Captain Rohit Sinha, Director of Nayantara Shipping Pvt Ltd and owner of ‘NAYAN XI’ — a water taxi, speaks with Sweety Adimulam about the water taxi service between Gateway of India and Belapur, Navi Mumbai, which is likely to start later this month. Sinha speaks about how this new route will facilitate an air-conditioned, comfortable travelling experience along with affordable fares and less time compared to other modes of travel.
With the new Belapur to Gateway of India water taxi service, what are your expectations?
We hope to start the service by the middle of next week. The service will be available only on weekdays because we are looking to cater to the office goers in the Fort area. We will continue our existing service between the Domestic Cruise Terminal (from Bhaucha Dhakka) to Mandwa on weekends. We are trying to build up on that (DCT to Mandwa) though the numbers are not good right now, except on weekends when people are travelling to Alibaug.
On the new route, Belapur does not have last-mile connectivity problems and there are five premium nodes — Kharghar, Seawood, Ulwe, and Nerul – that we are looking to cater to. Commuters looking to travel to South Mumbai will reach Gateway of India from Belapur within an hour. While if one goes from Belapur to Fort in a private cab, it costs around Rs 600 to Rs 800 and can take nearly two hours due to the traffic conditions. There are no air-conditioned trains on the Harbour Line route. Our vessel is state-of-the-art and fully air-conditioned, and the ticket costs only Rs 300. One can travel in just one hour saving time while having a comfortable journey.
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You were the first one, who started the water taxi service from DCT to Mandwa in October. Operators said that the footfall is low on this route.
The footfall is indeed minimal at the DCT as they are used to going to the Gateway of India to travel to Mandwa, Alibaug. All the operators work from Gateway of India. This has been going on for so many years. Now, we are starting a new route that nobody has done in the past. I believe some 20 years ago they had a hovercraft, but it did not work because the capacity was very low only for 20 passengers or so.
For the new route, we purchased a vessel, which is built in Goa, is equipped with the latest technology and complies with all the statutory international requirements, including safety.
The basic objective was to start Navi Mumbai to South Mumbai water taxi service. We have permission from the Mumbai Port Authority and are waiting for the letter to be delivered to start the service. Meanwhile, we started the DCT to Mandwa service which is continuing.
Any plans to have a monthly pass facility since it will cater to office goers?
We will give a 20 per cent discount on the regular fares for those purchasing monthly passes. However, the pass will be valid only on weekdays comprising 21-22 days and will not be for the entire 30/31 days. Since office goers will not be going on weekends and even, we are not going to operate on weekends. During weekends, we will be operating on DCT to Mandwa route catering largely to tourists. Our service can be booked online.
How do you plan to manage the operation cost, which is believed to be expensive?
Our affordability will come with a higher number of footfalls and secondly because of the size of the ship which can travel at speeds of 20-25kmph. It also has a much higher seating capacity of 200 seats hence the fare will be Rs 300.
Being an operator and owner of a vessel, what type of incentives are you looking for?
We have not demanded any incentives, but we hope for some subsidy on the tickets. The subsidy will be not for us, but the benefit will be passed on to the passengers by reducing ticket cost to say Rs 100, while the remaining Rs 200 will be given by the government to make up for our operational cost.
Water transport service is yet to find acceptance among the masses. Issues like last-mile connectivity, pricing, footfall and subsidies are among some of the things that the state government can work on. For instance, the one-way operational cost on our existing route DCT to Mandwa is Rs 30,000, including fuel cost, manpower and maintenance charges.