After Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal signalled the departure of India’s first foreign cruise ship on Monday, about 750 passengers embarked on a five-day trip from Chennai to Sri Lanka. The 3,000-passenger MV Empress cruise, which will travel between three ports in Sri Lanka—Triconmalle, Hambantota, and Jaffna—was kicked off from Chennai port.
According to the Minister, “We want to make Chennai a major destination for cruise tourism.”
The ship includes casino games where visitors can earn or lose money in addition to a number of attractions. Even though the game is forbidden in India, the owners claim that it will only be played in international waters.
Sarbanamda Sonowal defended it by claiming that “casino is required for a modern outlook and for cruiseliners to prosper.” When the same ship offered a Chennai-Puducherry-Vishakapatnam cruise last year, the Puducherry government refused access to the ship, objecting to casinos among other things.
The Chennai port, which is primarily used for cargo, is in severe need of modern cruise passenger amenities, immigration facilities, and baggage claim facilities.
The development of Tuticorin port as a cruise centre with the ability to provide intriguing cruise circuits was secured by the shipping minister.
The Minister refused to support the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal that the Sethusamudram canal project be revived in order to connect India’s east and west coasts without going across Sri Lanka. “The matter is sub-judice,” he declared. Recently, the Union Minister of Science and Technology told the parliament that “Pieces and islands and some kind of limestome shoals” have been found using space technology but “can’t be accurately said to be remnants of parts of a bridge.” Ram Sethu was discovered on the stretch, which was the reason the ambitious project was abandoned.
The state’s charge that the BJP is courting Tamil Nadu voters in preparation for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections was also rejected by him. “The BJP takes development equally to all states,” the minister claimed.