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China creaks door open to idyllic cruising for foreign yachts

by Des Ryan on 11 Apr 2011
Hainan and the Paracel Islands copy .. .

There's every indication that as Asia grows economically, so does the leisure sailing sector. Just at the time that Singapore has been holding its very first boat show, China has announced that their most southerly province, Hainan, will from now on allow foreign boats to remain in the area for 183 days a year, equivalent to the European legislation.

This is a dramatic increase, up from the 15 day maximum period in force until now, and will come into force on April 15. The regulation comes as the famed tourism island tries to boost its yachting sector to help draw wealthy tourists from abroad.

And what attractions there are. Hainan Island itself is not far from Vietnam, and then, for instance, there's the Paracel Islands, with an intricate archipelago of coral reefs, an abundance of marine life and pristine tropical beaches on an almost untouched paradise. If the world gets to hear about it, Australia's Great Barrier Reef might have some serious competition.

The islands consist of over 130 small coral islands, sandbanks and reefs divided into two groups. The Amphitrite Group consists of six low, narrow islands with sand cays, shallow lagoons and reefs, and the Crescent Group consists of eight islands forming a crescent-like structure enclosing a stunning deep, central lagoon.

While the attractions are plentiful, being China, the 183 day maximum is not as simple as it sounds at first. Foreign yachts can stay in Hainan waters for a maximum 30 days at one time but will be allowed to apply for extensions twice, with each one not exceeding 30 days, said a spokesman with Hainan Customs on Wednesday. So what the regulation amounts to is that, to achieve the least interruption, a yacht would have to leave after the first 90 day period.

Under the new regulation, more ports will be available for yachts to go through entry and exit procedures.

The tropical island is attempting to turn yachting into one of the pillars of local tourism according to the province's development plan for up to 2015.

It also plans to build 13 more yacht ports, in addition to the current three, said Chen Zhifeng, deputy chief of Hainan Customs.

It's all sounding pretty attractive, and has the advantage - for those who act early - of being not overrun with other yachts, a real cruising adventure. What are you waiting for?

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