A week after a state coastal police speedboat got damaged when it crashed into a capsized merchant ship near the lighthouse at Colaba, the police seem to have realised the danger these sunken vessels pose to their high-end boats.
While the coastal police have neither the number nor locations of ships under water, local fishermen estimate that more than 11 vessels have sunk in the last 15 years near Colaba.
On October 31, the speedboat, Sagar Shakti, which was on patrol duty during US President Barack Obama’s visit, was returning to Ratnagiri when it hit a ship submerged more than 20 years ago. “There are many sunken ships along the entire coastline of Mumbai,” said Quaiser Khalid, deputy commissioner of police (port zone).
“Our drivers are trained and know the patrolling route well. However, the driver of the Ratnagiri boat was unaware of the route and tried to take a short cut thus ramming into the submerged ship,” he added.
Such sunken ships, especially near the lighthouse at Colaba, obstruct the patrolling channel of the coastal police boats and fishing trawlers. These also pose a danger to the patrolling speedboats that were bought for crores of rupees.
“Some ship parts are still visible about two nautical miles in the sea near Colaba’s Sassoon Docks,” said Damodar Tandel, president of the Akhil Maharashtra Macchimar Kriti Samiti. “In one month, at least three fishing trawlers crash into these parts of sunken ships and get damaged. When a ship sinks close to the coast, we record its name and details. But we have never compiled the data,” added Tandel.
Moreover, the Mumbai port trust too has not placed buoys to mark the locations of submerged ships near the coast.
“To avoid such accidents, we take a long turn from behind the lighthouse but it consumes more fuel. There is, however, a marked 432-m-wide channel that is followed for patrolling,” said Shivajirao Jadhav, senior police inspector. The city’s rocky coast and pollutants, such as plastic bags, too damage patrolling speedboats, and hence they devised a channel for patrolling, said Khalid.