Video Report: Superyacht charter licence floated by Marine Dept

PHUKET: Standardized criteria for foreign-flagged superyacht chartering licences, which are designed to move Phuket and Thailand toward the goal of becoming the regional maritime hub, will be finalized by the end of the month, it was announced last week.

The current issuance of such licences is subjective and dealt with case by case, explained Marine Department Director-General Chula Sukmanop.

“We are looking to issue one-year temporary licences to vessels that are 30 meters or longer. We expect them to be crewed by about 12 or more people,” Mr Chula explained.

“There are many superyacht owners who would bring their superyachts to Phuket if they could charter them while here, and I know many people who charter superyachts around the world for in excess of US$100,000 [about 3.4 million baht] per week,” said Gulu Lalvani, chairman of Royal Phuket Marina.

“Introducing a charter licence for superyachts whose owners wish to charter in Thailand will significantly increase charter revenue for the country.”

With its world-class cruising grounds, Thailand is the destination of choice for superyachts coming to Asia, and amendments to the current rules and regulations are expected to encourage growth in superyacht arrivals and potential charter income, Mr Lalvani noted.

To illustrate the economic advantages that the superyacht industry could bring to Phuket and Thailand, Nick Wyatt, marina manager for Yacht Haven Marina (YHM), broke down the numbers for January 2014.

At YHM there were 14 vessels between 30m and 40m with an average value of about 1.3 billion baht; seven vessels between 40m and 50m with an average value of 1.7bn baht; and 10 vessels between 50m and 60m with an average value of 2bn baht. Given that the industry standard for calculating a vessel’s operation costs is 10 per cent of its value per year, vessels at YHM generated more than 49mn baht with an average of 31 superyachts a month.

“This excludes crew spending – which will see funds go to restaurants, bars, car hire providers, massage parlors and many other businesses – as well as funds used for major projects,” Mr Wyatt pointed out.

“The proof that catering to the industry has a positive economic impact is easy to see. Consider the amount of development in the marine industry, as a whole, which is only about 16-years-old in Thailand. We went from zero to four major marinas in Phuket – all relatively busy with a cumulative dockage of about 900 berths. Additionally, there are boats on the hardstands and others anchored around the island,” Mr Wyatt said.

A presentation given to the marine department in 2011 by Zara Tremlett, also a marina manager for Yacht Haven, outlined many of the “Multiplier benefits” beyond direct cash to the economy.

“A Thai workforce trained to international yachting industry standards, therefore offering new employment opportunities with a high level of added value; local contractors benefiting from working at the high end of the business with top-quality products, becoming recognized and recommended by the superyacht industry for other major superyacht refit projects; the opportunity to develop and offer ultra high-end products and services to meet the expectations of superyacht clientele and guests, helping to position Phuket in the high-end tourism destination segment; and foreign direct investment and business joint-venture opportunities from superyacht owners – almost all high-end businessmen – and guests in Phuket and Thailand,” the report explained.

Chris Gordon, founder of Sunsail yacht charter and managing director of The Village on Coconut Island, took a slightly different slant in the meeting, asking that the Marine Department look at widening the remit of the temporary charter yacht licence.

“The real benefit to Phuket and Thailand in general is the crewed yachts, which tend to run at a slightly smaller size, somewhere around 60 feet up to about 100 feet. At that size you need to employ people to look after them and they brings in quality tourists. That doesn’t mean we don’t want the superyachts, and the big, big ones, they’re fine, but they come and they go,” Mr Gordon said.

“The owners of these smaller cruising yachts will base their boat in an area and keep them there. This, of course, will bring real money to the local economy in a number of ways, from hiring local staff to general maintenance.”

Mr Gordon emphasized the fact that the support for the larger yachts was welcome. However, he pointed out that many of the owners of boats between 60 and 100 feet were ‘reasonably rich’ and looking to offset their operation costs, as opposed to the mega-wealthy superyacht owners.

However, Mr Chula said that the government had good reason restricting the temporary license to yachts of 30m and over.

“We have picked 30 meters as the marker for superyachts because we don’t have many yachts of that size currently in Thailand, and we don’t want to interfere in Thai charter businesses that are already established and operating here,” Mr Chula said.

— Chutharat Plerin

Phuket News

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