Asia Boating Dialogue 2020

The Asia Boating Dialogue (ABD) 2020 was organised by Hong Kong Boating Industry Association (HKBIA) in collaboration with the Singapore Boating Industry Association (SBIA), and supported by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA).

SBIA Chair YP Loke said, “Running the Dialogue as a webinar enabled us to reach a wider audience than in previous events, and helped us engage with a new audience who would not normally travel abroad to a boat show. With travel curtailed by Covid-19, it is important to find ways to connect and revive nautical leisure and tourism”.

HKBIA Chair & ICOMIA Executive Committee member Lawrence Chow said, “We hope that sharing information across the region and through the ABD will provide insights into the current state of the industry and set the blueprint for recovery in Asia.”

ICOMIA Secretary-General Udo Kleinitz , added that “We are very happy to continue our engagement in Asia, build our base, and help our members promote the boating industry in their countries.”

South and Southwest Asia, 22 September 2020.

India (Aashim Mongia, Indian Marine Federation), Sri Lanka (Garmini Herath, Boat Building Technology Improvement Institute), Indonesia (Robin Engel, Indonesian Marine Tourism Association) and the Philippines (Apa Ongpin, Federation of Philippines Marine Industries), are all very much emerging boating markets where engagement with Government and the creation of both regulatory frameworks and infrastructure are of prime importance.

Singapore (Darren Oh, Singapore Boating Industry Association) is home to Asia’s biggest boat show but has no ‘marine hinterland’ in which to go boating. Malaysia (William Quah, Association of the Marine Industries of Malaysia) has infrastructure and marinas, shipbuilding and repair facilities, and a small number of regattas, and the AMIM is currently in discussions with the Government to stimulate the growth of pleasure boating throughout Malaysia.

In Thailand (Peter Jacops, Thai Yachting Business Association) boating is concentrated around Phuket and Pattaya. The country hosts a number of international regattas, all of which were cancelled by Covid-19 along with the Thailand Yacht Show. TYBA is working with the Thai Government to refine boating and charter regulations for the future.

East and Northeast Asia, 29 September 2020.

Vietnam (Sam Do, Saigon Yacht and Marina) lacks infrastructure and disposable income. Recreational boating is almost unheard of, and the Government treats leisure vessels as commercial shipping for regulatory purposes. Conversely, Taiwan (Virginia Chuang, Taiwan Yacht Industry Association) has money and a flourishing world-class yacht building industry, 99% of which is exported, and a population brought up to be afraid of the water. 

South Korea (Dr Choong-Hwan Kim, Korea International Boat Show) is still an emerging market after 13 years of energetic Government support. Numbers of vessel registrations and boat driving licence applications are at an all-time high, giving cause for optimism. There are 37 operational marinas in Korea, and while the east coast is dominated by commercial fishing ports, and the west coast is less suitable for boating it is the beautiful southern coast from Busan to Mokpo that is the future for yachting in South Korea.

Boating is a growth business in mainland China (Zheng Weihang, China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association). Sanya, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen, Qingdao and Shanghai are the key network hubs for the leisure marine industry. There are 20 boat shows in China, 140 yacht clubs with an estimated 15,000 members, and around 100 marinas, so there is a lot of room for expansion, especially in Hainan has been designated a Free Trade Zone, and set to become the epicentre of boating for mainland China with Sanya at its heart. Stuart Hu (Sanya Central Business District Administration) reported a 5-year marine industry plan to encourage private boat ownership through reduced import duties and tax-free concessions on yacht and equipment manufacture, and the development of an industry ecosystem that includes yacht design, building, charter, and maintenance.

Hong Kong is the most mature leisure boating market in Asia, with the largest pleasure boat fleet outside of Japan. “The combination of wealth, good infrastructure and great cruising grounds has made Hong Kong into the boating success that it is today,” says Lawrence Chow (Hong Kong Boating Industry Association). Hong Kong has over 10,000 registered pleasure vessels, nine marinas, more than 2,000 berths, and no boat show. Macau has 49 registered pleasure vessels and an annual boat show funded by a Chinese SEO. An annual conference (at the Macau Yacht Show) provides a useful window on China, but any real development of marine leisure sector in Macau is likely to the Greater Bay Area.

Japan is the biggest boating market in the region, involving 560 marinas, 33,000 berths, and 171 ‘sea stations’. Kenta Inaba (Superyacht Association Japan) advises that registered numbers of boats have fallen from 450,000 (1990) to below 250,000 (2019). Boat owners buying larger yachts in the 20-30m range, as corporates start using larger yachts for business and entertainment, but existing marinas were designed to cater for smaller motor and sailing yachts, and very few can accommodate the newer, bigger, boats.

Q & A sessions highlighted some interesting issues:

  1. addressing cruising protocols within the Asia region for yachts by Covid restrictions
  2. Increased Government lobbying by the regional boating associations. It is critical that Asian governments understand the economic benefits that come from the pleasure boat industry, especially as this is an industry that has grown significantly during the Covid crisis.
  3. The need for more transparency regarding regulations and protocols to making navigation easier in the Asia region.
  4. The engagement of a new audience, with increasing numbers of people seeking a safe and enjoyable domestic leisure activity that allows them to ‘social distance’ with family and friends.
  5. Making boating both accessible and sustainable.

In conclusion, the continuation of the ABD platform is strongly endorsed, and planning is underway for follow-up sessions. The Q&A element is an important part of the dialogue and by definition, Q&A is ‘the dialogue’. A suggestion has been made that instead of being read out “on air”, country presentations be provided to registered attendees in advance of the event, and the Q&A itself becomes the live event.





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