In a new development, Mumbai will soon get water taxi connections between the Gateway of India and various destinations within the city. The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has issued tenders and is looking forward to open a few routes in the coming months.
Speaking about the plan, Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) said, “We are trying to launch water taxi service from Gateway of India to various other parts like, Kanhoji Angre Island, Karanja, JNPT, New Airport in Navi Mumbai, Nerul, Vashi, and Belapur. The plan has been prepared; we have invited tenders for people to start water taxis. If we get good water taxis which does not need much depth, these taxis can go up to Thane. Some of the water taxis will start in 3-4 months.”
Acknowledging Mumbai as one of the major cruise hubs in the country, MbPT has taken several steps to further attract cruiselines to the Indian waters and focussed on developing world-class infrastructure to develop cruise tourism.
“Around three years ago, a high level committee was setup by Govt of India, consisting of Secretary of Shipping and Tourism ministries. A Task Force was setup to prepare a roadmap to develop the cruise sector in the country. The committee through IPA engaged a consultant called Bermello Ajamil & Partners. They gave a roadmap which mentioned that we need to upgrade infrastructure. Mumbai will be the centre to all the cruise development. Ports namely Kochi, New Mangalore, Goa and Chennai joined Mumbai and we took a number of decisions such as infrastructure upgradation. We need to take a lot of measures to change behaviour of our regulatory department. New SOPs has been developed for immigration, customs, ports, health department, so that there is ease of business. It was also mentioned that the port cost was very high, so we decided to subsidise the cost. Mumbai almost decreased the costs to half and some ports decreased it one third.”
The cruising industry had earlier also raised issues of high taxation by Indian ports. MbPT has reduced its taxes along with various other subsidies. In 2019-20, Mumbai port is set to welcome 206 ship callings, which has been a significant growth.
Speaking about the new terminal and ship callings Bhatia said, “Mumbai ports removed ousting charges and berth reservation. We upgraded our existing cruise terminal and now we are going for a huge cruise terminal building which will get completed by June. We have also come out with a tender on PPP for operator of the terminal on lines of the airports. We also are doing some action of dredging side to attract more cruises. We have interacted with Costa Cruise who have started home porting and has been successful. We also took steps to reduce other taxes. Even Jalesh started home porting, this year NCL is set to homeport. In 2017-18, we got around 44 ships calling in Mumbai and in 2018-19, we got around 106 ships. In 2019-20, around 206 have been lined up, which is a quantum jump in terms of callings.”
Also Mumbai Port is soon set to develop a new Marina for Yachts. An Italian consulting firm has been appointed for developing the Marina. “A new Marina is set to come, we have engaged an Italian consulting company for the Marina model. In next two months we will be introducing a tender under PPP for the Marina and to handle 300 yachts under the Marina,” Bhatia added.