Many of us who love Thailand, its’ people, culture and wonderful marine environment, have worked hard for more than five years to encourage and assist the government to create a safer and more ecologically protected marine environment whilst at the same time allowing high value tourism to flourish here
The importance of marine tourism to the national economy and particularly to the coastal region economies is huge and drives the tourism industry forward for the benefit of all Thais and foreign visitors alike.
So rightly it needs to be protected and made as safe as possible through responsible development and control.
Galileo Maritime Academy is a leading international maritime training organisation based in Phuket at the heart of the yachting industry in Thailand and dedicated to improving the standards of marine safety, crew competence and environmental awareness.
Galileo has worked alongside the Thai Yachting Business Association (TYBA) as a member and at board level to help achieve this important objective and to encourage yachts of all sizes to visit Thailand and enjoy the amazing diversity of its marine life, culture and coastal beauty.
So it is a most significant development that the Thai government has now agreed to welcome all foreign visiting yachts, that is vessels for leisure and sport, to stay and cruise the Thai waters for up to two and a half years by way of six monthly extensions.
Foreign flagged yachts of 30 meters or more can apply for a charter licence to carry out charter operations in Thai waters for the same period without having to import their vessel and pay VAT of the value of the yacht, but paying VAT only on the revenue the yacht generates during its’ stay in Thai waters.
This is a game changer for the Thai marine tourism industry and for all the people employed in the numerous businesses and industries that generate prosperity and security for Thailand.
The sensible control element comes into the six monthly extensions of stay since any yacht that abuses the regulations or the environment may not be given a further extension.
Thailand is beginning to focus on marine ecology protection with its efforts to minimise damage to coral reefs, regeneration of coral, restrictions on plastic waste and the use of certain types of plastic products, responsible fishing and biodiversity protection zones. This will take years of continued effort and education but it is already becoming effective.
There is much still to be done by Galileo and TYBA as we are now working with government to bring crew visas into alignment with their visiting yacht cruising permits, also to bring Thai crew training standards and tourist vessel seaworthiness standards into line with current international standards under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS).
But right now we can celebrate the new extended welcome for foreign visiting yachts and the large yacht charter licence as major steps towards a post Covid world of marine tourism development in Thailand under controlled and safer marine ecological conditions. As the Thai government intends, this will bring real benefits for the Thai economy and the millions of people engaged in the marine tourism industries throughout Thailand.
Anthony H Gould FRGS AFNI
Chairman & CEO, Galileo Maritime Academy
Chairman, TYBA Education, Safety and Environment Committee
1st May 2021