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All crowded on the waterfront

india Updated: Feb 01, 2008 01:26 IST
Anik Basu
Anik Basu
Hindustan Times
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There’s a parking problem looming — on India’s seafront. In yet another sign of the rich getting richer, an increasing number of people are buying pleasure boats, and according to a yachting association official, they’ve spent Rs 400 crore since Mumbai hosted India’s first international boat exhibition last year.

The second boat exhibition will be held from 28 February to 2 March, and a slew of new boats are expected to hit the Indian waters.

<b1>If the trend continues, it is likely there won’t be adequate space to berth the new acquisitions at the docks of Mumbai, or even, Goa, Kochi or Chennai. The quayside off Gateway of India is already clogged with boats of all sizes, and people frequently jump from one vessel to another to reach their own.

Prior to the boat show, there were around 20-30 pleasure boats here; post-event, there are more than 100. “It’s the typical Indian mentality…first they buy Porsches, then they think of roads,” says Malav Shroff, publisher of India’s first trade magazine India Boating and chief executive of Mumbai-based Ocean Blue Marinas and Boat Haven Pvt Ltd, which organises the boat show.

There are around 25 dealers engaged in the pleasure-boat and water-sport trade, and firms such as Aquasail Distribution have begun gearing up for the boat show. “We’ll look at what what projects we can handle,” says Aquasail founder-director Shakeel Kudrolli, who sold four yachts, priced between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore, and 50 dinghies at the inaugural boat show last year. He expects a repeat this year.

Yachting Association secretary-general Ajay Narang says the Volvo Ocean Race adding India to its route for its next edition in 2009 is bound to pique further interest. The race is the premier round-the-globe yachting event held every three years. “Pleasure sailing is on a growth path,” he says.

Shroff senses a huge business opportunity in the anticipated shortage in docking facilities, and others agree. Kudrolli, for instance, has added building marinas to his portfolio. To them, Goa, Chennai and Kochi provide the maximum opportunity.

Mumbai doesn’t have “good water quality,” he says. The sea is choppy and the tide strong, and dredging can be expensive. Owners of yachts and smaller boats can dock their vessels in Goa, and plan their vacations around sailing.

Feroze Contractor, MD of the Mumbai-based Ava Marine Services that maintains 35 yachts for clients, says there’s no space at the Gateway’s yacht area for new vessels. “All of a sudden, all these boats are being imported, we have run out of space,” says Contractor, who owns three boats himself.

A proper marina will save space and make docking easier. He lists other advantages: owners will not have to invest in dinghies to reach their yachts moored in deeper waters, supplies of fuel and water for cleaning boats will be easier, and spillage of oil — now carried in jerry cans — will be history.

Aquasail has completed a feasibility study for six marina projects. The company, which has targeted Kochi, Chennai and Goa, is awaiting official permission to build its first marina by the year-end at any of the three centres. Ocean Blue Marinas, which has set up a modern marina for the Mumbai boat show, has 15 projects in Goa, Kochi, Chennai and along the coasts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It’s in the process of building one in Goa, where Shroff says permission is the easiest to acquire.

Shroff is also looking at new business avenues through marinas; taking a cue from gated communities coming up around golf courses, he has signed a deal with a developer to build a marina in a real estate project in Goa. He says marinas will mushroom all along India’s shoreline, stretching 7,000 km, provided the government relaxes rules on marine environment protection. “Permissions are the most difficult to get.”

What will probably help is the world attention India is likely to attract during the Volvo Ocean Race. Kochi has been added as a stopover, and the Kerala government will build a “racing village”, with accommodation for sailors, officials and more than 700 back-up staff, a food court, theatre and a guesthouse for an estimated 20,000 tourists.

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