Friday, 25 April 2008

Huge potential for Bali as super yacht destination

Feature on the super-yacht industry in Bali

Originally published in The Bali Times, 02/08/07

The super yachts of the super-wealthy could bring millions of dollars in income and investment to Bali, according to the founders of Bali-based Travel Co. Marine.
The super yacht industry is growing rapidly and Bali is well-positioned to reap the benefits believe Niel C. Hempsey and Alvin G. Edmond, who recently opened a new office in Serangan.
“The market’s growing and people are now looking for new destinations,” said Edmond, adding that as a stopping point between Singapore and Darwin – major super yacht ports – Bali was ideally located.
Both men worked as super yacht captains for the likes of Ivana Trump and Jim Carrey for many years before coming to Bali, and they hope that the island will become a hub of super yacht cruising in Southeast Asia.
The traditional base for the huge, multi-million dollar motor yachts, owned by film stars, business tycoons and royalty, is St Tropez in the south of France. “They’re based there in the summer, then they head south in September,” said Edmond. “The traditional winter destination is the Caribbean, but more and more boats are coming east,” he added.
According to Hempsey and Edmond visiting super yachts bring large amounts of money into local economies as the boats need extensive supplies, services, and huge amounts of fuel, and the owners look for luxury treatment.
“That’s what we’re trying to do at Travel Co. marine,” said Edmond, adding that the company aimed to provide a full service, and could enable super yacht owners to negotiate the bureaucracy involved in bringing a boat into Indonesian waters. “The more we look after them the longer they’ll stay,” he said.
“At the moment lots of these yachts are coming from Phuket [in Thailand], down to Singapore, then straight down to Darwin. They’re bypassing Bali,” said Hempsey.
Bali has become an increasingly fashionable and up-market tourist destination in recent years with a huge increase in exclusive hotel and villa developments. Its status would be an obvious attraction for the owners of super yachts, said Hempsey. However, prohibitive government regulations and a lack of facilities mean Bali is missing the boat.
“Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore have huge marinas now, Phuket and Langkawi are important yachting destinations, so why not Bali?” said Hempsey.
Bali is already a popular destination for smaller sailing yachts, which Hempsey described as the main basis of Travel Co. Marine’s business at the moment. “The super yachts, that’s more of a vision for the future,” he said.
At the moment most visiting boats dock in Benoa harbor, which as a commercial port does not have ideal facilities for super yachts, said Hempsey, adding that Travel Co. marine would be providing offshore moorings at Serangan. And the fees and regulations for cruising permits and for docking are off-putting, even for billionaires. According to Hempsey and Edmond the authorities need to simplify procedures, and encourage investment in marina facilities.
“The government here don’t understand the amount of money they’re turning away,” said Edmond. At the moment, boat owners wanting to keep their vessel in Indonesian waters for more than six months a obliged legally to import the boat, incurring huge duties. If this and other rules were dropped Bali could reap huge benefits, according to Edmond.
“People will keep their boats here permanently if it’s cheap enough. That would mean millions of dollars for the local economy,” he said.

A major new marina is under construction at Amuk in Karangasem Regency, according to officials. There have already been publicity campaigns for the project in Miami and Australia, said I Nyoman Magi, the public relations officer of Karangasem Regency.
The marina will be able to accommodate private vessels, but at present the main focus of the development is to encourage commercial cruise ships, said I Gusti Ketut Saji, head of Karangasem Transportation Office. “We do have plans to provide specific facilities for super yachts in the future, but it is not our main focus at the moment,” he said.

But Hempsey and Edmond hope that the services provided by their company and others on the island, will be the first stage in developing Bali as a major destination for the ocean-going elite, and that there will be a change in official attitude. “We’re the beginning,” said Edmond.

The new Travel Co. Marine office is housed in the clubhouse of the Royal Bali Yacht Club at Serangan, of which Alvin G. Edmond is also commodore. He took over the position after the club had dwindled to only four members after the first Bali Bomb. “I just said ‘we can’t allow this to happen’” said Edmond, adding that the club now had 90 members, and was growing rapidly with its own sailing dinghies based on the beach at Sanur, and two larger cruising boats at Serangan. The club will hold its first annual regatta at Serangan on the first and second of September this year with races for all manner of wind-powered craft, from cruising keel yachts to traditional Balinese jukung boats. According to Edmond the event has attracted wide sponsorship and he hopes it will become a major event in future years.
The club is run by volunteers and both Edmond and Hempsey, also a member, are keen to stress its inclusive nature.
“Our next project is to get a youth training scheme going for local kids,” said Edmond. The training would be provided free for Balinese children, he said; “We already have the boats and the facilities, now we’re looking for a teacher.”
“This is not designed to be a rich ex-pats’ club,” added Hempsey; “the training scheme will be a way to give something back.”

© Tim Hannigan 2007

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