Thailand's Prime Minister wants to make Phuket a superyacht hub
by Laura Nineham
The Thai government looks likely to alter several key laws to encourage more superyacht charters in Thailand.
Tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the government wants to make Phuket the prime cruising destination, ahead of Malaysian archipelago Langkawi, which is seen as the rival Andaman Sea island in terms of tourism.
One of the key reforms being discussed is a change to crew visas. Current legislation allows boats entering Thai waters to remain for six months. However, a legal anomaly means captains and crew can receive visas of only up to 30 days.
Another relaxation in the law may come regarding VAT payments. Currently foreigners who own foreign-flagged yachts in Thailand must register them there and pay 7% VAT to charter them out.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the Thai government was keen to capitalise on the country’s beautiful cruising waters and year-round boating climate.
Gulu Lalvani, chairman of the Royal Phuket Marina, told the Phuket Gazette: “Even in the peak of the rainy season, there is still beautiful sailing on the east coast – the water is very calm and pleasurable for boating, while the west coast is less protected from May through September.
“My aim is to make Phuket like the Riviera in the south of France; don’t just stay at a beautiful hotel, but charter a luxury yacht for a week or two.
Meanwhile plans are being discussed for a major expansion of Phuket’s Deep Sea Port, in order to establish the province as the main port of call between Singapore and Myanmar for cruise ships and superyachts. The project is currently on hold due to difficulties getting the required Environmental Impact Assessment passed and issues around the operating company being restricted to completing the project within one year.