All those who attended the Cannes and Monaco Yacht shows or the Antigua Yacht Charter Show realize how little information our overseas partners have in hand concerning South East Asia (SEA) and its charter destinations.
They generally know the islands of Phuket, Bali or Borneo, but do not realize how far away they are from each other. They have no charter itineraries to propose to their clients, and no sales manuals about seasons, moorings, marinas regulations and access. And some stereotypes remain such as pirates, though no a single yacht has been attacked by pirates in this charter area in the past 20 years.
Eager to inform its members the Charter Yacht Broker Association (CYBA) invited Vincent Tabuteau (owner of Asia Marine) and Caroline Payen (Yacht Charter Manager, Silolona Sojourns) to give a presentation during the Antigua Yacht Charter Meeting last December. Here are a few points and Q&A developed during the seminar:
From Myanmar to Papua New Guinea and from Philippines to Sumatra, SEA covers a territory of 4,500,000 km2 as large as the whole Europe and North Africa together. Three time the size of the Mediterranean
Selling South East Asia as a charter destination
SEA: A region of superlatives
Tourism brochures are misleading. South Each Asia is more that just a few exotic tourism paradises. It is one of the fastest developing areas in the world. From Myanmar to Papua New Guinea and from Philippines to Sumatra, SEA covers a territory of 4,500,000 km2, as large as the all of Europe and North Africa put together, three times the size of the Mediterranean. SEA is a group of 10 countries with 630,000 million inhabitants speaking 16 different official languages and practicing in peace all major religions: Christianity in the Philippines; Buddhism in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos; Hinduism in Bali; Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia, Taoism in Singapore. It is mosaic of contrasts and cultures, a vibrant region that hosts some of the top luxury hotels in the world, the best airport in the world (Changi Singapore), two F1 Grand Prix circuits (Singapore and Malaysia), as well as the largest tropical forests after the Amazon, 700 languages and dialects, probably the same number of minorities from mountain tribes to Sea Gypsies, historical splendors such as Angkor Wat, Pagan and Borobudur as well as some of the finest cuisines and best diving sites in the world.
UNIQUE SELLING POINTS
Unparalleled and safe yacht charter cruising grounds SEA is one of the fastest growing charter destinations in the world because it combines all of the elements that make for a perfect charter area.
♦ USP 1: The climate is predictable and regulated by weather systems called monsoons.
♦ USP 2: Charter yachts can operate year round. Thought SEA is a very large sailing territory, destinations are only few hundred miles apart, no ocean crossings, no extensive lay-off at marinas and yachts of all sizes can sail 12 months per year moving with the " favorable monsoons" just like traders have done for centuries.
♦ USP 3: Airline access is easy. Asian airlines are among the best in the world; modern fleets and new planes. All charter destinations have an international airport with hundreds of daily international flights.
♦ USP 4: Luxury services are available. Tourism has been established for 25 years in Phuket, Bali and Langkawi. From catering to decoration, crew and concierges, the infrastructure was in place before the first yacht arrived.
♦ USP 5: Worldwide quality marine technical services are available in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Shipyards and service providers have years of experiences, repairing or refitting superyacht coming from Europe, Australia or America.
♦ USP 6: SEA is affordable. Though it is not necessarily "cheap" it is certainly more economical to maintain and operate a yacht in SEA that on the French Riviera.
With all these "Unique Selling Points" it is no wonder that the number of charter yachts based in South East Asia increases year after year. Many owners have relocated their yachts in the region and with the number of destination available, the guests keep coming back.
However, we do not yet have the total support of the worldwide charter industry. Bareboat fleets have had a very good season but the number of requests for luxury-end crewed charter yachts remains limited . Superyacht charter brokers will seriously consider SEA once they have travelled to the destination and visited the yachts available.
What about Monsoons?
The word monsoon is misleading and generally associated with torrential rains. In fact, monsoons are similar to Trade Winds in the Caribbean. There are wet monsoons and dry monsoons; but even during the wet monsoons, the weather is not dramatically rainy. For example a bareboat charter fleet operates in Phuket during the "wet monsoon" (also called the "low", "rainy" or "green" season).
What about Typhoons?
Every year the Northern Philippine & North Vietnam coasts are hit by Typhoons from August to November. Announced d ays ahead, this concerns the North China Seas where there are no charter yachts operating. During this period, yachts are around Bali or on the way to Phuket and over 1,000 miles away from any typhoons. There has been only one record of a typhoon in the Gulf of Thailand in the past 30 years.
What about Pirates?
According to the ICCIMB (International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau), there has been a total of nine "ship boardings" in SEA in 2013. All these were cargo ships. All happened around commercial harbors (Singapore, Jakarta) and "ranging from petty thefts of engine parts to large-scale thefts of valuable cargoes. Sometimes it's suspected that these small robberies are even carried out by the crew who sell the supplies to boost their low salaries and later put the blame on pirates," a Hong Kong-based shipper said. There have been no reports of any piracy incident involving a yacht anywhere for over 15 years. All is perception. But none of the tourism industry exuberant and colorful marketing language mentions or even relate to our Yachting industry. The "South East Asia Charter destination" should be promoted as a product in itself. Yacht Charter industry in SEA is in its very beginnings and the future is bright: Yachting Associations such as APSA, TMBA or SSA are seriously working together on a worldwide and national information campaign, dispatching some hard facts and figures; and a long over due SEA Charter Yacht show has been announced for Phuket in 2015.
Phuket the hub for Yacht Charter
Called the Riviera of the East, Phuket combines millionaire's villas and trendy beach clubs with worldwide known tourism spots such as James Bond Island, Phi Phi Island and less glamorous mass tourism beaches. Four marinas in Phuket and two marinas in nearby Krabi provide a total capacity of about 1,000 Yachts including super yachts. Most marinas are under development and the total capacity could double within 5 years.
Over 150 charter yachts from Bareboats to crewed yachts are permanently based in Phuket and operate 12 months per year. Their numbers are increasing each year. Sevenstar, one of the leading lift-on-lift-off shipping companies brought over 35 yachts in and out Phuket last season (2012-13) and so far have planned over 8 cargo rotations to or from SEA in the next 10 months. It is now a developed destination. Some say Phuket is victim to its own success and mass tourism has degraded the image of the destination. It is partly true ashore and in some of the most visited day-trippers landmarks. But outside the range and schedule of an average speedboat, anchorages are pretty much deserted. Larger yachts have access to further nearby destinations: the Similan, Burma and the Mergui Archipelagoes in the north and the Butangs and Langkawi Islands in the south.
Koh Chang: In Thailand and in the northern end of the Gulf of Siam the Koh Chang Archipelago is the favorite cruising weekend for Bangkokian and is also the door to Cambodia. Though it is still at it early stage, yacht charter is developing in this area. Same seasons pattern as Phuket (one small marina).
Koh Samui: East of Phuket in the Gulf of Thailand, Samui has a microclimate and the high season is during the south West Monsoon. A good alternative for the yachts that decide to operate a double season in Thailand.
Mergui: The new border
Myanmar (Burma) opened to the world some three years ago and tourism is developing very fast. The Mergui Archipelago is 120 miles north of Phuket and is now accessible by yacht. The port of entry, Kawthung, lies just a few miles directly west of the Thai border town of Ranong. Due to its virtual isolation, the Mergui Archipelago is a world famous destination for activities such as diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, fishing, and nature research. There are no tourism activities ashore and yachts must be autonomous. Cruises are generally 7 to 10 days and generally start from Thailand though access from Yangoon by air is now possible allowing a combined holidays 7 days cruise and 7 days ashore to discover the legendary Pagan in northern Burma. Definitely a destination to discover before tourism invades it.
Rules and regulations
Yacht Charter is a new tourism activity and is regulated as a cargo ship. However several working groups are conducting studies and consulting with authorities to adapt the national marine laws to yachting. As of today this is the situation:
♦ Visiting yachts: A new regulation has just been passed which gives a six month (renewable) stay permit to visiting foreign yachts.
♦ Thai Flag Charter yachts: No limit of stay for bareboat or crewed boats. There are over 200 Thai registered charter yachts in Thailand. However there are only a limited number of Thai registered super yachts (over 30 meters). Yachts over 16 meters must have a Thai registered captain. Thai Flagged Yachts must have 70% Thai ownership. There is no Import tax but a 7% VAT.
♦ Foreign Flag Charter Yachts: Can embark passengers but cannot disembark them in Thailand (Or viceversa.).Yachts must pass a border such as Burma or Malaysia during their cruise. It is only 120 miles away from Phuket. It is more difficult in Samui or Koh Chang but very few foreign crewed charter yachts operate there.
Visiting yacht obtain a visitor permit at the border in Kawtaung. Passport and seamanship certificate must be sent prior to arrival.
Asia Marine is based in Phuket since 1989. It is a charter central for 5 super charter yachts and operator of a fleet of Bareboats based in Yacht Haven.
Vincent Tabuteau is the Vice President of the Thai Marine Business Association (TMBA), and a founding Member of Asia Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA) as well as member of the CYBA.
has been based in Bali since 2004. Owners of the renowned SY Silolona and a pioneer of yacht charters in Indonesia. Caroline Payen is a veteran charter broker who has worked in Caribbean, Greece, Turkey, France and Thailand. She is also a member of the CYBA. www.silolona.com
Indonesia's legendary Islands
Indonesia is a crescent-shaped archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, extending more than 3,500 miles from the mainland of South East Asia to Australia. There are several cruising areas, following the best seasonal winds. The Komodo Islands and Flores: 200 miles east of Bali and home of the famous Komodo dragon, this World Heritage Site has over 260 species of coral, 70 species of sponges, over 1,000 species of fish, along with Manta Rays , dolphins, whales, and dugongs. The Spices Islands and Papua: Further east the legendary Moluccas and Papua on the northwestern tip of New Guinea comprise about 610 islands spread over 50,000sqkm of spectacular scenery, and one the healthiest coral reef biodiversity for its size in the world.
Phuket: International airports with hundred of flights.
Koh Chang: From Bangkok one hour flights ( Bangkok Airways ) to Trat, then one hour transfer van + ferry.
Samui: International airports with direct flights from Bangkok, Phuket & Singapore.
Langkawi and Borneo: Several daily flight From Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Airline) or Singapore (Tiger Airways, Silk Air) and daily ferries from Southern Thailand (Satun, Koh Lipe & the Butangs).
Access Mergui Burma
On board a yacht, visa upon arrival. A copy of passenger's passport and ID must be sent to Immigration no later than 45 days before arrival, average US$300 person for check in and out of Thailand and Burma.
By air from Yangoon: Two flights per day. Passengers must enter Burma in Yangoon and a visa must be obtained before arrival.
By long tail from Ranong, backpacker's style voyage. Visa upon arrival; a small fee.
Access to Ranong: By car from Phuket or Surat Thani (5 Hours); by flight from Bangkok (2 flights per day in the high season).
Bali: Denpasar International Airport. Hundreds of flights daily.
Komodo, Flores Moluccas and Raja Ampa:daily flights from Jakarta and Bali.
Langkawi: Tax-free and port of call 120 miles South of Phuket, the Langkawi Archipelago is a dutyfree zone and the base for lots of yacht charters. Fuel cost less than 1USD per litre, it is the ideal port of call for large charter yachts operating a one-way cruise exploring the southern Islands of Thailand and Phuket. Langkawi is a mediocre charter destination but is only 25 Miles from the first coral reefs of the Butang islands in Thailand. For those who spend their summer in Europe this is a good location to lay off the boat in one of Langkawi's four marinas.
The name "Borneo" invokes images of Joseph Conrad and pristine tropical jungle but it is very rarely talked about as a potential yacht charter. Yet the seas surrounding Borneo are home to one of the best dive sites in the world. The Malaysian state of Sabah is an ideal departure point for yacht charter expeditions ranging from Sarawak, Brunei or Sabah (Malaysian Borneo).
Rules and regulations
♦ Visiting yacht or charter yacht stay: No limitations. Indonesia
♦ Visiting yacht: 3 Months limited stay (renewable).
♦ Indonesian Registered Charter yachts: No limitations.
♦ Foreign Flag Charter Yachts: similar to Thailand, tramping from port to port in Indonesia is not permitted. However, there are plenty of good and reliable Indonesian registered charter yachts.
SEA overview chart courtesy of Southeast Asia Pilot:
Created 25 years ago, this book covers the whole SEA area and is a great reference for any captain, www.southeastasiapilot.com