APSA’s Superyacht Tour of Asia-Pacific
Nigel Beatty, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Superyacht Association, believes this year’s APSA Grand Tour covering Oceania, East Asia and Southeast Asia underlined the region’s potential to rival the Med and the Americas as a cruising destination.
The APSA Grand Tour launched the organisation’s 10th birthday celebrations
Part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for the Asia-Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA), this year’s APSA Grand Tour webinar series showed there’s a viable and vibrant year-round cruising circuit for superyachts in this region.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a huge upswing in the business of yachting in Asia fuelled by many yachts visiting from the west and a swell of domestic demand. As we were unable to kick off 2021 with a big birthday party, we staged the webinars to highlight the Asia-Pacific region and let a global audience know more about this cruising circuit.
For the three-part series, we adopted a simple concept of having a superyacht, M/Y APSA, cruise around Asia-Pacific. The three 1½-hour sessions covered Oceania, East Asia and Southeast Asia respectively, featuring 13 expert panellists and profiles on nine countries.
David Good, CEO of Superyacht Australia, kicked off the Oceania session by underlining that the Asia-Pacific region has much to offer, from destinations to service yards and refit facilities. “We’d like the superyacht industry to know that they can come to Asia-Pacific, enjoy wonderful exploring and cruising, and not have to go all the way back to the Med for a maintenance, refit or a paint job.”
David Good, CEO, Superyacht Australia
Good stated that changes to Australian charter regulations were finally achieved in December 2019 after a long period of lobbying. “One of our biggest weapons was to show that Fiji, Tahiti and New Zealand were already welcoming charter operators, while Australia was missing out,” Good said.
“With our fantastic cruising grounds such as the Kimberley coast, Great Barrier Reef and Sydney, we should be welcoming superyachts to stay for several seasons. Being able to charter is key to keeping superyachts in the region.”
Trenton Gay, CEO of Gold Coast City Marina and Shipyard, took the audience on a whistle-stop cruise around Australia, pausing in Tasmania, along the Victorian coast, near the Margaret River vineyards in Western Australia and in the northwest Kimberley region where the land just falls into the sea, tides reach 14m and waterfalls are horizontal.
Kimberley is one of Australia’s most spectacular regions
And of course, the Great Barrier Reef. “The biggest living thing in the world and still one of the top must-see places in Australia,” Gay said. “How better to see it than on a superyacht?”
Crossing the Tasman Sea, Mark Wightman of Integrated Marine Group reminded the audience that New Zealand boasts some of the world’s most picturesque, spectacular cruising scenery.
“There’s unique fauna when you step ashore – mountains, volcanoes and fjords to visit, fabulous produce and world-class wines to sample. The superyacht service industry is mature, top class and world-renowned,” Wightman said. “The work ethic is casual but professional – and owners like it.”
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is just north of Queensland, Australia’s northeast state, and was presented by PNG-born Angela Pennefather of Melanesian Luxury Yachts, who’s working to change any misconception that it’s a ‘difficult’ destination. “We don’t have the yacht-support infrastructure in PNG, but Australia is really very close.”
The population of 8 million speak a total of 850 languages – yes, languages, not dialects. “People in today’s bay may not speak the same language as those in yesterday’s mooring,” she said.
Angela Pennefather in Papua New Guinea
PNG is an adventure destination calling for self-sufficiency and Pennefather said that in the last few years she can remember sharing a bay with another yacht on only two occasions. The diving in Milne Bay is spectacular, the coastline breathtaking.
New Britain is the volcanoes-and-hiking sector, but above and beyond everything else, PNG is about the people. As Pennefather said: “It’s the biggest anthropological museum in the world.”
APSA Grand Tour focused on East Asia in session two. I presented a summary of cruising in Japan, which stretches 1,800km from Hokkaido island in the north to the south of Kyushu island, while Ishigaki in Okinawa is a further 1,000km south. It’s a substantial climatic range, the equivalent of Montreal in Canada down to the Bahamas.
Japan’s northwest coast is an adventure land, while an exhaustive cruise in the Seto Inland Sea, surrounded by the islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, could take months. For warm-water cruising, volcanic islands, coral reefs and spectacular diving, head south to Okinawa and beyond. The country imposes precious few restrictions on visiting yachts and when you go ashore, it’s a delight.
The sights, sounds, food, culture, sports, history, people and scenery of this clean, safe and friendly country are legendary. Even better, the shipyards are squeaky clean, the quality of workmanship first class, imported parts can be easily moved around the country, and almost every sizeable port – there are lots – is a port of entry. Crew can come and go with relative ease, with visas, waivers and
passes not a problem.
Japan is one of Asia’s most varied cruising destinations
Presenting Taiwan, Captain Paul Brackley of Central Yacht admitted: “Most people know very little about cruising here.” However, destinations include the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait, just 50nm northwest of Tainan, known locally for diving and seafood but also beloved by the international sailing and windsurfing set, attracted by the strong, steady breezes.
Taiwan’s real strength is in repair and refit facilities, and it has long been ranked among the world’s top 24m-plus superyacht builders. Although some smaller yards are far from glamorous, Taiwan permits easy access for foreign specialist contractors, while the skill level among local subcontractors is top drawer.
“It’s a good place to stop between cruises for maintenance,” Brackley said. Furthermore, the island allows crews to sign on/sign off, there’s plenty of crew R&R opportunities, English is widely spoken, taxes are low, while customs and immigration are neither complicated nor difficult.
Hong Kong-based Mike Simpson, founder and Managing Director of Simpson Marine, talked about his home city as well as the Greater Bay Area on the mainland and Hainan, ‘China’s Hawaii’.
“Hong Kong could be the ‘Monaco of the East’ if the Government would wake up to the possibilities. There’s much more to Hong Kong than the bustling financial and business hub, high-rise buildings and great shopping, for which the city is generally known. Hong Kong has a beautiful, hilly coastline, great hiking trails and over 250 islands to explore.”
Although there has been a lack of berthing for yachts of all sizes for many years, there are now berths available for visiting superyachts at the newly opened Lantau Yacht Club. Port entry and crew regulations are straightforward, with cruising in Hong Kong waters allowed once permits and crew with valid local licences are in place. Although superyachts are recognised as non-commercial vessels, there’s still a lot to do to make regulations easier for visiting superyachts and crew.
Mike Simpson, founder and Managing Director of Simpson Marine
The Greater Bay Area consists of Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities around the Pearl River Delta, yet cruising in mainland China remains complicated. For example, if a motor yacht is sold into China, 42 per cent tax will have to be paid. Moving from one province to another is subject to inconsistent inter province cruising regulations.
Generally, there’s a shortage of qualified crew in China, and limited repair and refit facilities, although exceptions include Kingship Marine and Heysea Yachts, both of which have shipyards in southern China.
Hainan has been designated as the main boating hub for China and a Free Trade Zone, with a particular emphasis on the city and surroundings of Sanya opening to ‘marine tourism’. There will be no import tax on boats arriving in Hainan, and there are financial incentives for companies and businesses opening offices or ancillary boating facilities there. Simpson Marine has an office in Sanya at Serenity Coast Marina. “Hainan has huge potential, but the rules are not entirely clear yet,” Simpson said.
To introduce session three, Richard Lofthouse of Catalano Shipping Services Asia-Pacific presented an overview of the region – and beyond. Then it was the turn of Phuket-based Gordon Fernandes of Asia Pacific Superyachts, who has been beating the ‘Come to Asia’ drum for more than two decades. Phuket is often the first port of call for yachts travelling east from India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – and before that, the Med.
Ao Po Grand Marina in Phuket; Photo: Asia Pacific Superyachts
“Phuket is a draw card in its own right,” Fernandes said. “Once upon a time it was an idyllic backpacker destination, but today it’s a highly sophisticated lifestyle destination offering luxury villas, golf courses, spas, international sporting events including sailing regattas, medical tourism, beach clubs and high-end brand shopping.”
Phuket has five marinas with big-boat capability and there are two more in nearby Krabi, with more on the drawing board. Support services are more ‘agency’ than ‘shipyard’. On the east side of the country, the Gulf of Thailand’s yachting hubs include Pattaya, Koh Chang and Koh Samui.
Singapore is more about backup services than about cruising, said Scott Walker of NABS Engineering and APS. Dry docks, graving docks, engineering facilities, repairs, painting, refits, bunkering – you name it, you can get it done in this busy port city.
Leaving aside Covid complications, access to facilities is easy and hassle-free. Immigration and quarantine are straightforward. Even under Covid, contractors are allowed on board, although
crew must always remain on board.
Andy Shorten of Lighthouse Consultancy presented on Indonesia
For Indonesia, Andy Shorten of The Lighthouse Consultancy had the difficult task of summing up cruising in an archipelago of 17,500 islands stretching over 5,000km from west to east. “Actually, it’s quite easy,” Shorten said. “Indonesia is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful, spectacular, thrilling, cultural and everything-else destination.”
Shorten made special mention of Raja Ampat in the country’s east, which provides some of the world’s richest diving environments, and nearby Cenderawasih Bay, with its almost-tame population of whale sharks and where “the pace of life is zero”.
Heading south, the Banda Islands are the historical heartbeat of the 17th century spice trade and especially nutmeg, while further west, the Bali-Komodo region is well known as the home of the Komodo dragon.
“This is what Indonesia is all about – unspoiled beauty, both under the water and ashore,” Shorten said. “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.”
Eastern Indonesia is among the world’s most pristine cruising grounds
With the APSA Grand Tour, our panellists and APSA itself were keen to demonstrate that in terms of infrastructure, destinations, support, transport and supplies, there’s a year-round cruising circuit in Asia-Pacific equal to the more mainstream cruising circuits in Europe and the Americas.
We will be presenting more webinars covering other destinations such as the South Pacific swing and the Indian Ocean, as well as focus sessions on superyacht-repair facilities, yacht builders, brokerage and charter, all focused on this wonderful part of the world.
Anything superyachts want in Asia- Pacific can be supplied by at least one of our members. APSA is here to help businesses connect with Asia from a superyacht perspective. The region’s superyacht scene is growing fast, so don’t miss the boat!
Following an early 1990s career in the UK’s Royal Navy, Beatty became an MCA Master (Y) 3,000GT on various large private and charter yachts around the world. In 2004, he came ashore and started the following companies, all of which continue under his ownership or part ownership: Super Yacht Logistics (Japan, Australia, US, UK), Fathom Supply (US, Japan), Yotfix (US) and Azure Yacht Crew Health (Hong Kong, Japan, US, France). Beatty is a licenced yacht broker, joining YACHTZOO in Monaco in 2016 and establishing Yachtzoo Japan in 2017. He divides his time between homes in the Cotswolds, UK and Tokyo, Japan.
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