Panaji: Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said his ministry was working on a cruise route from Mumbai to Bali in Indonesia, via Kochi and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, to boost cruise tourism.
"I have met a minister from Indonesia. We have initiated the idea of having cruise from Mumbai to Andaman Nicobar via Goa and Kochi. The ships can go up to Bali, Indonesia. Indians usually visit Singapore or Bangkok. They can go there directly on a cruise from Mumbai," the minister told reporters.
Gadkari, who is on a two-day visit to Goa to attend a meeting of Highways department officials to review the ongoing works across the country, further said the work to widen the Mumbai-Goa highway would be completed by March 2019.
"The work on all the packages on the Mumbai-Goa highway has begun. The work on tunnels has also started. We want to complete the entire road by March next year except a tunnel at Kashedi Ghat in Maharashtra," he said.
The minister said the refurbished highway would be an "engineering marvel" and motorists could enjoy a scenic drive. The four-lane highway expansion project has been delayed for several reasons, including lack of permission to cut trees. Once completed, the drive from Goa to Mumbai will be just six-hour-long.
Gadkari appealed to common people, politicians, and NGOs to adopt highways by planting trees along them. "I appeal to all members of public, MLAs, MPs and NGOs to come forward and plant trees along the highways. They should plant the trees and adopt them," the Union minister said.
He said he had spoken to Rajya Sabha MP Narayan Rane, who hails from Sindhudurg district in neighbouring Maharashtra, about tree plantation and the latter has assured to implement the same in Sindhudurg taluka.
The minister said the Goa-Mumbai waterway was now open for regular boat service.
"We have opened up the Mumbai Goa waterway for boat service. Initially, there were some technical problems for this service, which are fixed now," he said.
A private shipping company had recently announced its service connecting Mumbai to Goa.
"The successful trial of the ship was also conducted. The service is right now on hold because of monsoon. It will restart after two months post monsoon," Gadkari said.
The cruise service between Mumbai and Goa is likely to become operational in September this year.
Gadkari said the Central government always encouraged cruise tourism.
"Mumbai gets 80 cruise ships. We have constructed a state-of-the-art terminal for ships. Goa also gets a number of cruise vessels. We expect that in the next five years 950 cruise vessels will be calling the Goa port," he said.