India’s first full-fledged international cruise terminal at the Ernakulam Wharf on Willingdon Island and a 2.10-km-long walkway built by the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) using Central tourism funds are ready for commissioning.
Sagarika, the ₹25.72-crore cruise terminal spread over 12,200 sq.ft., has facilities to handle up to 5,000 tourists arriving in cruise vessels. “Their commissioning, originally slated for April, was postponed due to the lockdown. A date to commission them will shortly be finalised. In the meantime, the port has invited tenders for the operation and maintenance of the paved walkway between KUFOS and Mattancherry BOT Bridge. Altogether, 200 cars can be parked alongside the walkway,” official sources said.
The terminal gains importance, since the number of cruise ships visiting Kochi has been on the rise, considering the port’s proximity to the international shipping route. Unfortunately, 10 of the total 54 such vessels that bring in high spending tourists to the city in the 2019-2020 fiscal were cancelled due to the COVID crisis. Another 15 services for 2020-2021 too have been cancelled, since the cruise tourism sector has taken a severe hit due to the pandemic, they added.
Samudrika, a cruise tourism facilitation centre on the Island, abutting BTP Berth, too was built using Central tourism funds. Besides setting apart space for the two terminals, the port has considerably slashed berthing charges to woo cruise vessels. On their part, India Tourism, Kerala Tourism, and other stakeholders put up stalls selling mementos, brochures, and others on berths when cruise ships call at Kochi, aimed at improving visitor experience.