New Delhi: To promote cruise tourism in the country, tourists arriving at ports with e-visa have been exempted from the requirement of biometric enrolment for a period of three years till 2020, the government said on Tuesday.

This will make immigration clearance of such passengers faster, leaving them with more time to spend on shore. The move is aimed at making India an attractive cruise tourist destination as biometric enrolment is an important factor that helps cruise lines decide whether or not to include a destination in their itinerary, a statement said.

The Shipping Ministry had made a request to the Home Ministry to exempt cruise tourists with e-visa. It was accepted by the latter. "The Shipping Ministry has been working towards simplifying the immigration clearance procedure and providing passengers with a customer-friendly and hassle-free logistics process when they embark on or disembark from their cruise at the Indian ports," it said.

E-Visa has been in place in the five major ports of Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai. Till now, biometrics of passengers were required at port of first arrival for immigration clearance. "However, with the existing facilities at the cruise terminals at these ports, the immigration procedure was taking more than the internationally accepted norm of clearing immigration for all cruise passengers in a maximum of 90 minutes.

"This is especially significant because, as per the schedule of arrivals of cruise ships for the current cruise season 2017-18 and 2019-20, many of the cruise ships coming to India are mega ships with 2,000-4,000 passengers on board," the statement added. It said that since most of these cruise passengers are expected to arrive on e-Visa -- and biometric enrolment of all these passengers would slow down immigration clearance -- there was a need for the exemption.