In order to promote cruise tourism in the country, and make India an attractive cruise tourist destination, the Ministry of Home Affairs has, on request of the Ministry of Shipping, exempted cruise tourists arriving with e-visa from the requirement of biometric enrolment for a period of three years i.e. till 31.12.2020. This will make immigration clearance of such passengers faster, leaving them with more time to spend on shore. This is also an important factor that helps cruise lines decide whether or not to include a destination in their itinerary.
The Ministry of Shipping has been working towards simplifying the immigration clearance procedure and providing passengers with a customer friendly and hassle free logistics process when they embark on or disembark from their cruise at the Indian ports. E-Visa has been in place in the five major ports of Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin & Chennai.
Till now biometrics of passengers were required at port of first arrival for immigration clearance. However, with the existing facilities at the cruise terminals at these ports, the immigration procedure was taking more than the internationally accepted norm of clearing immigration for all cruise passengers in a maximum of 90 minutes. This is especially significant because, as per the schedule of arrivals of cruise ships for the current cruise season 2017-18 and 2019-20, many of the cruise ships coming to India are mega ships with 2000-4000 passengers on board. Most of these cruise passengers are expected to arrive on E-Visa, and biometric enrolment of all these passengers would slow down immigration clearance. Hence the need for the exemption.
This simplified immigration clearance procedure is part of a series of steps to attract and to enhance cruise passenger experience at the major ports. The standard operating procedures to handle cruise was revised earlier and is being implemented uniformly at all ports. In November, 2017 major ports reduced their tariffs for 3 years by 42 – 67% to make it attractive for cruise lines to visit India. Major ports now change a single comprehensive uniform rate of USD$ 0.35 per GRT.