing it has received recently from media mogul Subhash Chandra, chairman of the Essel Group that runs several entertainment and news television channels and a theme park, Esselworld.

He is set to launch Zen Cruises with Pacific Jewel, acquired from P&O Cruises Australia.

Earlier in the evening, an absorbing panel discussion featured Mark Robinson, chief commercial officer of Global Ports Holding; Philippe Faucher, vp global business development/European operations with The Apollo Group; Jurgen Bailom, convener of INCLA and president and ceo of Zen Tourism & Cruises; Sanjay Bhatia, chairman of Mumbai Port Trust and of the Indian Ports Association; Hemal Zobalia, partner of Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP; and Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Destinations, Costa's gsa in India.