India says ‘no truth’ in reports world’s longest river cruise was stuck in shallow waters

Operators of the world’s longest river cruise, flagged off by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, have denied reports that the ship got stuck in shallow waters just three days after starting its journey.

Last week, MV Ganga Vilas began its journey from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state and is slated to travel 3,200 km in 51 days to reach Dibrugarh in the northeastern Assam state via Bangladesh.

During its journey it will sail across 27 river systems in India and Bangladesh.

On Monday, reports emerged that that the ship got stuck in shallow waters of the river Ganga in Bihar state’s Chhapra.

According to a report by news agency ANI, the cruise was scheduled to dock at the shore for the tourists to visit Chirand, an archaeological site, when it got stuck.

“SDRF (State Disaster Response Force) team is stationed at the ghat (passage leading to the river) so that immediate action can be taken on any untoward situation.

“Due to less water, there is a problem in bringing the cruise to the shore. Therefore, efforts are being made to bring tourists through small boats,” Chhapra’s commanding officer (CO) Satendra Singh was quoted as saying to the news agency.

On Tuesday, however, authorities denied that the ship got stuck.

The Inland Waterways Authority (IWAI), which functions under India’s federal ministry of ports, shipping and waterways, said in a statement that the cruise was running on schedule.

“The Ganga Villas reached Patna as per schedule. There is absolutely no truth in the news that the vessel is stuck in Chhapra. The vessel will continue its onwards journey as per schedule,” said Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, chairman, IWAI on Twitter.

Raj Singh, Founder & CEO of Antara Cruises, which is operating MV Ganga Vilas, also denied that the ship was stuck.

“The ship is anchored now in Patna as per schedule,” he was quoted as saying to The Indian Express adding that “big ships can’t go to the shore when there is less water, so you have to use small ships or tenders to disembark”.

Mr Singh also denied his earlier statement and said to ANI: “Local journalists misquoted me, I just said SDRF boats were at the spot as a precautionary move. There is no obstacle of any kind.”

The privately owned ship flagged off by Mr Modi has been touted as a part of the prime minister’s efforts to boost river tourism.

“In line with PM’s endeavour to boost river cruise tourism, the huge untapped potential of river cruises will get unlocked with the launch of this service and it will herald a new age of river cruise tourism for India,” said a press release by the prime minister’s office.

The luxury ship has three decks, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists.

The 51-day cruise includes visits to 50 tourist spots including World Heritage Sites, National Parks, River Ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.

Tickets for the luxury cruise are priced at Rs 50,000 (around £500) per person per day.