KOH HEY: The topic of mini-submarines resurfaced today in Phuket, but this time on a less sinister level, as government officials were given a look at the new Subrider developed for tourism around this popular day-trip island. The officials, including representatives of the local Tourist Business and Guide Registration Office, checked out how the sub works and the effect it is likely to have on the environment. Sitthichai Wonsrivikit, the owner of Phuket Seaworld and Underwaterworld, began developing the Subrider in 1999, when authorities banned sea-walking on the grounds that it was environmentally unfriendly. He applied to patent the mini-sub with the Intellectual Property Department in June last year. Made of fiberglass, the mini-sub can carry four passengers at a time and can submerge to about six meters. It will stay two meters above the seabed and at least five meters away from reefs, K. Sitthichai told the officials. Tourists must be able to scuba dive, as they will board the Subrider underwater. Once inside, however, they can breathe without apparatus for up to 30 minutes. A tour will cost 2,500 baht per person and the company carries accident insurance of 100,000 baht per passenger. “We have three Subriders at present, and have been using them for almost two months. Compared with sea-walking, they are much less harmful to coral because the tourists can only look at the coral – they cannot damage it with their feet or hands – and the Subrider can be steered around the reefs,” K. Sitthichai said.
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