Alibaug in the hinterland is a five-hour drive from the island city of Mumbai or an hour's trip by ferry service that shuts down during the monsoon due to rough seas. Ten thousand people travel between Mandwa in Raigad district and Mumbai every day, and the number triples during holidays and long weekends. Now, much to the relief of daily commuters and holiday-goers travelling to Mandwa and other parts of Alibaug, a new mode of transport - the M2M ferry service - is all set to launch in March from Ferry Wharf Mumbai to Mandwa jetty in Raigad district.
NDTV witnessed the ship's arrival at Mumbai Harbour on Friday morning. The shiny red vessel will address the shortage of transportation requirements in the sector, much like the RoPax ferries that connect Staten Island to New York's Manhattan and those in Hong Kong and Amsterdam. The RoPax ferry service is being launched here in an effort to better utilise Mumbai's waterways, making it the first metropolitan city in India to earn the distinction.
A joint initiative of the Mumbai Port Trust (MBPT) and the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), the M2M ferry service aims to improve accessibility to the Mandwa region. At present, travellers can reach Mandwa from Mumbai by undertaking a five-hour road trip that covers 111 km, or alternatively, opt for a journey by ferry, catamaran or speedboat. Of these, the ferry and speedboat journeys come to a complete halt from the months of June to October during the monsoon season, adding to commuter woes.
As RoPax operators drive their vehicles on board and sail across the Thane creek between Mumbai to Mandwa in around an hour, Alibaug and the surrounding Konkan region will see improved hinterland connectivity, tourist activities and an increase in job opportunities in Mumbai as the daily commute throughout the year becomes possible.
The brand new RoPax vessel that has sailed here all the way from Greece is called the M2M-1. It was built in September 2019, and is capable of carrying 500 passengers and up to 150 vehicles per trip between the terminals at Ferry Wharf in Mumbai and Mandwa in Raigad.
Cities like New York, Hong Kong and Amsterdam already have popular RoPax services, and Mumbai will soon join the club. "M2M ferries is committed to providing a cost-effective and convenient waterway connectivity for both walk-on passengers and vehicles between Mumbai and Mandwa to reduce the travel times from five hours by road to just one hour by sea (covering 18 km). The prices will be cost effective for commuters as well as travellers," Devika Saigal, spokesperson for M2M ferries, told NDTV.
RoPax ferries, also known as cruiseferries, are ships that combine the features of cruise ships with that of roll-on/roll-off ferries designed to carry vehicles.