The state transport ministry on Tuesday ordered an inspection of ferries used to carry passengers from the Gateway of India in Colaba to Alibaug and Elephanta Caves.
Ministry officials said they had received complaints of ferries breaking down mid-sea owing to poor maintenance and safety checks by the government.
Last week, 125 tourists were stranded mid-sea for more than two hours after the ferry carrying them broke down on its way from the Elephanta Caves to Gateway.
Ministry sources said according to the last safety audit, only 54 out of the 84-odd Gateway ferries were sea-worthy.
The ministry has asked the Mumbai Maritime Board (MMB) to submit a report on whether ferries plying from the Gateway are safe for passengers.
“We have asked them (the MMB) to submit a report within 15 days,” said SK Sharma, state transport secretary. “There is an extensive list of requirements that ferry owners have to meet. Offenders will face action.”
The safety checks would comprise testing basic engine maintenance and finding out whether ferries carry safety equipment such as life jackets. MMB surveyors would also check if the ferries have been carrying excess passengers on board. The ministry claimed it had received complaints that during weekends, some ferry owners book passengers double the capacity of the boat.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has called for a meeting with MMB officials next week to discuss the impact of the problem on tourism. “We had warned about the bad state of ferries earlier too, but very little has been done to improve the situation. We will take up the matter again next week,” said Avinash Dhakne, managing director, MTDC.