NEW DELHI: You could soon be boarding a seaplane from the Yamuna riverfront to Ayodhya or from Mumbai to Shirdi for a pilgrimage, if the government has its way. The shipping and waterways ministry has issued an expression of interest (EoI) for the Sagarmala Seaplane Service (SSPS) for having this service to connect several places like — Delhi’s Yamuna riverfront and Ayodhya, Tehri, Srinagar (Uttarakhand) and Chandigarh; Mumbai to Shirdi, Lonavala and Ganpatipule; Surat to Dwarka, Mandvi and Kandla; and within the archipelagos of Andaman and Nicobar and Laskhadweep.
The ministry has sought response to the ambitious project from interested operators by January 22, 2021, for forming a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL) to undertake joint development and operation of SSPS. It says the EOI’s purpose is to “gauge the interest of the various companies in this project.”
“The SPV will be involved in development and operation of requisite landside and waterside infrastructure (such as floating jetties, seaplane parking space and facility for maintenance of seaplanes, waiting room, security, safety equipment) and procurement / lease and operation of seaplanes. SPV will operate the sea plane from waterdrome on both ends. This is to avoid the high cost of terminal building and runway,” the EOI says.
The routes may be operated under the government’s subsidised ude desh ka aam nagrik (UDAN) scheme. The ministry plans to use a hub and spoke model for this project. To begin with, the routes that could be operationalised if the project takes off successfully are:
* From Delhi hub to Tehri; to Srinagar in Uttarakhand and from there further on to Badrinath and/or Kedarnath; to Chandigarh and from there to Dalhousie and other places in Punjab and Himachal.
* From Mumbai hub to Shirdi, Ganpatipule, Lonavala and other places of tourist interest.
* From Surat hub to Dwarka, Mandvi and Kandla.
At the moment, there is only one seaplane service operational in India — between Ahmedabad Sabarmati riverfront and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia — that as inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, 2020, the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel. SpiceJet’s subsidiary, Spice Shuttle, uses a 15-seater Twin Otter 300 aircraft that has been wet-leased from Maldivian Aero, Maldives’ national airline. SpiceJet has won 18 seaplane routes under UDAN.