BANGKOK: The Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MoTS) is planning to put before Cabinet a proposal to allow people with foreign captain’s licenses to skipper Thai-registered sailing yachts.
The proposal, intended to give a boost to the marine tourism industry, would do away with an existing regulation that requires foreign skippers wanting to sail boats in local waters to obtain Thai licenses from the Marine Department.
It would also open up the market for bareboat charters. At present, any foreigner who charters a boat in Thailand, and who does not have a Thai skipper’s license himself, must also hire a skipper with a Thai license.
The new regulation, if approved, would apply only to Thai-registered sailboats that are under 16 meters (52 feet) in length. The boats must also have motors of a limited size.
The move follows a joint declaration entitled “The Plan of Action of Franco-Thai Tourism Cooperation”, signed on February 18 by Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Pracha Maleenont and his French counterpart, Leon Bertrand.
The declaration is one of a number of initiatives agreed to during a three-day state visit by French President Jacques Chirac February 17-19.
According to a press release by the MoTS, those who stand to benefit most from the relaxed restrictions would be international-standard marinas, of which, it said, there are four in Thailand – two in Phuket and two in Chon Buri. The agreement would also help the marine industry to grow further by using French expertise in marina management, it added.
Bunjird Sonsuwan, Section Manager of the Tourism and Sports Ministry’s Public Relations office, told the Gazette that if there are no political changes and if the proposal is approved by Cabinet, it would go into effect on October 1.
However, not everyone is happy with the proposed rule change. Surin Tirakulpisut, Head of the Phuket Marine Office, questioned how Thailand would benefit from a relaxation in existing regulations, which he believes are already reasonable and fair.
“How many people sail in here on big yachts and don’t stay in our hotels? These people are rich –they’re millionaires. But I don’t see how Thai people benefit from them coming here,” he said.
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