Safety of ferry passengers at sea

MTDC officials claim that the Maharashtra Maritime Board is not doing enough to maintain and repair the boats docked near the Gateway of India, which offer rides on the Arabian Sea to commuters

Tourists and travel-junkies, who wish to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Arabian Sea, are all on the same boat: these boats are rocky, poorly maintained, and difficult to mount. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) had raised concerns about the dilapidated condition of the vessels and the lack of basic rescue gear. But according to officials, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

Don't rock the boat: The ferries used at Gateway of India are poorly
maintained, overloaded, and lack necessary safety gear. File pic

If the MTDC officials are to be believed, their representatives had informed the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) about the decrepit condition of boats being used to transport people from Gateway of India to various destinations. They had also requested the MMB to rectify the boats to avert any untoward incident. They now claim that no constructive action was taken to address their concerns.

On Thursday, 125 tourists, including women and children, were stranded off Elephanta Island for nearly two hours. Their boat broke down mid-sea due to a technical snag. Soon, the boat was lashed about alarmingly by the high tide. Some passengers managed to call the police control room, which dispatched a rescue boat.
A senior official from tourism department revealed that MMB had promised to scrap boats over 25 years old, but had not delivered on their promises.

"We are not the right authority to take any action to improve the condition of the boats. It is the MMB that has to do the needful. We had voiced our concern about the condition of the boats, and the issue was even raised at the ministry level. But we have no information on the remedial measures taken, if any, by the MMB," said Avinash Dhakne, managing director of MTDC.

Despite repeated attempts, Shyamsunder Shinde, CEO, MMB was unavailable for comment.

Manoj Jagtap, who commutes frequently on the ferries, was of the opinion that all the jetties and boats lined up by the Gateway of India are in dire need of an immediate makeover. "Thursday's incident is an example of the dangers faced by passengers. I fear that worse may happen in the future. The authorities must take preventive action and impose stringent safety norms on boat owners, before it's too late. Boat owners should not be allowed to overload their vessels with passengers," said Jagtap.

Rocky rides
>> July 11, 2010: About 19 passengers went missing, when a boat capsized on the Seven Bungalows - Juhu creek. Out of 30 passengers, only 11 managed to swim ashore.

>>May 28, 2010: Four people drowned when a boat carrying 13 people capsized in the Konkan. The boat was carrying 8 tourists, who had gone to watch dolphins.

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