A museum dedicated to Mumbai’s maritime history will soon come up inside the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) premises. The MbPT is expected to issue a tender for its development shortly.
A proposal for the museum was first presented to the MbPT by the civil society organisation Apli Mumbai in 2018.
The proposal envisaged a small museum inside a 19th century dock tower located near the Domestic Cruise Terminal and a larger and full-fledged one inside the Ghariyal Ghar.
Vice-Admiral (retd) I C Rao, the president of Apli Mumbai and also a part of the Maritime Mumbai Museum Society, said that former MbPT Chairman Sanjay Bhatia had approved the museum proposal before demitting office earlier this year.
“The port trust officials informed us that they are required to issue a tender for the project. We expect the dock tower museum to cost Rs 1.12 crore. Once the tender is issued, we will raise the funds,” said Rao.
The society proposes to display artefacts displaying Mumbai’s rich maritime heritage, the history of Mumbai harbour, contributions of colonisers Portugal and England, the development of seven islands into the present-day city and to show visitors what life was like aboard Navy and merchant ships.
“All the artefacts are presently in the possession of the Navy, the port trust, the Shipping Corporation of India and the Chharapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS),” Rao said. They included deck clocks, side lights, fire-fighting equipment, pictures, paintings and old ship lamps.
Rao said that the tower, which was built in 1890 to keep a watch on ships entering and leaving the port and used as a tide gauge, is ideally suited to serve as a small museum. “The tower, 14 m tall and 5 m in diameter, is presently not being used. It is sturdy from the outside but needs repairs inside,” he added.
An inspection by the society found that the tower’s wrought-iron staircase that leads up its two storeys and to the terrace, is in good condition.
Rao, however, said that the society hopes to set up a permanent museum at the Port Traffic Office in Carnac Bunder. The building is popularly known as Ghariyal Ghar for the large clock visible beyond the port trust’s compound wall on P D’Mello Road. A heritage structure, which is more than a century old, the port traffic office had survived the massive explosion at the nearby Victoria Dock in 1944 in which several hundred people lost their lives.
However, it is not accessible to the public. “The port traffic office is as large as the CSMVS and is ideally suited for a museum. It is a shame that Mumbai does not have its own maritime history museum,” Rao said.
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