The absence of dredging work in specific areas along the Belapur and Gateway of India route has hindered the movement of large passenger–carrying vessels. The NAYAN XI, the largest water taxi which has a 140-passenger capacity was launched in Mumbai in February this year, had to cease operations due to damage to boat caused by underwater rocks near Gateway of India. Other issues it battled include trouble from conventional ferry boat service operators, who feared loss of business due to the big vessel entering the water transport sector, said an insider who operated this new vessel.
A source with experience operating the NAYAN XI vessel in Mumbai said that currently there is no well-defined channel for navigating between Belapur and Gateway of India. The presence of rocks poses a constant hazard, making navigation precarious. Another significant challenge is the presence of oil and gas pipelines at MTHL bridge, necessitating their relocation. Operators cannot afford to wait for the high tide for their next trip.
A regular ship typically requires a depth of 3 meters for smooth sailing, but larger vessels require more than 10 per cent additional depth while squatting. Unfortunately, water above the pipelines is only 1.3 metres, which is insufficient. Consequently, vessels have to time their journeys with high tides, which occur every 12 hours. This renders water taxis on this route uneconomical with the current issues.
An official from Mumbai Maritime Board (MMB) confirmed that a proposal for dredging work has been submitted to the environmental department at Mantralaya. Additionally, discussions are ongoing with the companies to relocate oil pipelines. Until these conditions are fulfilled, larger vessels cannot safely navigate to and from the Gateway of India without being constantly mindful of tide conditions. As a result of these constraints, the operation of water taxis, initially introduced as a modern form of public transport in Mumbai, has been stalled.
The operator of the largest water taxi, NAYANTARA XI, had attempted to provide services from Ferry Wharf Domestic Cruise Terminal to Belapur. Although permissions were obtained from Mumbai Port Authority and MMB for this route, the presence of rocks along the route forced the operator to suspend these services.