In 1983, an expert group constituted by the state government recommended a mass water transport system for Mumbai. Twenty-nine years and several false starts later, the project received a much-needed boost on Thursday when the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) awarded contracts for building terminal facilities at nine locations in the city.
“The [MSRDC] board has granted an approval to award contracts to various agencies for building terminal facilities on the East and West Coast passenger water transport system,” said Jaydutt Kshirsagar, PWD minister in charge of MSRDC.
The MSRDC had floated tenders to build infrastructure for three key water transport projects. The East Coast project aims to link Ferry Wharf in south Mumbai to Nerul through sea, with the help of catamarans and hovercraft. The West Coast project will connect Nariman Point to Borivli, with several halts along the way. The MSRDC had also proposed a roll-on, roll-off service comprising large ferries to transport passengers and heavy vehicles across from the island city to Mandwa on the mainland.
The MSRDC is hoping the infrastructure should be ready in 18 months. However, the projects still need the requisite environment clearances which it hopes to secure over the next few months. The MSRDC will now select interested parties who would be willing to run hovercraft and catamaran services.
The agency has tried starting the projects on a public-private partnership basis for several years. However, it met with little success. In 1994, hovercraft services from Vashi to the Gateway of India were launched, only to be suspended by operators in 1998, citing lack of jetties and other infrastructure.
The past decade saw several unsuccessful rounds of bidding. In an attempt to revive the project, the MSRDC called for fresh tenders last year. This time, the state government decided to fund the infrastructure component, while the contractor would procure the vessels.