In the aftermath of the 2008 terror attacks, the Mumbai Police significantly bolstered its coastal security fleet, purchasing 46 boats to patrol the city's 114-km coastline.
However, a majority, 38, of these boats are now defunct, raising concerns about the city's maritime security preparedness, The Indian Express reported.
The 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which resulted in 160 deaths and over 300 injuries, were a wake-up call for Mumbai's coastal security.
The Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists from Pakistan, who were responsible for the deadly terror attack in Mumbai, had exploited the city's vulnerable coastline, arriving by sea.
At the time, Mumbai Police had only four fiberglass boats for patrolling.
Responding to the glaring inadequacies, the state government approved the purchase of high-speed boats.
The High-Level Enquiry Committee (HLEC), also known as the Pradhan Inquiry Commission, which was formed to investigate the security forces’ response to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, had also flagged this shortage and need.
Over the next three years after the attacks, the department procured 46 boats, including 23 speed boats, 19 amphibious boats, and four advanced amphibious "Sealeg" boats.
According to the sources cited in the IE report, the speed boats were bought to carry out patrolling in the sea round the clock but these boats could not reach the shore.
The amphibious boats, on the other hand, could operate both on land - near the coast - and water. These were obtained with the purpose that the police’s movements were not restricted and that these boats could help them monitor and track suspects on sea as well as in the area hugging the land.
However, less than 15 years later, only eight of the speed boats remain operational.
All 19 amphibious boats and the four Sealegs are now non-functional.
A senior police officer was quoted in the IE report as saying, "The amphibious boats and four Sealegs were procured from a company in New Zealand and we were to send our personnel there to get know how and training in repairing these boats. However, things did not work out and the boats started developing snags due to which a majority of them are no longer operational".
Further, there were serious question marks over the efficacy of the 23 speed boats. In fact, officials said, the engines of 13 speed boats were allegedly replaced with old and weak engines during maintenance work by some contractors.
This led to an FIR being registered in 2022, and the case was handed over to the Economic Offence Wing of the Mumbai police.
With only eight functional boats, the Motor Vehicle department of the Mumbai Police has proposed acquiring 22 more boats. This includes 12 for coastal patrolling, eight interceptors, and two hovercrafts.
Additionally, there is a plan to modernise 13 of the existing speed boats, enhancing their engines and navigation systems, with each upgrade costing around 73 lakh.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Nimba Patil from the Motor Vehicle department emphasized the importance of these upgrades.
The department has already trialed modernisation on one boat, 'Mumbai-2', and submitted its 100-hour report to the government for review.
Moreover, the department has also submitted a proposal of Rs 34-crore for constructing a jetty, repair yard, and administrative building, highlighting the need for adequate infrastructure to support their operations and maintenance activities.
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