Uber Launches Water Taxi Service in Mumbai

global cab aggregator Uber has announced a pilot launch of Uber Boat service in Mumbai, in partnership with Maharashtra Maritime Board. While the initiative will reduce road congestion, will it solve the larger problem of pollution?

The world’s largest ridesharing company Uber wants to use Indian waters to pilot its on-demand water-taxi service UberBOAT and take the learnings to other markets globally. India, starting with Mumbai, is the second market after Croatia where the shared mobility service provider has launched water-taxi services.

Ubers’ boat service, which will go live on the Uber app from February 1, will operate from three points — Gateway of India, Elephanta Islands and Mandwa Jetty (Alibaug). Riders will have two variants of Uber Boat based on seating capacity – 6-8 seater for Uber Boat and 10+ seater for Uber Boat XL.

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Commenting on the launch of Uber Boat, Prabhjeet Singh, Head of Cities, Uber India & South Asia said, “We are excited to launch Uber Boat in Mumbai, in partnership with Maharashtra Maritime Board. As pioneers in the organized on-demand transport system, Uber’s vision is to create a multi-modal platform to better serve riders and the cities we operate in. With Uber Boat, we will tap the vast potential of the city’s waterways transport system. We aim to provide efficient and easily accessible services to riders who are looking at navigating through these specific routes. With this service, boat operators will be able to gain access to Uber’s highly engaged rider base and enhance their earning opportunity.”

Steep prices

The Uber Boat riders will have to pay ₹5,700  for a six-seater boat or for a 10-seater,  pay a whopping ₹9,500.

This seems an inversion of standard Uber practice of surprisingly low rates, followed by a creeping increase with time. Existing ferries  charge ₹150 for a ride from Gateway of India to Elephanta and back, Uber hopes to bring down the rates when more routes are added in the future.

Uber has taken regulatory approvals after discussions with government bodies such as the Mumbai Port Trust and the Maharashtra Maritime Board. Asked why Uber chose Mumbai for the second global launch of the service, Prabhjeet Singh, said the metro holds huge potential to create waterways as an important mode of transport. The company, along with the Maharashtra government, will develop this infrastructure to help ease the congestion on the roads, he added.

Mr. Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman of the Bombay Port Trust, said, ”Our vision is to make Mumbai as the sea transport and tourism hub of the country in collaboration with Maharashtra Maritime Board. It is a pleasure to launch Uber Boat in Mumbai, a step to make the waterway commute more efficient and convenient. As we continue to reimagine the waterways of Mumbai through a host of ambitious projects and partnerships, we believe Uber Boat will play a pivotal role in improving connectivity and will work closely with Uber to make this pilot a success.”

A point to ponder

While the service for Mumbai’s coastal transport plan has been in limbo for decades, with a failed catamaran service and a still-born seaplane project to its name. We hope that UberBoats will be its third time lucky charm. Mumbai like many other metropolitan cities in the world suffers from terrible road traffic which has been a key contributor to pollution in the state.

While water Taxi by Uber can transform into a multi-modal transportation platform in Mumbai, it will need a lot of work on marketing.

The  steep price is a definite barrier, and the aattraction might be the relative privacy of traveling together comfortably for groups.  Plus of course, avoiding the rush of getting on or off the boats , particularly on the Elephanta route. Coupled with the Maharashtra governments plans to develop the Elephanta Islands further, this might be one way to get a more affluent class of travellers to visit the Islands. As an occassional visitor to Mumbai who has seen the amazing Elephanta caves , it is always a shock to meet so many Mumbai-based acquiantances and fiends who haven’t. Most quote the ‘arduous’ effort involved.

One can look into the ‘Star’ Ferry has launched Hong Kong’s first eco-friendly ferry service, World Star Water Tour, created for tourists and locals to explore the beauty and adventure of Hong Kong’s waters on its newly transformed water ferry.  There are ample examples of eco-ferries and Green water taxis in US, Australia and Europe.

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