Nation, August 10, 2023: MV Ganga Vilas covered the following places in India and Bangladesh during its journey; – INDIA: Varanasi, Ghazipur, Buxar, Doriganj, Patna, Munger, Sultanganj, Vikramshila (Kahalgaon), Bateshwarsthan, Sahibganj, Baranagar, Azimganj, Hazardwari, Matiari, Kalna, Chandannagar, Howrah, Kolkata, Bali Island, Sunderbans, Dhubri, Suryapahar, Golpara, Salkuchi, Guwahati, Tezpur, Silghat, Biswanath Ghat, Ketkerighat, Sibsagar, Majuli Island, and Bogibeel (Dibrugarh). BANGLADESH: Mongla, Jamtola, Harbaria, Morelganj, Barisal, Dhaka, Tangail, Sirajganj and Chilmari.
‘MV Ganga Vilas’ began its journey from Varanasi on 13thJanuary, 2023 covering a distance of 3,200 km through 27 river systems in India and Bangladesh, reaching Dibrugarh on the 28thFebruary, 2023 and opened up a new vista of opportunity in the river tourism potential in the entire South Asia region.
The mandate of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is to develop and regulate National Waterways (NWs) for shipping & navigation. However, the infrastructure developed for transportation on NWs by IWAI including fairway, terminals, jetties, navigation aids etc. are used by the river tourism operators also. IWAI only plays the role of a technical facilitator for cruise/river tourism on NWs.
Further, IWAI completed a study in November 2022 on preparation of an Action Plan & Detailed Road Map for Development of River cruise Tourism in India so as to tap the vast potential of river cruise tourism existing in the country and also to increase the share of visitors on river cruises.
IWAI has taken several steps towards developing an ecosystem for increasing cargo, passengers and tourists on national waterways in India. IWAI in consultation with cruise vessel operators and other stakeholders strives to develop adequate infrastructure to boost river cruise tourism.
Steps taken to Promote River Cruise Tourism in the Country
Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, (MoPSW) had organized 1st Incredible India International Cruise Conference 2022 at Mumbai on 14-15 May, 2022. The Session “Potential of River Cruise” was anchored by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) wherein leading cruise operators of the world had participated. The work done by IWAI in ensuring draft and navigational aids in waterways and the jetties constructed and planned were shared. MoUs were signed with M/s. Heritage River Journeys Pvt. Ltd., M/s. Antara River Cruise and M/s. J.M. Baxi & Co. for promotion of river cruises. Work done on waterways and cruise conference resulted in: –
- Hon’ble Prime Minister flagging off the World’s Longest River Cruise on 13thJanuary 2023 from Varanasi on NW-1 (River Ganga) to Dibrugarh NW-2 (River Brahmaputra) via Bangladesh, which successfully covered a waterway distance of 3200 km approx.
- Shown increased bookings on several river cruises on Ganga, Brahmaputra, Kerala Backwaters, Odisha etc.
IWAI has provided the following infrastructure facilities for smooth operation of river cruises on National Waterways. These include: –
- Berthing facilities: Floating pontoons have been placed at various locations for berthing of vessel and embarkation/ disembarkation of tourists. To promote river cruise tourism, IWAI has partnered with the Ministry for construction of 9 tourist jetties on NW-1 and NW-2
- Fairway: Navigational fairway along with marking of the channel with navigational aids and electronic navigation chart for safe plying of cruise vessels.
- Pilotage: Pilots are provided on-demand at a very nominal charge of Rs. 750/- per day for navigating the vessel in the waterway.
- Coordination with State Govt.: Assistance is provided to the cruise operators in close coordination with State Governments for facilitating the voyage.
- Assistance to the vessel in distress: IWAI provides high powered tug to tow the cruise vessel to the safe location when they are in distress due to mechanical failure or otherwise, on the National Waterway.