Financial Times

Indian Ocean Cruiser Lines ends Colombo stops

Indian Ocean Cruiser Lines which commenced Sri Lanka’s first cruiser vessel operations in 2007 and continued to call Colombo every fortnight during the tourist seasons till now, moved to the Port of Mauritius last month, the local agent, Sathsindu Group said.

A spokesman said the reason for the shift was because the Mauritius Port offered much better facilities and incentives than Colombo. The vessel operating between Goa and Colombo on a 14-day cruise was the first of its kind to call Colombo on a regular basis. The vessel made 24 calls to the port of Colombo during the two-year period and spent three days for every voyage in the Port of Colombo, during which time the passengers visited Colombo and Kandy. The Port of Colombo is estimated to have earned over Rs 20 million in revenue during this period.

“We did not withdraw from Colombo for two years despite having faced serious security problems including our passengers witnessing indiscriminate firing in the Port of Colombo when LTTE aircrafts bombed Colombo on April 28, 2007. Even when many other bombs exploded in Colombo we continued our voyages to Sri Lanka,” he said.

He said the Port of Mauritius was keen to get ‘our vessel to call their port and approached us with a special package of rates and services including credit facilities which was attractive and that made us switch to Mauritius.’,

Asked whether Sri Lanka Ports Authority approached them with any incentives, he said “they didn’t show much interest.” Cruise activities forms a major part of business in ports like Singapore and Hong Kong and in Singapore alone they handle close to 750,000 cruiser passengers which is almost double the total number of tourists coming to Sri Lanka.

The Port of Dubai is the most recent port which has embarked on developing a cruise terminal and actively canvassing to expand this business segment. The Colombo harbour currently has only a dilapidated building built in 1950 as a passenger terminal and does not have a cruise terminal on par with similar ports else where.

It also has restrictions on public transport access to the terminal as well which is a major disadvantage, shipping industry officials say.

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