Amphibious patrol boats bought after 26/11 Mumbai attack to be scrapped

The boats, which were acquired for Rs 1.6 crore in 2009, have been lying unused for several years after they developed snags

Interestingly, the state had planned to buy 18 more Sealegs, but were put off by the malfunction. File pic
Interestingly, the state had planned to buy 18 more Sealegs, but were put off by the malfunction. File pic

Eight years after 26/11, authorities haven’t learnt how to run a tight ship. One of the state’s key moves after the attack was to invest in foreign-made advanced amphibious Sealegs boats. But now, thanks to the government’s incompetence, the only place the boats are going are to the scrap yard.

The boats began to malfunction soon after they were commissioned in 2009 but the authorities did not get them repaired. File pic
The boats began to malfunction soon after they were commissioned in 2009 but the authorities did not get them repaired. File pic

This will be the first time since the 26/11 attacks that the state is not announcing a new defence scheme, but is instead scrapping a security measure which was once considered crucial to preventing a similar attack.

Eight years ago, after realising that the 26/11 attackers had sneaked into the city from the sea, the state went the extra mile to plug all holes in coastal security. A crucial part of this exercise was to procure the Sealegs Amphibious Marine Crafts — touted as the most sophisticated patrolling boats that would run on both land and sea and block any infiltration. In 2009, the state bought four of these boats at the cost of R1.6 crore, with the intention of buying another 18 to build an entire fleet of amphibious patrol boats.

Broken system
But soon after they were pressed into service in November 2009, the four boats began to malfunction one after another. What’s surprising is that even though the equipment was under warranty till the end of 2010, the authorities did not bother with repairs. Mumbai Police had not even procured spare parts or tyres for the seacraft at the time of procurement, which meant only the New Zealand manufacturer could repair the vessels.

But the officials had not bothered to renew the annual maintenance contract either, so the boats began to gather dust. In 2011, the police proposed to send a team to New Zealand so they could be trained in repairwork, but the idea was rejected.

‘Repair or scrap’
After contemplating all possibilities to make the boats functional again, Mumbai Police finally wrote to the state government, asking them to either get the manufacturer to do the maintenance work or scrap the vessels permanently.

An IPS officer confirmed to mid-day that around a week ago, the home department finally gave the green signal to scrap the Sealegs. The officer added that these boats were little more than scrap anyway, as they had been lying damaged and unused for years, and the state failed to come up with any plan to make them useful again. Repeated attempts to contact to the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) KP Bakshi did not yield any result.

Advanced features
>> Runs on land and sea
>> Equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) 
>> Built to operate in hot and humid conditions
>> Aluminium hull for heavy duty handling
>> ‘XRT’ extended run time feature allows for longer operational capability 
>> Can operate at speeds of over 40 knots per hour on water and over 10 kmph on land
>> Can carry four armed personnel
>> They were to be stationed at Girgaum, Dadar, Juhu and Versova

What now?
The Mumbai police is currently left with 12 speed boats (which were also procured after 26/11) and 6 old fibre boats. There is no word on whether the state will get more vehicles to man the 40-km Mumbai coastline and senior Mumbai Police officer remained tight-lipped on the matter.

Rs 1.6 cr
Cost of the four boats the state bought in 2009

18
Additional Sealegs the state had planned to buy

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