APSA Grand Tour Webinar Session 3: Southeast Asia


The third episode of the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association’s (APSA) virtual cruise took place on 26 January, and saw the good ship m/y APSA sampling the delights and facilities of Phuket before moving down the Kra Peninsula to Singapore, and then crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane to the island chain that is Indonesia.

APSA Chairman Nigel Beatty (APSA Chairman) welcomed the expert panel and pointed out that superyacht traffic in Asia has indeed increased significantly over the last 10 years. It was anticipated that 2021 would be a bumper year due to increased activity in the region with the prospect of the Tokyo Olympics (now postponed indefinitely) and the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland (taking place, but considerably more difficult to visit than was originally intended).

Big events do encourage superyachts to visit new destinations – which leads to the owners making enquiries about facilities, services, and charter opportunities. APSA’s job is to get the information out there, light up the lights, and attract that potential business on behalf of its members all across the region. Says Beatty “The services and facilities are all here – we just have to make sure that everyone knows about us! And that, for the most part, is what this series of webinars is all about.”

Richard Lofthouse (Catalano Shipping Services Indonesia) presented an overview of the Southeast Asian region, and highlighted the recent easing in regulations to enter Indonesia. Thai regulations are also opening up and allowing yachts to enter the country, albeit with a quarantine rider. It is even easier to enter Indonesia – but not Malaysia, where the first port of entry when coming from the west (Langkawi) is still “in paralysis” but hopefully will be open to superyachts soon. Lofthouse also pointed out that the current increase in numbers of superyacht coming into the market, and the usage of local superyachts being seen in Hong Kong, will inevitably turn into an uptick in blue water cruising all across the region, just as soon as those boats are able to ‘push out’. 

Superyacht in Thailand

Based in Phuket, Gordon Fernandes (Asia Pacific Superyachts/APS) has been beating the “Come to Asia” drum for more than two decades. Phuket is the first port of call for yachts travelling east from India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives – and before that of course, the Med. “Phuket is a draw card in its own right. Once upon a time it was an idyllic backpacker destination – sunshine, sand, smiles, cheap lodging and cheap beer. Today it is a highly sophisticated ‘lifestyle destination’ offering luxury villas, golf courses, innumerable spas, international sporting events (including sailing regattas), ‘cosmetic medical tourism’, beach clubs, and high-end brand shopping.

Phuket also has five marinas with big boat capability, and there are two more just across the way in Krabi, with more on the drawing board. Support services are more “agency” than “shipyard”. There is an international airport with connections all over the globe (Covid-19 permitting), and charter regulations are gradually being codified – yes, really. Currently a charter beginning in Phuket and ending in Langkawi (Malaysia) is counted as an “international passage” which helps.

Thailand also has an east coast, meaning that cruising truly is a year-round option. The area around Koh Samui, Koh Chang and Pattaya offer the very best of the Gulf of Thailand, and are all easily accessible.

Piracy? What’s that? (The man in the small boat coming this way is waving a fish, not a firearm). It is a great shame that a problem that never existed in the first place generated so much bad press – reality is that the Gulf of Aden and the southern reaches of the Malacca Strait are all about multi-million-dollar commercial cargoes, not private vessels.


Superyacht Services in Singapore

Singapore, reports Scott Walker (NABS Engineering/APS) is more about backup services than about cruising. Singapore’s historical existence relied on the shipping traffic passing through the Singapore Strait, and that’s still a massively important industry for the tiny city state. Dry docks, graving docks, engineering facilities, repairs, painting, refits, bunkering – you name it, you can get it done here.

Leaving aside Covid-19 complications, access to Singapore facilities is easy and hassle-free. Immigration and quarantine are straightforward. Even under C-19 circumstances, contractors are allowed on board, although crew have to remain on board at all times. Singapore can reasonably claim to be the centre of the maritime service industry in the Asia region by virtue of its position: 50% of destinations for vessels departing Singapore are still in the ASEAN region.

Superyachts in Indonesia

Andy Shorten (The Lighthouse Consultancy) had the interesting task of summing up Indonesia, the biggest archipelago in the world, against the clock. “Actually, it’s quite easy,” said Shorten. “Indonesia is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful, spectacular, thrilling, cultural and everything else destination. Add positive adjectives here.” Shorten made special mention of the Raja Ampat region, which provides some of the richest diving environments in the world; expansive Cendrawasih Bay with its almost-tame population of whale sharks and where “the pace of life is zero”; the Banda Islands, historical heartbeat of the 17th century spice trade and especially nutmeg; and the Bali-Komodo region, well known as the home of the Komodo dragon – but still practically deserted, as is everywhere in Indonesia. Only very rarely does anyone have to ‘share a bay’ in this part of the world. Activities based around a cruising superyacht are only limited by the imagination of the owners and their guests, or charterers. Cue slideshow of jaw-dropping Indonesia, above and below the waves, and from the sky.

“This is what Indonesia is all about – unspoiled beauty, under the water and ashore. There are only limited service facilities, so yachts come here prepared – it’s only a short hop north from Bali to Singapore, and an even shorter one south from Kupang to Darwin. What Indonesia lacks in sophisticated support facilities, you can find right next door, literally.”

“Entry procedures are a lot easier than they used to be, but you don’t need to know about that – there are excellent people like The Lighthouse Consultancy and Catalano Shipping Services to look after that for you. For the rest, just enjoy looking at the pictures.” (We did). 

25 years ago, the only big boat visitors to Asia were world cruisers ‘passing through’. Asia had a reputation for nothing very much, with a few (non-existent) pirates thrown in as discouragement. The Med and the Caribbean were understood, but the idea of a circumnavigation was a realisable fantasy trip. The stretch from Suez to the Pacific was a necessity of passage, just somewhere you had to pass through. The Pacific Islands were all about girls in grass skirts, and that was it.


Beatty summed up the APSA Grand Tour series by saying, “our panellists and APSA itself are keen to demonstrate over the last three weeks is that in terms of infrastructure, destinations, support, transport and supplies, there viable and vibrant year-round cruising circuit in the Asia-Pacific region which is arguably equal to access than the more mainstream cruising circuits in Europe and Americas.” In the coming months APSA will be presenting more webinars, covering some of the destinations not yet mentioned, particularly the South Pacific and parts of the Indian Ocean. After that there are plans to have focus webinars on yacht repair facilities, yacht builders, yacht brokerage, and yacht charter - all focused on this wonderful part of the world.

Anything superyachts want in the Asia-Pacific region can be supplied by at least one of our members,” says Beatty. “APSA is here to help you do business and/or connect with Asia from a superyacht perspective. Our members are located from Tahiti to New Zealand, in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Maldives, Singapore, Vietnam, and many more places. Join our APSA community: you don’t have to be in Asia - you can be a member, anywhere in the world.

The Asia-Pacific superyacht scene is growing fast: don’t miss the boat!

Recordings of this three-part webinar series can be found on our Youtube Channel.

By Guy Nowell/Suzy Rayment/AYP


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