Bad boats and fewer tourists have tourism dept worried | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Bad boats and fewer tourists have tourism dept worried

Rusted vessels, old engines and inexperienced manpower are discouraging an increasing number of people from visiting the Elephanta Caves.

mumbai Updated: Nov 03, 2011 01:00 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Rusted vessels, old engines and inexperienced manpower are discouraging an increasing number of people from visiting the Elephanta Caves.

People normally take the ferry boats from the Gateway of India to go to the heritage site and to reach the Mandwa jetty (for Alibaug). While Alibaug can also be accessed by road - the route is much longer - the only access to the Elephanta island is by sea.

The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has called a meeting with the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), under whose jurisdiction the ferry service falls, as the issue is affecting tourism. "We cannot discourage tourists from visiting these places. But we warn people to be careful when they board these boats," said Avinash Dhakne, joint managing director, MTDC.

The trouble, say MMB officials, is that the vessels plying on these routes are checked only once a year.

Data with the state transport ministry shows that only 54 of the 84 launches fully met the safety requirements during the last audit earlier this year. "The ferry owners are supposed to stick to the requirements after the annual inspection, and we have taken action against offenders," said Santosh Shinde, chief surveyor, MMB.

"The issuance of licences is done as per the requirements prescribed by the Indian Vessels Act, which requires ferries to have several life-saving equipment on board. We make sure these are there while certification," said MMB CEO Shyamsunder Shinde.

Apart from engine breakdowns, a common offence that MMB officials cite is inexperienced people manning the boats. "Sometimes when a certified driver calls in sick, ferry owners replace them with the junior staff. That could lead to manual error and mid-sea shutdowns," said Captain JB Rohila, chief port officer, MMB.

Shinde said the MMB wants every ferry to have life jackets for each and every passenger, but ferry owners are opposing this plan as it's expensive investment. As owners can't afford life jackets, the MMB had made square-shaped rafts, better known as buoyant apprentice, compulsory on these boats. These rafts can accommodate up to 20 passengers in case of an emergency.