Bill Green, technical projects director at Camper & Nicholsons Marinas, reports on the superyachting industry from Hong Kong and beyond.
What advice would you give to owners considering a visit to Hong Kong and south-east Asia?
If you have the spirit of adventure, or if you are just looking for a change from the costas, the rivieras and the cays, get out here now and savour a new experience. Enjoy the peace, privacy and tranquillity of unspoilt anchorages. You may not find all the home comforts, but they are on their way, and sometimes getting back to basics can be fun. One thing to bear in mind is that you should plan your voyage and consult with others who have already visited the region. In my opinion, owners should enjoy it as it is while they still can; it will be a different place in 20 years’ time.
Do you agree that there is a shortage of berthing in the region?
There is in Hong Kong. The busy commercial harbour and valuable waterfront land parcels leave very little opportunity for marinas to be developed. We are working with the Asia-Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA) to try to identify a suitable location and put forward a case for berthing facilities for visiting superyachts. Also, there should be more public marinas.
What are some of the turn-offs for owners?
Probably the biggest turn-off is the cruising distance between marinas. One must never lose sight of the fact that south-east Asia has a sea surface and coastlines several times greater than both the Mediterranean and Caribbean. That in itself is a challenge for developers and sailors alike. In the Med and the Caribbean, routes are well known, most destinations have facilities that meet owners’ expectations and everything has a certain familiarity about it. This is not the case in south-east Asia. An understanding of the region, familiarity and knowledge of where the best facilities are will come with increased cruising in the region. Different and quite onerous regulatory barriers in some countries are definitely a deterrent, but regulations are becoming more relaxed, visas are more readily obtainable, taxation is being looked at and, in some cases, the more proactive governments are incentivising yachting. The problem is getting across the positive messages on an international level, not just a regional level.
Why do you think it is that beyond Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand, marinas in south-east Asia are struggling to flourish?
One of the reasons is most probably the overambitious schemes and poor advice given to developers. The outer limits of the region need more small marinas. There is simply not the population nor the right demographic to justify mega marinas with hundreds of berths for resident boats. Away from the centres of population, marinas will need to survive on business from transient vessels and possibly charter fleets, and they need to be designed with such limitations in mind. The big marinas, fuelled by developers’ ill-conceived aspirations, having seen marinas in the western hemisphere and Australia, are destined to lie fallow for years to come.
The full version of this interview appears in the current issue of The Superyacht Owner.