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Special Report: Navy ships scuttled south of Phuket for fishy passengers

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Navy ships scuttled south of Phuket for fishy passengers | The Thaiger
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Special Report:

Three Royal Thai Navy vessels have been scuttled in Krabi Province to provide superstructures for artificial reefs as part of the province’s bid to create underwater learning centers for divers and boost the Andaman province’s tourism industry. The Gazette’s Irfarn Jamdukor reports.

PHUKET: The ships are designed to function as both artificial reefs – human-made underwater structures usually created to promote marine life – and marine learning centers.

“We expect to establish a museum about the wrecks and local marine environment onshore. However, there are no educational signs set up yet,” said Boonnam Chuyradom, an assistant chief of Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.

The promotion of marine diversity is expected to encourage people of all walks of life and all ages to have a greater awareness of marine resources and to pursue out-of-water learning opportunities about Thailand’s marine systems, he said.

“We believe the project will increase our current visitor rate by 5,000 tourists per year and will bring in an additional revenue of 10 million baht per year,” he added.

ARTIFICIAL REEFS

Artificial reefs tend to develop in relatively predictable stages.

First, where an ocean current encounters a vertical structure, it can create a plankton-rich upwelling that provides a reliable feeding spot for smaller fish, which draw in pelagic predators. Quickly following are other creatures seeking protection within the reef or wreck. Shortly thereafter, opportunistic predators such as barracuda appear. Over the years, coral frags begin to take hold and eventually the site will hit an

equilibrium point with the

environment.

THE SHIPS

The three Navy transport ships Talibong HSZP 766; Varee HSZB 762; and Kolam HSZO 765 had been in service for more than 48 years before they were sunk on April 20, Kiratisak Phugaoluan Mayor of Krabi Provincial Municipality explained.

The ships took part in many natural disaster rescue missions, as well as efforts to help the American Navy quell pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden in 2010 and 2011, Paitoon Panchaiyaphum, director of the Phuket-based southern regional office of the Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Department, said.

The fleet the ships were part of most notably provided service during Typhoon Gay in the Philippines and also carried rice and basic necessities to the people in Somalia, as well as those facing flooding in Sri Lanka.

To reach their final resting place near Koh Yawasam in Krabi, the retired ships were stripped of their armaments and towed along the coast of Thailand from Ao Udom in Chonburi, around Singapore and back up to Krabi, Mr Kiratisak explained.A forth ship, the 382-ton Luangkladkaew, will also be sunk, near the famous day-trip diving destination of Koh Phi Phi.

DIVE SITES

The ships’ hulls, resting on the sandy sea floor at 20 to 25 meters, were aligned so as not to be broadsided by any currents, which could potentially topple or move the ships from their current locations, said Mr Boonnam.

“The current can flow naturally and will not affect the ships. Also the sheer weight of these ships will ensure they remain steady and don’t cause any harm to marine resources already established in the bay,” Mr Boonnam said.

“The underwater learning center is special in that all the doors of the large ship have been left open to provide fish and other marine animals protection,” he explained.

Though there is currently no dive site map of the wrecks, Mr Boonnam assured the Gazette that there were plans to accurately map the ships, highlighting points of interest and providing necessary information to dive tourists.

TOURISM IMPACT

A major selling point in the project has been the hope of increasing tourist numbers by about 5,000 people a year explained Mr Boonnam.Malene Jensen, General-Manger of Kon Tiki Diving and Snorkeling Center in Ao Nang, believed Mr Boonnam was right – the wrecks will help put Krabi

diving on the map.

“For sure, being here in Ao Nang most people know that we are not a diving destination just like Phuket, Khao Lak and Koh Lanta. I mean we are struggling to get ourselves on the map so having these decommissioned warships here is going to give us more attention.

Ms Jensen pointed out that the presence of wrecks at depths within recreational dive limits is a major draw to dive destinations around the world.

The additional sites will help reduce the pressure on the 15 current sites, which are a short boat ride from shore. The relatively shallow existing sites near the mainland suffer from shrimp farming practices, which cause a fine layer of sediment to be deposited on the corals, explained Ms Jensen.

“By adding new dive sites there are other places for the corals to grow, so I definitely think it’s going to help,” she said.

PROTECTION

The responsibilities of maintaining and protecting the artificial reefs will fall onto the shoulders of the Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Department; Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park; and Krabi Provincial Administrative Organization.

“We will frequently do biological diversity checkups at the site and ensure that the system is growing and thriving,” Mr Paitoon said.

Additional reporting by Kritsada Mueanhawong

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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Air Pollution

Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today

The Thaiger

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Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Government House officials are turning to salt-tolerant plants - khaosod.co.th

Brackish tap water, with increased salinity caused by seawater back-flowing into the Chao Phraya River, is threatening the gardens in and around the Government House compound. Government House officials are seeking assistance from the Agriculture Department.

Several small tree species – Lamduan, Chor Sumalee, Rachavadi, Nom Maew and Hom Muenlee – are more vulnerable to brackish tap water. The gardens are watered from a supply pumped in from the Chao Phraya.

It’s been noted tha the saline level was around 400 milligrams per litre, still within the 1,000 mg/litre standard, but some of the species were already intolerant to the rising salinity.

Officials are seeking advice from the Agriculture Department about long-term measures to replant with species which would be more tolerant to the rising salinity of the water – situation they acknowledge will need to be managed in the short to medium term.

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

SCREENGRAB: Air Visual

Meanwhile, air around the capital today continues to be universally poor to very poor with readings as high as 187 near Suvarnabhumi Airport. Light airs, dust problems from northern-easter provinces and hot continental air flowing across the capital, continue to haunt Bangkok. Even with many factories closed today, and traffic lighter than weekdays, Bangkok’s air has been recorded as the ninth worst city in the world for air pollution.

Right across the city the air quality readings are into the ‘unhealthy’ zone.

Chiang Mai, Lampang and Central Thailand are fairing no better – all with readings at least 3 times the Thai upper safe limit of 50 microns of 2.5micron particulate per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation sets its limit even lower at 25.

Pattaya has air quality readings today of 162, whilst even Phuket, in the south, is registering readings between 100 and 145 with reduced visibility today.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

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Business

Three massive condo developments along Phuket’s up-market Layan Beach

Bill Barnett

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Three massive condo developments along Phuket’s up-market Layan Beach | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Northern end of Layan Beach - True-beachfront

by Bill Barnett – c9hotelworks.com

Two new condo developments are going ahead in the Layan Beach area of Phuket’s up-market west-coast beach strip. And there’s another one underway next to the Dream Beach Club at the northern end of the Layan beach strip. All in all, another 1,200+ keys added to the available rooms along the Bang Tao/Layan Beach area.

On the northern side of Bangtao Beach, next to Maan Tawan and nearby Banyan Tree Phuket is the upcoming Sunshine Beach development. With a plan for 771 hotel and residences units on 12.6 rai, the high-density project is targeting Mainland Chinese buyers with pricing points reportedly starting from 4 million baht. Construction is expected to start in June of this year and complete in 2022.

From our discussion with sales staff the developer has claimed they have reached an agreement with the government for beach fronting facilities in the National Park strip in front of the project.

While in Layan next to Lotus Gardens is the upcoming 400 unit Layan Green Park. Pricing points run from 2.5 million baht. Unit configurations will range from studio, to one, two and three bedrooms. Guaranteed returns of 10% for a period of 10 years are being promoted.

Phuket’s Layan area is seeing a surge in new real estate led projects and rising land values. At the same time as these two projects are underway, next to the Dream Beach is an oceanfront luxury project promoting sales of Grand Beach Villa and Ocean View Suites tagged as ‘N5’. The developer of the project is VIP Thailand who have another project in Rawai.

Based on our research the primary source market tragets of these three projects are mainland Chinese and Russian buyers. Local concerns in the Cherngtalay area over mounting traffic, water shortages and strain on municipal infrastructure are becoming issues.

Traffic in and around the central Cherngtalay shopping district is becoming increasingly clogged with little hope for respite other than improved traffic management.

SOURCE: C9Hotelworks.com

Three massive condo developments along Phuket's up-market Layan Beach | News by The Thaiger

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Business

Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court

The Thaiger

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Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MINOR International are trying to kick Marriott out of it's Mai Khao property - Booking.com

Marriott International, the American international hotel company, has failed in its bid to secure an injunction in a Thai court to stop a legal claim filed by the Minor International group.

Minor International (MINT) says that its subsidiary MI Squared Ltd had filed a legal claim in a Thai court against Marriott International and the Thai subsidiary Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Thailand) for 570,605,134 baht. The claim is linked to the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa in Mai Khao, which is owned by MINT. In the statement, MINT accuses Marriott of “acting in bad faith” alleging “serious and repeated breaches of Thai law”, according to ttrweekly.com.

The complaint from MINT alleges that Marriott was openly competing with the JW Marriott Phuket through its operation of competing Marriott-branded hotels in Phuket. Claims are made that the Mai Khao hotel uses its facilities to promote Marriott’s other competing Marriott hotels. Another of the complaints accuses Marriott of forcing the JW Marriott Phuket to accept high volumes of low-margin business through the Marriott’s loyalty program.

According to the ttrweekly.com article, the legal dispute includes allegations that Marriott “misappropriated MINT’s confidential and proprietary information” to promote Marriott’s competing hotels and unlawfully benefit Marriott’s own interests at the expense of MINT. The JW Marriott Phuket remains under Marriott’s management for now but “the operating performance has been poor”.

MINT told shareholders total hotel revenue decreased from 920 million in 2013 to 876 million baht last year. Over the same period, gross operating profit fell from 409 million to 379 million baht.

(It should be noted that many of Phuket’s high-end hotels have suffered a similar revenue fall due to increased competition, competitive pressures pushing room rates down and, especially over the past 12 months, a shift in tourist demographics.)

Marriott International issued a statement to ttrweekly.com following a request for comment.

“Marriott International acknowledges that a subsidiary of Minor International has initiated legal action in Thailand against Marriott and one of its Thai subsidiaries. Marriott reiterates that such claim is meritless and should be heard in confidential arbitration.

Our Thai subsidiary recently secured an interim injunction in arbitral proceedings restraining MINT’s subsidiary from pursuing the action in Thailand. We subsequently agreed with MINT to suspend the Thai proceedings pending the final outcome of our ongoing arbitration. As we intend to comply with our contractual confidentiality obligations, we are unable to provide more information at this time.

We consider JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa has performed well compared to the market. The dispute will have no impact on operations at the hotel, which continues to offer guests with world-class service and accommodations, a beachfront location and eleven culinary options.”

SOURCE: ttrweekly.com

Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: marriott.com

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