Saint Martin's island is on the verge of witnessing a new chapter in tourist transport as a vessel formerly engaged in ferrying people in Japan is due to pioneer a route connecting the coral isle to Chattogram via Cox's Bazar.
The 393-feet long, 55-feet wide MV One Bay was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1992 according to websites on marine traffic and offers 2,000 cabin accommodations including presidential suites, bunk beds and twin bed cabins.
It has been taken on a 10-year lease from a Singapore-based company by Karnafuly Ship Builders, which plans to eventually use it for a diverse range of sea tourism in Bangladesh, subject to government clearance.
All plans will have to wait till December for repairs to be carried out, said the company officials.
Arriving at the Chattogram port on September 19, MV One Bay is now anchored at Chattogram Marine Fisheries Academy Jetty.
Once repairs were complete, permission would be sought from the government to begin operations, Abdur Rashid, managing director of the privately-owned shipbuilding company, told The Daily Star.
"For the first time in Bangladesh, we have brought a cruise ship of international standard, which will help the country's tourism sector enter a new era," he said.
It could cost anywhere between Tk 200 crore and Tk 250 crore to build such a vessel from scratch but since the service was the first of its kind, the company decided running it on lease.
The company plans to outright buy the vessel if there is good response from tourists, he added.
Apart from Karnafuly Ship Builders, there are several local companies ferrying people to Saint Martin's island, but only from Cox's Bazar, from where one trip is run daily, and Teknaf, from where three trips are run a day.
With its 18-feet draft, MV One Bay has an average speed of 16.1 nautical miles per hour and a maximum speed of 24 nautical miles per hour.
It is registered with International Maritime Organization and capable of deep sea travel even when cautionary signal 5 is in place for inclement weather, according to the company's officials. Cautionary signal 4 usually calls a stop to vessel movement.
The ship previously bore the name MV Salvia Maru and ferried people between Tokyo and Tokyo Islands.