“Waters fee’ back with a vengeance
CHALONG: After insisting five days ago that the reintroduction of the “waters fee” applied only to boats mooring in Ao Chalong, officials of the Chalong Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor) admitted today that the infamous fee actually applies to all boats mooring anywhere around Phuket. The fee was reintroduced on January 1 after a hiatus of about a year, and has raised hackles throughout the island’s yachting community. Sailors complain that there is no equivalent fee elsewhere in Thailand and say they cannot understand why a single tambon (there are 13 in Phuket) should be able to levy fees on people staying in any part of the island. Documents obtained by the Gazette show that the resumption of the fee – ranging from 1,000 baht to 1,600 baht a month, depending on the size of the boat – was authorized by Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura on December 15. When asked on Friday about the fee, Gov Udomsak appeared not to recall anything about it, but told the Gazette that he would look into the matter. Chompon Penrat, legal specialist of OrBorTor Chalong, told the Gazette today that “one of the reasons” the fee had been suspended was because the “one-stop service” for yacht crews was being moved to new premises. He said he did not know the other reasons. Professing surprise on hearing that there had been complaints from the yachting comunity, he said that the Provincial Government, rather than the OrBorTor, had been the driving force behind the resurrection of the fee, and that OrBorTor officials were “just doing their job”. Asked how the money was used, he said it went toward maintenance of “the whole area” and for checking yachts for illegal drugs and smuggled goods. He added that a signboard in English would be hung in the one-stop shop soon, with details of fees payable. The documents obtained by the Gazette specify that 85% of the money collected goes into the OrBorTor‘s coffers, with the remainder going to the Phuket Port Control Center, which manages the one-stop service. Wichai Kalldum, the OrBorTor official whose job it is to collect the money from sailors, said it was a fee for “entering Thai territory”. He said that, on average, 50 yachts a day come into Phuket. He said that he had received complaints about the fee and, in a few cases, sailors had refused to pay it and had promptly left Phuket. He admitted that, to his knowledge, no similar fee is charged elsewhere in Thailand. A marine industry source said that the matter has been taken up at provincial level and that the Provincial Government had held an informal meeting to canvass opinions from the industry. The fee has been contentious since OrBorTor Chalong was granted the right to collect it some five years ago by the Governor at that time, Chadej Insawang.
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