Hainan is centre to a government plan which aims to make Hainan one of the top tourism destinations worldwide by 2020. The plan, which launched in 2009, is enjoying strong support from all levels of the Chinese government and puts much attention on high-end tourism, first and foremost yachting. The provincial administration has issued a special regulation on yachting, the most advanced so far in China, which allows for much easier and faster procedures for pleasure boats visiting from abroad, including visa on arrival, recognition of international sailing license, free movement inside the province once entered and so on. Investment into the area has meant there will be a total of 10 thousand marina berths to be operative by 2020.
Centre of all this development is Sanya, located on the south of the island, with more and more wealthy people from the mainland choosing it as the place to moor their newly acquired pleasure crafts. Importantly, the Sanya relaxed lifestyle is greatly contributing to a gradual change in the Chinese yacht-owner behavior: from using a boat as a mere tool for business to enjoying it for personal pleasure. With about 230 yachts moored in Sanya, including 45m Blue Sky, this small city alone constitutes a large part of the emerging Chinese yacht market. But with a growing yacht base, refit facilities to support the fleet were lacking; currently, with the exception of minor maintenance work, all refit work is carried out in Hong Kong, or by refit teams being flown in.
This gap in the market became apparent to Andrea Giannecchini, national representative of CNA Nautica, vice-president of NAVIGO and a yacht accessories entrepreneur, when he visited Sanya in 2011 and met with Mr. Wang Da Fu, president of Visun Royal Yacht Club. Bringing the Tuscany yacht repair and refit invaluable know-how to where it was most needed seemed the natural solution to the problem.
Giannecchini selected a team of Tuscany yachting companies that were committed to break new ground in the Chinese yacht service market and established a new company called Toscana Refit. “Despite being just a small coastal region of Italy, Tuscany is home to five of the top 20 superyacht builders in the world and 20 per cent of the superyachts built worldwide in 2012 have been built here,” said Giannecchini. Toscana Refit takes advantage of the wide range of job specialisations that the 3000 yachting companies of Tuscany offer, and represents the very best of this wide network of specialist yacht skills. "Our mission is to take the Italian construction expertise and bring it to China to offer the best international yacht service to local boat owner," he continued.
Construction of the new service centre, that boasts 750 m² of cover shed, 1000 m² of waterfront area, a 160T custom made boat hoist and state-of-the-art equipment, is progressing well and by April 2014 it will start offering repair and refit services to yachts of up to 37m . The shipyard will have an Italian general manager with strong experience in the field and other Italian specialized technicians will be constantly visiting to train the local team up to international standard and to provide assistance during particularly complex works.
Giannecchini sees this new shipyard as only the first step in the long road that will take the VTY brand to be recognized as the number one provider of yacht service in the Asia-Pacific region. The team has applied to the Sanya government for the concession of a piece of land in the new development area of Yacheng Bay and are confident that it will soon be approved. This site will be home to a second service center, a 66.000 m² shipyard dedicated to repair and refit yachts of up to 80m. "We plan to have it fully operative by the end of 2015 and to make it a worldwide landmark of yacht service,” he said.
Although not yet formally open for business, interest from the industry has been strong
"All the big European brands that have already entered the Chinese yacht market are facing a big challenge on service support," said Giorgio Campini, vice president of Toscana Refit and technical supervisor of the joint venture. "When a Chinese owner has a problem with his boat and no one is able to solve it for him, he will start blaming the shipyard, and this has serious consequences for the brand image." The team believe that being able to offer a European-quality support network in China will be a major positive for the industry as whole.
SuperyachtNews.com will report further on the development of the facility as it nears completion.
Visun Royal Yacht Club