Paramilitary force CISF has been earmarked for providing security to ports and also ensure an airport-like facility for travellers of luxury ships, as part of the government’s grand plans to promote cruise tourism. The Union home ministry has tasked the Central Industrial Security Force to “take care” of the security aspect of this project which is expected to have an interface with lakhs of international and domestic tourists every month. Union Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma unveiled a proposal for a full-fledged cruise tourism policy yesterday and it is likely to be implemented within the next three months.
A blueprint prepared on the subject, accessed by PTI, said the CISF will be responsible for all entry and exit operations at the port, frisking of disembarking and boarding passengers, validation of travel tickets, carrying out anti- sabotage checks and simplifying arrival procedures for incoming tourists. A committee of senior officials of the central paramilitary, immigration and customs authorities has also been tasked to prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) before the cruise tourism project is rolled out.
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The CISF has also designated, for the first time, a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officer at its headquarters here to look after the security of all the ports under its security umbrella in the country. The force secures 12 major ports and about six shipyards in the country and has deployed about 4,000 personnel for the task. The proposed security SOPs will take care off of all arrival and departure procedures, baggages, activity of tour operators and waterfront security at the ports which will host cruises, they said.
“The security set up at the ports will be like that of the airports. The control and access of the port area will be regulated by the CISF and protocols as per international standards will be put in place at the designated ports where cruise ships will anchor,” a senior official said. The CISF, at present, secures 59 civil airports in the country against threats of terror attacks and hijack attempts.
Gadkari had yesterday said that a cruise tourism policy is in the making and will be announced next month. It is aimed at tapping India’s vast potential on this front and attract more vessels. The country draws nearly 70 cruise vessels a year, which is expected to go up to 700 with this initiative. The Union minister had said the action plan will be finalised in the next three months that includes key steps on par with international standards, simplification of procedures, easy immigration and ways to make India a global hotspot.
At present, Gadkari had said, India attracts 70 cruise vessels which can go up to 700 and a slew of steps are on to boost infrastructure that include building cruise terminals at five major ports — Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Chennai and Cochin. India has a 7,500-km-long coastline. As per data, India saw 1.76 lakh cruise passengers in 2016-17, merely 0.5 per cent of the global pie.
Domestic cruise passengers are estimated to grow to 1.5 million by 2031-32. Of the 12 major ports, only five — Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, New Mangalore and Chennai — have facilities to berth international cruise ships. A cruise ship carries 3,000-4,000 tourists with 1,500- strong crew to various coastal cities, islands, countries, and itself acts like a destination with all entertainment and leisure activities on board.