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Phuket making waves as jet-skis get legal

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket making waves as jet-skis get legal | The Thaiger



PHUKET: The issue of jet-ski insurance, a topic that never seems to be off the back-burner, resurfaced earlier this month at the Honorary Consuls’ regular four-monthly meeting.

British Honorary Consul Martin Carpenter asked the Marine Department chief if he could provide clear information warning tourists of the potential quagmire they face should they get into problems while renting a jet-ski.

As a result of that request, Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Director of the local Marine Department office, promulgated copies of the current insurance policies held by jet-ski renters. (Click here to see a jet-ski rental agreement and insurance policy, and read a summary of them at the bottom of this report.)

There are now two companies currently selling jet-ski rental insurance polices to jet-ski operators: The Thai United Insurance Co Ltd (TUI), and Sri Ayudhya General Insurance Public Co Ltd (SAGI).

This was not always the case. Reported in the Phuket Gazette newspaper in April 2011, was the near collapse, a mere two years after its launch, of the only jet-ski policy brokered by Ayudhya Insurance PCL. The threatened collapse was caused by the constant high claims submitted by jet-ski operators for damage by tourists to their rented machines.

The history of jet-skis in Phuket dates back to the last century and includes a number of tourist deaths and serious injuries, including injuries sustained by tourists in recurring altercations with rental operators.

In February 1998, it was reported there were about 250 machines operating here, of which only 22 were registered.

In March 2000, routinely faced with a barrage of complaints, the Provincial Office implemented a “jet-ski management program” covering the five beaches of Kata, Karon, Patong, Kamala and Bangtao. The following month Provincial officers and officials from across the island gathered and decided that tough action against the jet-ski operators was the way forward.

At that time, Marine officers examined and registered 219 jet-skis. That figure was capped by the Phuket Provincial Office for seven years, with no more rental jet skis to be stationed on the island until March 2004.

Even then, laws were in place to regulate jet-skis. The Public Health and Safety Act 1992 barred jet-ski operators from several practices, such as riding in swimming zones and using jet-skis for commercial purposes, which might be construed to include the rental business. The Public Health and Safety Act also enforces the mandatory wearing of life-vests.

The provision against using jet-skis for commercial purposes has always been ignored.

An even older and more specific act is the 1913 Navigation act. This requires all vessels, including jet-skis, to be registered with the Harbor Department. Furthermore, a person driving a jet-ski must hold at least a Helmsman Level 2 license, a qualification that requires two years’ documented proof of experience aboard a Thai-flagged ship, which would effectively preclude tourists from ever riding a jet ski.

The license provision in the Navigation Act has, likewise, always been ignored.

By July of last year, with complaints from tourists increasing and foreign officials becoming more vocal about jet-ski scams, not to mention a “turf war” threatening to erupt on Bang Tao Beach in January this year, Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha stepped in to enforce provincial policy on the operators.

He instigated zoning of six beaches where jet-ski operators ply their trade: Kata, Karon, Patong, Kamala, Bang Tao and a new addition at Koh Naka. The zones separated swimmers from jet-skis and were marked with buoys placed by the local authorities.

Within the last few years more jet-skis have started to appear on the beaches. A recent investigation counted an additional 67 of them.

The current number of registered jet-skis on Patong Beach is 170; Kamala, 26; Kata-Karon, 38; Bang Tao, 40; and Koh Naka, 12.

The number of unregistered jet-skis doing business at these beaches is not publicly known.

To control the growth of the hazardous machines, the Marine Department says it will not register more than the 286 already in operation. The department also insists, publicly, that those operators must follow the regulations or risk losing their franchise.

In summary, to continue his business, an operator must in theory ensure that his jet-ski is covered by adequate insurance and registered with the Marine Department.

Once registered, those jet-skis must display an orange sticker identifying its number, the owner and its working location.

In the case of a jet-ski damaged beyond repair, the jet-ski owner(s) must apply to have the unserviceable machine struck from the register. Only after that can they apply to register and operate a replacement machine. This will be granted at the discretion of the Marine Department, if approved by the local jet-ski “club”, on which all operators must be a member.

Foreigners are not allowed to operate a jet-ski rental business and are this ineligible to join a “club”.

Two weeks ago, Mr Phuripat confirmed that 286 jet-skis were the limit and that no more can be registered.

“Actually 281 jet-skis have been registered; five were not presented to us for registration. If the owners attempt to rent them out, they will be caught,” he asserted.

“Jet-skis can still be registered with the Marine Department, but not for renting to the public. If caught, they risk a fine of up to 10,000 baht,” he added.

Speaking specifically about the Bang Tao jet-ski operators, Mr Phuripat said that the local dispute between local operators and a new foreign-owned concern had been resolved and the illegal foreign-owned jet skis were no longer operating.

‘The way things are at the moment is that the current agreement between the Provincial Office and the jet-ski operators is for two years and will end next July,” said Mr Phuripat.

“Nearer the time we will have meeting with the Provincial Office to see the results. If the project is not successful, it can be canceled. However, all jet-ski operators have agreed to follow the regulations.”

Looking to the future, Mr Phuripat said it depended on the Phuket Governor to continue the measures and to improve them. Certainly there will be no more jet-skis without discussions with the Provincial Office.

Insurance policy details

Jet skis are required by the Marine Department to have “first class” insurance cover. Currently many rental operators are going for two policies. One to cover the mandatory requirement to insure riders and passengers, and a second covering damage to property while also providing a “reserve” should medical bills out-strip the limit of the first policy.

The TUI policy covers the jet-ski driver and one passenger for personal injury or death, and limited medical costs. Each contract will not pay more than 300,000 baht per jet-ski annually.

Death or permanent disability of rider or passenger: 100,000 baht.

Medical costs of rider or passenger: up to 15,000 baht per person.

SAGI’s insurance policy covers the same range of risks at a lower payout, but also includes third party liability and damage, including damage to the jet-ski. The contract will not pay more than a total of 200,000 baht per policy.< — Atchaa Khamlo

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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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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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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