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Mumbai boat accident: Capsized boat did not have permission to sail, filled over capacity

Initial investigations into the boat accident off Mumbai’s coast on Wednesday that killed one person have revealed the boat did not have the necessary permissions to set sail and was over capacity.

mumbai Updated: Oct 26, 2018 12:26 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Mumbai boat accident,Shivaji statue
Rescuers tow the capsized boat on soon after the accident.(PTI)

Initial investigations into the boat accident off Mumbai’s coast on Wednesday that killed one person have revealed the boat did not have the necessary permissions to set sail and was over capacity. Also, the skipper of the boat took a wrong, rockier route, causing the accident.

The private speed boat was one of four carrying mainly political workers and government officials to the spot of the mid-sea memorial of the Maratha king, Shivaji, for a bhoomi puja function. However, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), which issues permissions to operate ferries, yachts, and other vessels from the Gateway of India, said it had not given any permission for the boat that capsized to sail.

A senior MbPT official said the vessel, ‘MRM1’, registered to a West Coast Marine Yacht Services India, did not have permission to operate. MbPT, which is also conducting a probe, said it would send a showcause notice to the Public Works Department (PWD), the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and the private yacht operator over the lapse in procedure.

“According to our preliminary investigation, we know that there were two private ferries and one boat owned by MMB that sailed. However, the boat that capsized didn’t have our permission to sail,” said a senior MbPT official. The official said the boat also did not have the vessel traffic system (VPS), which helps locate it in the seas.

Senior PWD officials maintained that all processes were followed by their department, as well as the Vinayak Mete-headed Shiv Smarak Samiti that had co-organised the event with the PWD.

However, the private boat was arranged at the last moment, as activists and supporters of Mete’s outfit arrived in large numbers. “We had initially organised two ferries and a boat, and all of these which had the requisite permissions. However, it seems that as there were more people, another boat was arranged locally,” said Manoj Saunik, the principal secretary, PWD.

After the accident, the state government ordered a probe by the MMB, which is authorised to issue fitness certificates to inland vessels, and had given the capsized boat a fitness certificate in February 2018.

“We are looking at all angles: whether the boat had the necessary permissions, if the skipper had the required training, and why he took the route he did,”said Vikram Kumar, the chief executive officer, MMB. Kumar added that the boat’s capacity was 20 passengers.

The boat, however, had at least 25 people on board.

Another senior MbPT official said the skipper should not have taken the route near the Prongs Reef, which is generally rocky. “There is a demarcated channel for all vessels to follow in the water. Nobody can take any route they desire,” the officer said.

Despite several attempts, officials from West Coast Marines were unavailable for comment. An email sent to the company also remained unanswered at the time of going to print.

The Maharashtra government is building the ₹2,846 crore memorial of Shivaji in the Arabian sea, off Mumbai’s coast. The construction of the Shiv Smarak, or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial, which is pegged to be world’s tallest statute, was to formally commence on Wednesday.

The memorial project will include a 210-metre high grand statue of Shivaji, to be built by contractor L&T. Apart from the statue, the memorial will have a temple, museum, hospital, and a theatre showcasing highlights of the Maratha king’s life.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 00:25 IST