A double-decker yacht docked at Chennai Port since last month has been the envy of fishermen, sailors and onlookers even though two more luxury boats are berthed alongside.
The first one outscores the others in terms of features, size and cost. The yacht is owned by BCCI president N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, who was recently arrested on IPL betting charges.
On Monday, a seven-member team from the Mumbai Crime Branch inspected the double-decker, ‘Riviera 53 Enclosed Flybridge’. A top Chennai Port official said: “We issued them entry passes. They left the place after inspecting the yacht and were not willing to divulge any details as they are probing the case from different angles.”
The vessel cost about Rs. 5 crore and Mr. Meiyappan paid Rs. 3 crore as customs duty. The Customs department delayed the release of the cruiser by a couple of days as the base duty was hiked from 10 to 25 per cent in the last Union budget.
According to sources, the yacht was imported from Riviera’s Gold Coast factory in Australia only last month, though Mr. Meiyappan had bought it last year. Shipped from Gold Coast to Hong Kong, it was lying there for over four months owing to non-availability of a ship to take it to Chennai. A Chennai Port official told The Hindu that the cruiser, described as a growing breed of yacht with “fishability” as one of its features, was allowed to berth at an exclusive spot on a request from the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association, of which Mr. Meiyappan is an institutional member. It has been used only sparingly.
“We can easily say Riviera 53 Flybridge is the only yacht present on the southern coast. Such yachts can be seen in Mumbai or Kochi. At present, there are 25 luxury boat owners in India, most of them businessmen,” said an association member.
Riviera, in its recent newsletter, announced the yacht’s arrival in Chennai and said the owner spent a week on board for a shakedown to educate and familiarise himself with all on-board systems, before it was shipped to India.
It is not the first Riviera to reach the Indian shores but it is first in terms of size and the first game fishing boat to be berthed in Chennai. The first trip offshore was a fishing expedition 15 nautical miles off the coast, said the newsletter.