As our recent news reports have shown, Malaysia is increasingly on the radar for superyachts and it seems that investors are seeing the potential of the country as a superyacht destination too. Earlier this year the Malaysian prime minister formally unveiled the Melaka Gateway project, an ambitious 264-hectare development in Malacca that will include significant superyacht berths and facilities. The RM40 billion (US$12 billion) complex, being undertaken by undertaken by KAJ Development, will comprise one natural and two man made islands, including 15km of waterfront real estate, together with a substantial marina, cruise ship terminal, theme park and hotels. The focus of the development is to drive tourism in the area, with the importance of high spending tourists, such as those visiting on superyachts, being recognised.
The aim is to create what they dub ‘South East Asia’s biggest marina’ with up to 1000 berths and a significant cruise ship and ferry portal. “The marina will eventually be able to cater for the biggest megayachts with two berths for the world's largest yachts up to 150 metres long, up to 20 berths for yachts from 100 metres, and approximately 50 berths between 25 and 40 metres,” Magdaleen Spykerman of the Melaka Gateway development team told SuperyachtNews.com.
Work is already underway on the complex, with final completion set for 2025. “The first phase of initial berths is targeted be ready by October 2014, and will include at least one megayacht berth,” said Spykerman. “The initial marina of approximately 350 berths should be fully installed within three to four years in line with the overall development of the first island, and international demand for berths. Little information is yet available on the proposed refit hub, although Spykerman told us that plans are that it will have “a marine and yacht repair centre catering for the maintenance of all kinds of yachts, workshops for yacht and composite related industries, a vocational training centre and a training school for potential yacht crew offering courses related to navigation, sail training, engineering and hospitality.”
Although numbers of superyachts cruising around Malaysia are undoubtedly on the rise, it will be interesting to see whether demand from superyachts matches the number of berths on offer by the Melaka Gateway in the long term. Conclusions reached by The Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIM) in a 2007 paper titled “An assessment of the development of marinas and boating activities in Malaysia” were that the country had enough marinas to cater to existing number of boats as well as the number of visiting international boaters. However, superyacht specific facilites are few and far between in the country and creating a facility that far exceeds the scale and quality of existing marinas is what the developers hope will establish the marinas position as the country's best. Visiting cruise ships will also bring their share of customers to the marina, and help to drive its position as a key destination.
Located between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malacca is well positioned to take advantage of marine and superyacht traffic. “Singapore and Phuket are both hubs for the superyacht industry in Southeast Asia, Singapore being the focus for refit, provisioning and technical repairs, whilst Phuket and its surrounding waters are the cruising ground of choice,” explained Adam Frost, Managing Director of Seal Superyachts. “The Malacca Gateway Development is basically half way between the two, so it could be a convenient stop off point [for yachts], especially if they can offer cheap fuel. The only thing against the development would be the cruising grounds in the local area, which are not so good as the waters are not clear and lots of shipping through the Malacca straights, although the old town of Malacca is however an attraction and well worth a stop off. There are plenty of wealthy Malaysians, some of which do own large superyachts, and a development such as the Melaka Gateway being so close to Kuala Lumpur would allow them to safely berth their yachts near to home.” Spykerman too was optimistic about the potential of Malacca as a superyacht base. “We feel strongly that Malacca, with its cultural, historical and tourism attractions, could become the future long- term regional base for the berthing and support of megayachts intending to cruise extensively in SE Asia and will encourage them to stay in the region for extended periods.”
Although feedback from the superyacht community has been extremely positive, many are waiting to see whether it definitely eventuates on the promised scale. “As with many development proposals, it might be best to see if it gets off the drawing board before we get too far ahead of ourselves as many projects get touted and proposed, but don't get any further than that,” said Frost. “I would welcome any new superyacht marina in the region and hope it does get built; the more quality facilities we have to offer, the better,”