The Ro-Ro service will sail between Ferry Wharf in Mumbai and Mandwa in Alibaug. (Express photo)
In the shadow of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scare, Maharashtra’s first Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) service set sail between Ferry Wharf (Bhaucha Dhakka) in Mumbai and Mandwa in Alibaug on Sunday. In all of its four services, two from each side, the M2M Ro-Ro managed to get a ridership of 240 passengers and 30 cars. As it was the inaugural run, fares were same across all categories at Rs 300 for passengers and Rs 800 for cars.
Late into Saturday, there was uncertainty over whether the Ro-Ro services will begin from Sunday or be suspended due the impact of COVID-19. The government had decided to cancel public functions or gatherings as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus. While Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s presence at the inaugural run was cancelled, it was decided to begin the services as planned so as to avoid any inconvenience to commuters.
Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya, who was present at the inaugural run, said, “With increasing congestion on roads and overburdened railways in Mumbai, we are taking various initiatives to boost water transport in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Besides congestion, the Ro-Ro services will help reduce pollution.”
Mandaviya also said the government was looking to introduce hovercraft in order to connect MMR via water transport network soon, adding that talks were on with Russia but the process was facing a delay owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mandaviya further said 12 routes connecting Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan, Thane and Mira Road will have a water transport network by 2021.
On Sunday, around 12.10 pm, the giant red Ro-Ro set sail from Ferry Wharf and reached its destination, Mandwa in Alibaug, in 55 minutes. M2M Ferries Private Limited (MFLP) along with Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) will run the services.
According to information provided by M2M, “Currently, we are starting with two services to and from Mandwa for a month. There will be two services from Mumbai — at 6 am and 6 pm and from Mandwa at 7.45 am and 7.45 pm every day ? and the frequency is likely to increase eventually. To give better facilities to commuters, MFLP is also planning to start bus services in Fort to pick up and drop commuters from key locations such as Churchgate, CSMT and Dockyard.
The ferry can carry 145 vehicles and 500 passengers. The passenger fare for the outdoor deck is Rs 225, indoor AC seating for Rs 335 and luxury class for Rs 555. Cycles will be charged Rs 50, motorcycles Rs 200 and cars as per size at Rs 800, Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,600.
“The distance between Mumbai-Mandwa is nearly 19 km by sea, while by road it is 110 km, which takes 3.5 hours to cover. The service will bring down the travel time to 55 minutes. This will surely save time and fuel cost,” said Sanjay Bhatiya, chairman, MbPT.
Rajesh Ghate, an artist who stays in Thane, went on a vacation with four-year-old daughter Aradhya and wife Priya and were the first to board the Ro-Ro from Mandwa. Sharing his experience, Ghate said, “When we came by road, it took us nearly four hours. When we reached Mandwa, we saw the hoardings of Ro-Ro services starting from Sunday and decided to try it out. We had a really good experience and it saved us time as well as money.”