- Passenger capacity of each vessel: 160
- Crew members: 74
- Rooms for passengers: 70
- Rooms for crew members: 18
- Vessel length: 82M
- Depth: 4M
- The vessels will operate in coastal belts and on Chottogaram-Kolkata route
The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) is going to launch three cruise vessels for the first time in the country that would operate trips in the coastal belts and on the Chottogaram-Kolkata route.
"Initially we have given work order to Karnaphuli Ship Builders Limited to make three cruise vessels each with the capacity to carry 160 passengers and 74 crew members. Apart from night stay, the vessels will be able to carry more passengers for daylong tours," Khondaker Mahmudur Rahman Iman, chief planning manager, BIWTC, told The Business Standard.
Once the ships are launched, they hope that the other international cruise ship operators may show interest to come to Bangladesh which will increase the flow of foreign tourists in the country.
Tour operators said that the initiative would be a milestone for the country as still there is no cross-border cruise ship in Bangladesh and the country is not included in the international cruise line due to bureaucratic barriers.
Md Ziaul Islam, chief marine construction (ac) and project director, BIWTC told TBS, "All vessels will be of the same design and the same capacity. We will get these in the last quarter of 2023 according to the contract."
Each vessel will cost Tk77 crore, he added.
About the cost of travelling on these vessels he said, "The fare has not been fixed yet but the service will be like that of 5-star hotels. There will be three crew members for each passenger, so the expense will also be high."
He also said, along with sailing on the rivers these luxurious vessels can also travel inside 20 nautical miles of the sea. But it cannot travel in deep sea.
The vessel will travel from Dhaka to Chattogram, Khulna and Kolkata on river and sea routes, he added.
Currently, the MV Bay One, the first private sector luxury cruise ship in Bangladesh, is the only direct marine vessel operating on Chattogram's Karnaphuli River to the Bay of Bengal, and further south into the deep sea, all the way to the coral island of St Martin's route. It is the vessel of Karnaphuli Ship Builders that can carry 1,200 passengers at a time. However, it does not operate any international trip.
In the three ships of BIWTC, there will be a total of 70 rooms for passengers and 18 rooms for crew, according to the proposed design. Among the key features, the overall length of the vessels is 82 metres and depth 4 metres.
Difficulties to include Bangladesh on world cruise map
Journey Plus, a Bangladeshi tourism company, arranged the first ever trip by an international cruise liner in Bangladesh in 2017, and then again in 2019.
Journey Plus Chief Executive Tawfiq Rahman said, "We faced many difficulties including Bangladesh on the world's cruise map. But we did not get enough cooperation from the government".
"We did not take further initiative to arrange such a tour after 2019," he added.
Journey Plus arranged the 'Silversea Discover Expeditions' to bring 162 foreign tourists from 17 countries to Maheshkhali Island and the Sundarbans in 2017. They were on the Colombo to Kolkata Asia Expedition Cruise.
Journey Plus had to try several years to bring Silversea, a luxury cruise line headquartered in Monaco, to this region and to open new routes that would include Bangladesh.
Regarding launching international cruise ships like other countries in the world, State Minister for Tourism Mahbub Ali said that he would discuss with the home minister to bring the cruise ships operating on international routes to Bangladesh.
"We want that a foreigner who will come to Bangladesh will complete his immigration procedure on the ship so that they can visit all the tourism hot spots without facing hitches," he said.
Mahbub Ali said that they will take all initiatives so that private investors can operate cruise ships without any bureaucratic obstacles.
Focus to boost regional tourism through cruise line
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are considering launching a cruise service between the countries to boost regional tourism.
A virtual meeting was held last year by the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) with participation of the relevant stakeholders in this regard, said sources at the BTB.
BTB immediate past Chief Executive Officer Jabed Ahmed told The Business Standard, "We have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism with a number of countries. Now, we are going to sign an MoU regarding tourism with Sri Lanka too."
"We may include India in the cruise line considering the business viability," he said.