Published: Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The first Thailand Yachting Forum was held during the Thailand Yacht Show Dec 15-18 at the White House, Phuket Boat Lagoon.

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(Photos: Phuket Best Group / TYS - Chairman opening remarks by Rico Stapel)

Representatives of several Thai government departments provided updates on the realignment of yachting regulations, highlighting on the licensing of superyacht charter and crew immigration issues. A summary of the status quo in the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the marina infrastructure was also presented.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Product Promotions Department Executive Director Nithee Seeprae opened proceedings with a welcome and an assurance that government stakeholders in the drive to further strengthen the position of Thailand as ‘the yachting hub of Asean’ are all pointing to the same direction.

Minister’s Tourism Working Group TAT Representative and Chairperson Juthaporn Rerngronasa stressed on the importance of the 32.5 million visitors arriving in Thailand during 2016, contributing an estimated USD167 million into the national economy over the course of the year. 

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Thailand’s Ministry of Transport Marine Department Deputy Director-General Jiraporn Jantasiri presented some trenchant facts and figures concerning ongoing government initiatives: the rationalisation and streamlining of regulations covering the operation of foreign-flagged vessels chartering in Thai waters; the promotion and development of marinas and marina activity; and the classification of vessels into ‘Private’ and ‘Commercial/Chartering’ categories. 

It is believed that the delegates received important information from the presentations of the governmental regulations. K Jiraporn indicates that feasibility studies are still “in progress”.

Vincent Tabuteau presented the summary of Yachting in the Andaman Sea, which is highly accessible and its infrastructure is well-established. Phuket and the east coast of Thailand offer cruising opportunities ranging from day trips and 30ft bareboat holidays right up to adventurous three-week superyacht expeditions to the Mergui Archipelago or the Andaman Islands. “Thailand and the Andaman desperately need more promotion overseas. Right now, we are training our clients to come here, and to come back again.”

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“The Gulf of Thailand is almost entirely unknown to overseas charterers,” says Gulf Charters CEO Ron Patston, who is based at Koh Chang and Koh Samui in alternate seasons. “There are only 10 bareboat charter boats operating in the Koh Chang area. A week is hardly enough for a cruise. The water is clear as gin, there are almost no navigational hazards, and onshore facilities range from six-star resorts to small beach bungalows. The Gulf deserves just as much promotion as the Andaman Sea – maybe more.”

Patston estimated that boating activities contribute over THB165m to the local economy on an annual basis. Port Takola Managing Director Matthew Na Nagara assigned five main functions to marinas: somewhere to keep a boat safely; a point of convenient access to it; the provision of services and repair facilities; ramps and/or slipways for ‘non-resident’ boats; and fuelling facilities. He also points out that marinas are important nodes for the stimulation of ancillary services and industries. Thailand has over 1,000nm of coastline, and approximately 2,500 marina berths – hardly an overpopulation scenario.

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“In Australia we are right behind what you’re doing in Thailand, because we know that once the big boats start coming here, they will also carry on down to Australia and New Zealand,” says Gold Coast City Marina and Shipyard CEO Trenton Gay.

‘Down Under’ we, too, have uncounted miles of beautiful cruising grounds - and we also have phenomenal first class refit and repair facilities. At our marina alone, we host 65 workshops and factories on our 17 ha site, all servicing the leisure marine industry.”

“Getting government involved in the development of boating is crucial. Getting government to move as quickly as the industry would like might not be quite so easy, but we have to understand that it’s impossible for any government to make significant changes overnight. But keep at it: you are going the right way.”