Pandaw pulls out of India

Pandaw Cruises, Southeast Asia’s largest river cruise operator, is pulling out of India, calling its foray into the market a “disaster”.

  12/05/2010 10:32

Ten, two week cruises were operated on an 800 mile stretch of the Ganges between Varanasi and Calcutta and over 500 passengers carried. Though this was a considerable achievement, against all the odds, Pandaw recently announced they would pull out of India.

Navigational and security challenges were just too great. The river proved too high, too low or too fast to safely operate. Groundings, with damage to engines and propellers were frequent and there was a lack support ashorefor repairs. The close presence of Maoist revolutionaries in Bihar necessitated the presence of heavily armed special forces personnel on the ship.

A further reason for Pandaw’s pulling out is the fact that the company were not able to operate their own vessel. The Pandaw crew who flew in to start up the operation and train locals were expelled from the country under its immigration laws. The crew provided by an Indian partner proved untrained and inexperienced. Pandaw had grave concerns as to their ability to respond in the event of a fire or other disaster on board and there were similar concerns over hygiene.

In view of the enormous disparity between the quality offered in India with the quality of Pandaw’s other ships Pandaw could not continue to offer this cruise under the Pandaw brand.

Pandaw plan to reposition the vessel on the Mekong where it will join three other vessels plying this popular routing. In the words of Pandaw founder Paul Strachan:

“You win some, you loose some. Pandaw has grown enormously over fifteen years and this is the first challenge that went wrong. We lost a lot of money in India but we learnt a lot of lessons. The amazing thing is that all who travelled with us there, despite the hardships, were supportive and understanding. It helps that 90% of them were old passengers who know us”.

Pandaw plan to open two new routes in 2011 on the Upper Mekong in Laos and Kapuas in Indonesia. That will bring the fleet up to seven ships in six South-East Asian countries.

(Source: TDA)



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