You might own a yacht with its own bedroom and bar – the kind that costs more than most people’s houses – but, if you live in Mumbai, you still have to walk down the cracked steps on Apollo Bunder, braving the moss and spray, to get onto it. Hopefully, that won’t be the case for much longer. The Mumbai Port Trust has announced that it is reviving plans to build a marina large enough to house 300 yachts off the Victoria and Princess docks on the eastern coast. Bidders have been asked to submit proposals to develop a state-of-the-art marina that will aid boat owners and serve as a tourist attraction.
Similar plans have been made before without any signs of fruition. However, with shipping minister Nitin Gadkari having announced a larger plan to open up Mumbai’s 710-hectare docklands for other uses, yacht owners are bullish on the Mumbai marina finally being built. This time the port trust has even hired a company, Engineering Projects India Limited, as consultants.
If and when it does materialise, the marina will have several facilities – including parking, a reception, a fuelling facility and boat accessories and parts – for yacht owners. The developers could also use the space to build a water sports facility, a shopping arcade, a floating restaurant or an amusement park.
Principally, though, the marina will serve as a much-needed shot in the arm for the boating and yachting industry. After seeing a boom in the early 2000s, the industry has been on the slide since 2008. The 2008 Mumbai terror attack played a role in this, as it necessitated strict restrictions on sailing, as did rising import duties on yachts. But many yacht retailers cite the lack of infrastructure as the chief dissuasion for prospective buyers. “I own two boats but I have to strap my four-year-old daughter onto my back to take her to them,” says Randip Singh, the owner of Shah Wines and a yachting enthusiast. “The current dock at the Gateway of India has broken tiles. We are walking to our boats with holes under our feet. My 75-year-old father has stopped taking our speedboat to Alibaug. He drives all the way because he is too scared to walk to the boat.” Aashim Monga, founder of West Coast Marine Yacht Services, says it is a miracle we even have a yachting industry in Mumbai without any facilities for owners. “It is only because of the perseverance of enthusiasts that yachting culture has survived. A marina will not just be a boost to the industry, it is an absolute necessity.”