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Asia Boating Dialogue 2020: promoting collective thinking

by Guy Nowell 22 Sep 07:56 PDT
Asia Boating Dialogue 2020 © ABD

Asia is a big place. From the Indian Ocean to Pacific, it’s all ‘Asia’ (unless you go a long way south). It involves a huge number of countries, with all the associated variations and complications of regulations that entails. Most of them have practically zero experience of boating as a recreational activity. ‘Boats’ are fishing vessels, ferries, and large commercial vessels.. They are not 30ft sailing boats or shiny white superyachts, and the local regulations often reflect the fact.

There’s great boating to be had in Asia, both for residents and visitors, but the attendant bureaucracy is frequently off-putting. This great big region is not the Med or the Caribbean, where recreational boating of all sorts is not new, and the local authorities be they ever so fragmented, all understand what is going on. No surprise then that for so long we have been hearing at conferences and meetings that “Asia needs to work together” where the boating industry is concerned. Indeed.

The Asia Boating Dialogue (ABD) is the 2020 online update of the small meeting that started five years ago as the Asian Boating Forum (ABF), bringing together country representatives from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Despite constraints on international movement, recreational boating in Asia is in good health.

150-something people tuned in to the ABD to hear that India has a lot of people, but not many pleasure craft. It has some nice islands to the south west (Lakshwadeep Islands) and some in the Andaman Sea (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) but boasts very little infrastructure aimed at either local or visiting boaters. But it is developing.

Sri Lanka has a number of delightful ports (Trincomalee, Galle etc) but lacks infrastructure aimed at either local or visiting boaters. But it is developing.

Thailand has well-developed marina facilities in Phuket (we know them) and Pattaya (Ocean Marina). Indonesia – “the Caribbean of Asia” – consists of 17,000 islands and four marinas, although entry/CIQ regulations are less onerous than they used to be. But it is developing.

Malaysia has a boating hub in the shape of Langkawi, and a number of well-intentioned Govt ideas. It is to be hoped that they (the ideas) will be more practical than recent failed marina-building programmes.

Singapore has the infrastructure, but it also has a ferocious MPA (Marine Port Authority) that stops anyone doing anything, and there is nowhere to go when you get out of the marina, except to another country. The Philippines is potentially as fabulous as Indonesia – an archipelago nation packed to the gunwhales with natural beauty, but precious few facilities or infrastructure after Manila and Subic Bay.

None of this is new information. Various attempts have been made to “get everyone talking”. The Asian Boating Dialogue is but the latest version of what Martin Redmayne used to call it “joined up thinking” at the Singapore Superyacht Conference. The ABD is saying the same thing, and rightly so - but is a tough call to ask a collective of well-informed boating industry representatives to take on all the governments of the ‘Asian boating region’ and ask them to fall in line. Watch this space.

ABD v2.0 next week: China, China (Hainan focus), Hong Kong & Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan. 16.00h, 29 September 2020.

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