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Chalong Bay’s sunken dangers

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Chalong Bay’s sunken dangers | The Thaiger

PHUKET: After spending 5.8 million baht to install new moorings in Chalong Bay and at Ao Por, on Phuket’s east coast, the chief of the local Marine Office now says he needs more money to fix the moorings, which have sunk one boat and damaged at least three others.

The moorings in nautical terms are brand-new. They were dropped in the waters off Phuket 14 weeks ago – 200 in Chalong Bay and 100 at Ao Por.

Reports surfaced barely a month later that many of the new moorings in Chalong were not usable because the buoys that marked them had broken loose and disappeared. They broke loose, experienced yachties say, because the lines attaching them to the concrete blocks on the sea floor frayed due to improper tethering.

However, Phuket Marine Office chief Phuripat Theerakulpisut this week rejected accusations that the tethers were “cheap” and “ineffective”. Instead, he blamed the broken lines on “sabotage”.

He did not explain what might have motivated the sabotage.

“Some people have cut some of the moorings. I have no idea who they are. I am trying to find out,” he said.

“Some of the moorings broke because they have been used for a while [since November 29]. If we are going to fix them, we need the budget – but I have yet to draw up any budget proposal,” Mr Phuripat explained.

Further, Mr Phuripat said he was not convinced that the situation required urgent action just yet. “I am now thinking about it,” he admitted to the Phuket Gazette on Wednesday.

With no buoys to mark them, many of the moorings, lurking just beneath the surface, now present a serious danger to boats and their crews and passengers, according to several local yachtsmen, each with more than a decade of experience in navigating Phuket’s waterways.

The danger of unmarked mooring blocks in shallow waters became clear two weeks ago, on February 26, when the tour boat “Booze Cruise” collided at low tide with an unmarked block in the middle of the approach channel to Chalong Pier (story here).

The collision rammed a hole in the boat’s hull, causing it to sink quickly. The daytrippers on board jumped into the sea and were rescued by onlookers.

Not two hours later, a speedboat carrying tourists from Chalong Pier to a popular island resort off Phuket struck an unmarked mooring in the same location.

“It could be the same unmarked mooring, but we’re not sure,” the speedboat captain told the Gazette.

The speedboat’s gearbox was damaged, forcing the captain to gingerly guide the boat toward the marina under construction in the bay so the tourists could board another boat and continue their journey.

“We don’t know how much it will cost to fix. The boat is still in the repair yard,” the captain said.

Local yachtsmen have confirmed to the Gazette that “about a dozen” moorings were placed in the approach channel.

“About four of them are still marked by [mooring] buoys,” one yachtsman said.

“Where the remaining unmarked buoys are located is anyone’s guess,” he added.

Another concern raised by local yachtsmen whose vessels remain anchored in Chalong Bay is that many of the moorings were placed too close together, raising the prospect of boats colliding while tied to them.

One long-term expat sailor in provided a list of costs to the Gazette showing that his yacht suffered damage of more than 118,000 baht. His boat is still under repair, and cannot be used for charters until the repairs are complete.

Popular Phuket yachtsman Richard Spraggs, from New Zealand, paid with his life for a boat collision while at moored in the bay. He drowned in the early hours of January 25 while trying to reposition his yacht, which had drifted too close to another boat (story here).

Yet Mr Phuripat remains unmoved, the yachties say, by the growing list of calamities associated with the new moorings.

“Boat accidents in Chalong Bay are common. The bay is usually crowded with tourists and boats. It is one of the main piers from which to take a boat to many tourist attractions [in Phang Nga Bay],” he explained.

“As I told you before, what I really do not like are reckless boat drivers. They drive too fast and do not drive along the fairway [approach channel]. This is the main cause of boat accidents,” Mr Phuripat insisted.

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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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