Posted March 21, 2012, 2:57 p.m.
THE ASIA SUPERYACHT CONFERENCE – Walking The Talk By Simon Turner A few months ago I was aboard a 50 metre superyacht in Singapore that was close to completing her second circumnavigation of the world. Speaking to her Captain and owners it was clear that they had an endless stream of wonderful experiences that could not have been achieved in any other way than aboard a superyacht. Their favourite country? Without question it was Indonesia. Pirates? No. Bureaucracy? Yes. Incredible scenery, waters and experiences? Certainly. This is a fairly typical story of big superyachts that visit the Asia-Pacific region. Good planning and good contacts make for a life changing cruise. But this is not the view of the many Captain’s and brokers that I speak to from outside of the region, particularly those in the USA. At least, not among those that have not cruised in Asia. Many tell me of their fears of pirates, poor facilities, lack of support and infrastructure, dirty fuel and endless bureaucracy. Many of my colleagues in the superyacht business in Asia hear the same comments and in early 2009 we set up a working group in Singapore to do something about it. Under the banner of the Superyacht Singapore Association (SSA) we launched the Asia Superyacht Conference which was held in October of 2009 and was attended by over 150 professionals from over 30 countries around the world. In the early stages of the events development many in Singapore and beyond were skeptical of its success and some were solidly against it. By July 2009 we had no idea if we could even pull it off or if the support from around the region was there to make it a success. The outcome was quite spectacular with people attending from the industry around the world and it was quite simply an “east meets west” eye opener. Throughout the two days of presentations and interactive discussions there were several jaw dropping moments as delegates were astounded at some of the cruising destinations on show and were delighted to hear that experienced support professionals were in place to help with everything from permits to visas to maintenance. The objective of the conference was not just to showcase the Asia-Pacific region but also to identify its problems and bottlenecks and see how as an international group we could address these. Never before had superyacht professionals gathered in Asia and the event set a clear mandate for the development of the industry throughout the region. First and foremost was a universal agreement that an Asia-Pacific superyacht association should be formed and I am delighted to report that this is now very close to fruition with over 20 companies from around the region having committed funds to start the association. Two meetings have been held in Thailand and Singapore with more than 40 companies represented from as far away as India, Japan and New Zealand. The association will aim to promote the region as a whole to the yachts in the west and in addition will work with and educate Governments on open seas policies and the simplification of regulations and taxation. In addition to the regional association it is also essential that individual countries form their own associations. Following Singapore’s lead the Indonesian Superyacht Association has been formed and superyacht chapters linked to industry boating bodies in Malaysia and Thailand are also under way. Hong Kong is an excellent example of why associations are needed. It is a fantastic destination and a world leading city and yet is at absolute capacity in terms of yacht berths. Superyacht berths are even more problematic with only eight proper berths in the whole territory. A complete lack of city planning and lack of understanding of the economic impact of visiting superyachts means no development has been done for years. Sadly I can report an example where just a week ago the superyacht Silver Zwei was left bobbing at anchor with no permission to enter a marina due to her commercial yacht status. Perhaps not all the proper procedures were followed but the authorities certainly did not understand what they were dealing with. Instead of a world class yacht being photographed in a world class city, she was left to fight for space with the tankers. Indonesia may well be one of the most bureaucratic destinations a superyacht could visit but the new association is quietly working away with the Government to develop a whole new set of procedures and regulations aimed at making superyacht transits easy and enjoyable with just one single clearance at the entry and exit point of the country. Since the conference, superyacht construction continues to thrive in the region with Taiwan continuing to lead the way but with some very interesting projects in China also. Reports also tell us that Malaysia will also soon become a superyacht building country. Even Singapore is chipping in with three superyacht projects currently underway. All of this has attracted more international superyacht professionals to the region and recently we have had a host of manufacturers and designers looking for opportunities. It would perhaps be unfair to attribute an increase in visiting superyachts to the region but Singapore has already seen a huge increase to date on 2009 figures following a level year previously. The tracking of superyacht traffic in Singapore has been superbly carried out by the Superyacht Singapore Association and they are able to share crucial data on what is happening in the region. This type of data needs to be collated in all countries and shared through the regional association. All of this will help to bring more superyacht traffic to the region. New marinas are also springing up all over Asia with new facilities in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia all well underway. The conference in 2009 addressed some of the issues and mistakes made by marinas around the world and experts including this publication’s very own Colin Squire were able to educate the people behind marina projects in Asia. World class marinas will continue to drive superyacht ownership in the region and an increase in visiting superyacht traffic. The region also boats two superyacht regatta’s with the promise of more on the way. Events currently take place in December in Thailand and July in Bali, both adding some razzamatazz to the business. Also look out for news of a Monaco style superyacht show to be run in Singapore in 2011, bringing many of the region’s hi-net worth individuals together in one place. The charter business is also continuing to evolve with a gradual increase in true white superyachts being available for those wanting a truly different and exotic destination. For some time we have had local traditional craft doing a very good job and this is now being complemented by genuine superyachts. SY Moecca last year was near to the top of the charts in terms of the number of charter days booked. Across Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore there are a huge amount of totally safe and wonderful places for superyachts without having to venture into Indonesia or say Cambodia. Charter brokers need to take note and begin to educate themselves and their owners on the opportunities Asia provides. This brings us back to the superyacht conference which will happen again in October (12-14th) this year. Representatives of Informa Yacht Group (IYG), the organisers of the Monaco and Abu Dhabi Yacht Shows (among others), attended the conference last year and were so impressed with the event that they entered into a collaboration agreement with the Superyacht Singapore Association to help them grow the event. IYG’s reputation and contacts will be a great boon to the event and early data shows a big increase in delegate bookings coming from Europe. The conference this year will feature a vastly enhanced programme with over 40 speakers and a major Gala Dinner at one of Singapore’s world leading venues. The event will provide opportunities for all attendees with the three major themes of yacht construction and refit in Asia; Asia as a cruising and charter destination; and infrastructure and regulatory developments to spur the industry forward. Presentations will include sessions on yacht building in Asia, the development of marine precincts and superyacht building and refit yards, country by country destination features, risk management and safety for visiting superyachts, and extensive data on superyacht ownership and owner’s attitudes within the region. We often hear that owners and charterers are tired of the Caribbean and the Med. While the Asia-Pacific region clearly has a number of challenges to overcome, much is being done and visiting superyacht traffic is increasing quickly. So when planning your itinerary for the next few years, think of popping over to Singapore to meet the who’s who of the industry from the region. We can promise you a very warm welcome, a lot of fun and guarantee that you’ll leave with a lot more ideas and contacts than you ever dreamed of. Simon Turner is managing director of Singapore brokerage firm Iconovista, a Director of Northrop and Johnson Asia and Chairman of the Asia Superyacht Conference For more information see: The Conference: Superyacht Singapore Association:
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