YP Loke: Founding Member and Past Honorary Secretary of APSA

APSA: When did you join APSA and why did you join?

YP Loke: I was part of a small group that discussed forming a region-wide superyacht association in 2009. The impetus for this came from a conference alongside the Singapore Yacht Show that year, at which delegates discussed the need to promote the region as a single cruising entity. There wasn’t a platform to do this. Colin Dawson felt we should create one. I got involved having just set up the Singapore Boating Industry Association (SBIA), and the process of setting up an association was still fresh in my mind. Gareth Twist (we needed someone in Phuket), JJ Lavigne (he had managed the Superyacht Singapore Association, now folded into SBIA) and Simon Turner (he chaired the conference at the Yacht Show) formed the inaugural APSA Committee that was finally constituted on the 21 April 2011.

APSA: What led you to work in the superyacht industry?

YP Loke: I got into the yachting side of the business as in my role as general manager for Raffles Marina. It was one of the first marinas in ASEAN, and we had the capability to berth a small number of superyachts. There were only a handful of local owners, and superyacht visits from afar were rare. It became an imperative to learn about the superyacht business, and make Raffles Marina known to their Captains and owners. 

APSA: What is the focus of your work and experience in the superyacht industry?

YP Loke: It became clear very quickly that to get superyachts to come to Raffles, we had to promote not just the marina, but also Singapore which is not a cruising destination in itself, although it is connect to the whole cruising hinterland in the SEA region. Francis Lee, then the president of Raffles Marina, came up with the word Aseanarean, to describe this area, aligning it with Mediterranean and Caribbean. Cruising articles hitherto described Southeast Asia as the Caribbean of the East which we felt was irreverent (even insulting) to the diverse culture, biodiversity and unique identity that is Southeast Asia.  

APSA: What area of the superyacht industry has been your speciality?

YP Loke: I have been mostly involved in the destination promotion side, and as I run a marina consultancy, also in the berthing and support facilities and services that superyachts require. I understand some of the technical aspects and considerations from my training as a naval architect, but am no expert on superyachts by any means.

On the business side I remain semi-active as a marine consultant, and I am a member of the Global Marine Business Advisors which I helped set up. I continue to be a member of the ICOMIA Marinas Group. Among other things it steers the World Marinas Conference which is scheduled to run as a physical meeting (hopefully) in Dubai 12-14 October 2021. I was also instrumental in founding the Asia Boating Dialogue (ABD) which is the 2020 online update of the small meeting that started five years ago as the Asian Boating Forum (ABF). The aim is to bring together country representatives from the Asia and foster communication and cooperation around the region.

APSA: What do you enjoy most about Singapore?

YP Loke: I am based in Singapore, but plan to travel extensively when borders re-open (I have grandchildren in the USA). Luckily, Singapore is one of the safer places with Covid under reasonable control. That is, until last month when a large cluster broke out from a fishing port where Indonesian boats land their catch. We are at the tail end of a semi-lockdown to try and arrest this. Restaurants were closed for almost a month (except for takeaways) but can re-open from 10 August (subject to quota and other measures). 70% of the population is fully vaccinated and is increasing at roughly 1% a day. With the population close to being fully vaccinated, the thinking is that we will pivot to living with Covid-19, instead of trying to shut it out. It means day to day movements will be less restrictive, although masking up, safe distancing and contract tracing will always be there. So being in Singapore I have much to be thankful for, in these Covid times.      

APSA: What interests to you have outside of the superyacht industry ?

YP Loke: The occasional sail with friends. Now with Covid 19 lurking, I have taken up kayaking and stand-up paddling (SUP) for exercise (much safer than going to the gym, assuming Covid rules allow). I am Vice-President at Raffles Marina, and represent SUP at the committee level in the Singapore Canoe Federation. Both are voluntary roles.

APSA: How has the superyacht industry changed of late, and how do you see it moving forward?

YP Loke: I can’t claim to be at the leading edge of the superyacht industry to predict its future. However, I do feel we will see an increasing growth of yacht visits to Asia. Also, with increasing wealth in Asia, more superyachts will be owned and based in Asia. Except for Thailand there hasn’t been much political or Government support in Asia for superyachts. Yachting is still perceived as elitist and exclusive, more so for big yachts. The way that the boating industry brands boating does not help.

We need to link superyachts with boating and seaports, and promote it as an affordable healthy outdoor activity for all, with superyachts at the top end of this spectrum. In any case, given the lack of a critical mass of superyachts in most countries, few companies can survive solely on superyacht business. Many are crossovers from boating or commercial maritime, and continue to straddle multiple marine segments of the boating industry.                

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