All Yacht and No Play

first_imgA marina, a wharf to park boats and yachts in an orderly fashion, is a symbol of economic prosperity. The world’s top seaside cities have one, as a place to display the wealth of their rich and to make water sports easily accessible. Mumbai-projected to be a global financial hub-will not get its marina anytime soon, thanks to forces working at cross purposes.The Port Trust of India, a central government body, owns the land and water around the Mumbai port, while the 164-year-old Royal Bombay Yacht Club (RBYC) currently holds the key to allow individuals to park their million dollar toys across the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba. The Maharashtra Government needs to issue permits to build one at sea and the navy, which has its western naval command in Mumbai, will have put its stamp of approval. “No one is now talking of building a marina as it looks impossible to get the project going,” says Simon Arrol, chief operating officer, Marina India. Honchos such as Adi Godrej, Gautam Singhania and Anand Mahindra are among the 143 owners of private yachts registered in Mumbai as of December 2010.The biggest stumbling block is the Port Trust. The Trust is the biggest land owner in the city. In cities such as London, Singapore and Sydney, the old harbours have tried to monetise their real estate to generate other income streams on the back of increased restrictions for cargo movement. In Mumbai, however, the Port Trust is adding a new container terminal despite the fact that another government-owned port, Jawarharlal Nehru Port Trust, is more suited to take on increased volumes.advertisementVijay Mallyas The Indian EmpressApart from a wharf, a marina usually has accompanying real estate to house restaurants and shops. It is this business that makes it economically viable for a developer to build a marina, which can cost upto Rs 150 crore. In 2008, the Trust had called for expressions of interest to build a marina but it gave a piece of the harbour where the depth was just a metre, too shallow for keeled boats to anchor.The Mumbai Docklands Regeneration Forum, a group of citizens which is working to make the vast docklands more productive, wanted the Trust to convert the old Prince’s and Victoria Docks into a marina. But the trust wanted the two docks buried to build a parking lot. The Trust was close to finalising another proposal to build a marina and cruise terminal close to Radio Club, 150 metres from the Taj hotel. But the navy objected, saying it would come in the flight path of its helicopters from ins Shikra, the navy’s first helicopter base.On the other hand, it is the RBYC which has the permission to allow its members to park their boats in the water. Sensing an opportunity to find more funds to maintain its ageing, iconic building, it has been enrolling rich yacht buyers as members. A senior member of the navy-controlled Yachting Association of India (YAI) says that this vested interest may also be the reason why RBYC is against a privately owned marina in the harbour, which has so far been under its control. Already, yachting associations across the country want the YAI to be nodal body to regulate the sport. Right now, it is done by the Port Trust which applies the same set of rules of other sea going vessels to register a yacht. So, a dredger and a yacht of a certain length will have the same manning and safety requirements. Further, the land for the club premises has been leased from the Trust, which has threatened in the past not to renew it. “They are constantly afraid that even one wrong move could cost them their lease,” says a member requesting anonymity.Ironically, for members of the RBYC club, a marina will also mean a boom in the business. Shakeel Kudroli, the first Indian to win a medal at an international sailing event and a member of the club, says, “A marina would mean more parking place for boats and better prospects for sales.”According to a senior Port Trust official, there are now talks to allow a marina in the western waterfront, opposite the Oberoi Hotel. But the western side is the open ocean. Companies planning to put a marina here will have to construct a breakwater in the sea to stop waves from constantly shaking the boats, which is an expensive affair. For now, big names such as Singhania and Godrej have stayed away from making direct demands for a marina. A senior member of the Docklands Forum had once approached Union Minister Murli Deora to enlist his support. But Deora reportedly declined, saying that associating with an expensive past-time of industrialists will not go down well with his constituency.advertisementlast_img

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