Queen Elizabeth may come calling this autumn. Well, not exactly. Queen Elizabeth the cruiser might stop by at Mumbai Port en route to Australia. She will probably be followed by Costa Neoclassica and Celebrity Constellation who will spend a few days in India before heading out to South East Asia. All these liners will berth at the international terminal at Ballard Pier Extension—a revamped version of the existing terminal—on the Mumbai coast.
Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) says the upgraded terminal will now be nearly five times larger and, therefore, should be able to accommodate big ships that have a weight of 73,000-225,000 in gross tonnes. The refurbishing will cost R108 crore and Bhatia believes the money will be well spent because Mumbai can become a stop for large cruise liners. That means travellers can both board and alight here rather than at Dubai or Singapore.
“The booking for berths has begun and the first ship should be here by September-October,” he said. MPT expects to host around 200 cruise ships over the next two years. The carriers, which can be anywhere between 268 metres and 360 metres long and between 32.2 metres and 60.5 metres wide carry as many as 2,000-3,000 passengers and sometimes even 5000. Consultants will work overtime to beef up the security and other facilities including the space for customs and immigration procedures.
Without getting into details on the potential earnings, Bhatia says the economy of Mumbai could benefit from the foreign tourists visiting the city. To make it easier for tourists who plan to travel around the country MPT is hoping to set up a check-in facility at the ports so that their baggage can be sent directly to Mumbai and Delhi airports.
So far cruise liners have been using Mumbai’s shores as a transit point since no berths were made available for the ships. If at all they want to berth they need to pay the port ‘ousting charges’. Essentially a cruise liner can occupy the space that a cargo ship has booked by paying to ‘oust’ it. Bhatia says the port has now done away with ousting charges and the facility will be dedicated to cruise liners.
The move to revamp the terminal is part of the restructuring of the port’s operations; the idea is to use a large portion of the land and infrastructure to enhance Mumbai’s stature as a commercial and entertainment hub.
To this end, MPT has already stopped handling coal and is moving away from container handling business as well.
The focus will be on handling bulk cargo, liquid and petroleum products. “We are also in the process of setting up an LNG terminal with floating storage and a re-gasification unit (FSRU) though there will be no evacuation through the city’s roads, “ Bhatia said.
The union ministry of shipping has already given the go ahead for developing this infrastructure; the minister for shipping, Nitin Gadkari has been calling for gardens, more open spaces, jogging tracks, entertainment hubs, restaurants and other social infrastructure. With 728 hectares in the heart of the city, MPT is not short OF LAND.