Visakhapatnam: If everything goes according to plans, the much-hyped Vizag-Kakinada sea cruise will be operational in the next few weeks. Officials from the tourism department are currently studying the viabilities of the project and a trial run was held about a week ago from Kakinada to Vizag.
A 40-seater glass-domed ship will be introduced and the fare of the cruise will be higher than the existing fare of both bus and train, the officials said. The sea route distance between Vizag and Kakinada is nearly 70 nautical miles or 130 kilometres.
The jetty at the lighthouse of Kakinada port at Uppada will accommodate the cruise liners in Kakinada while the slipway passenger jetty of Visakhapatnam Port Trust near Fishing Harbour will anchor the vessel locally.
In fact, the project was mooted in July 2003 by the then state government, but was delayed due to lack of interest from the subsequent governments, bifurcation of the state and technical difficulties like non-availability of suitable place for anchoring the cruise liner. A minimum 12-metre draft is required to dock the vessel. Finally, in July 2015, the state government decided to resume the project on a full swing as part of its tourism development plan. Accordingly, the VPT spent nearly Rs 4 crore to develop the 100-metre long passenger jetty which was inaugurated by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu during the International Fleet Review in February this year.
Speaking to TOI, R Sreeramulu Naidu, executive director of AP Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) for Visakhapatnam, said the Vizag-Kakinada sea cruise will be one of the first such projects taken up by the corporation in the state. Till date, the corporation operates river cruises, he said, hoping that the cruise would attract tourists to the blue waters of Bay of Bengal and the panoramic beauty of Konaseema and Eastern Ghats.
Naidu further said apart from the Vizag-Kakinada sea cruise, the corporation also plans to run a passenger ship from Rushikonda beach to the deep sea as part of the beach tourism plan. “The trial runs and studies for the both Rushikonda-deep sea tour and Vizag to Kakinada cruise are almost complete. The projects will be operational soon,” Naidu added.
On the other hand, a senior official from tourism department said the Vizag-Kakinada sea cruise could have been operational by this time but that it was delayed due to the strong opposition from the fishermen at Fishing Harbour where the slipway jetty is located. The fishermen believed the tourism ship would spoil their livelihood by imposing restrictions, the official said.
When contacted, Visakhapatnam south MLA Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar, under whose jurisdiction the slipway jetty falls, said the fishermen unknowingly opposed the sea cruise in the beginning, but are now welcoming the project. “However, I am going to hold a meeting with them if needed along with the Visakhapatnam Port chairman MT Krishna Babu for the tourism project,” Vasupalli Ganesh said.
Sreeramulu Naidu said district collector Dr N Yuvaraj was also willing to hold a meeting with the officials concerned within the next week to review the progress of the project as it has been put in the top priority list by the state government.