While the Chinese government continues to promote the country as a growing yachting hub, and sections of the press speculate on the status of the country as the next emerging market for the superyacht industry, the reality of the situation is not as simple. With Communist party policies intimidating luxury sectors and reports of visiting yachts in the region being impounded, the yachting industry in China appears to up against a plethora of challenges.
Qingdao Marina, China
One of the first challenges for yachts wanting to cruise the Chinese coastline derives from the country’s bureaucracy. “I think one of the biggest problems when a boat arrives on Chinese territory is with tax declarations and vessel inspections,” says Roger Friedrich, director of Pride Mega Yachts. “Sometimes a yacht may have to wait a couple of days before it can touch ground in the marina because they have very complex customs clearance steps.”
“Visiting yachts are permitted to enter China but with special permits,” explains Gordon Hui, Chairman of Sunseeker Asia. “However, once entered they require a daily cruising permit from six departments if the vessel wants to set sail from the marina. This is not convenient at all. I have experienced taking our predator 400nm from Hong Kong to Sanya Hainan twice, because our vessel was Hong Kong registered and Chinese tax was not paid, we were restricted at our berth.”
Bart Kimman, director of Northrop and Johnson Asia, experienced considerable problems when trying to organise a trip to serenity Marina in Sanya Hainan on board Ocean Runner during the stop over of the Volvo Ocean Race.
“After trying four different in-roads into the authorities handling entering ships, the best deal I was offered was RMB300,000 in cash for merely handling paperwork,” Kimman recalled. A trusted connection warned him that once in Sanya there might be other substantial charges and threats to impound the yacht if these are not paid and, as a result, Kimman made the decision not to take Ocean Runner on a visit to the region.
“The bureaucratic red tape relevant to a foreign-flagged visiting yacht to Sanya does not reflect the international advertising of Sanya being the Côte D’Azur of China."
“It was another frustrating experience with China’s bureaucracy, piracy and unwillingness to have a clear policy towards visiting yachts to China – contrary to what everyone perceives China to be,” continued Kimman. “The bureaucratic red tape relevant to a foreign-flagged visiting yacht to Sanya does not reflect the international advertising of Sanya being the Côte D’Azur of China. The fact that there are no written guidelines for visiting yachts is unwelcoming and a clear signal that China is not ready for visiting yachts or international exposure to the yachting community.”
On top of this glaring issue for visiting yachts, there are further challenges that exist in making China a superyacht cruising destination. As well as the region lacking experienced crew, the development of a superyacht infrastructure still falls behind. “Despite a coastline longer than the us east and west coasts combined, there is only a handful marinas in a few cities that consist of Qingdao, Xiamen, shenzhen and Hainan island,” explains Victor Wu, director of CHEURAM Consulting Group Limited in Qingdao.
So what can be done to make the situation better? It seems that it all falls down to the central government to promote and nurture the industry. “At the moment China only welcomes tax paid vessels to cruise their coastline, which is fair enough but the government should also realise that foreign yachts visiting would bring more business and jobs to the locals,” Hui speculates.
The reality of a Chinese superyacht hub seems to be far from that perceived in press and marketing coming from the region. However, while the Chinese market may be suffering due to overriding government policies and a lack of embedded yachting culture, the long-term picture does hold some hope. It is not to say that the Chinese superyacht industry can be written off completely, just that it needs to be treated with an air of pragmatism in order to educate those who are going to foster its future.
Have you had experience cruising in China? We would be interested to hear you views below.