The ninth edition of the Asia Pacific Yacht Conference(APYC) continued to address its ultimate aim of making the Asia Pacific region into a workable third cruising area for superyachts. The 2017 conference displayed what was generally considered by delegates to be a more positive tone in reaching the objective.

As in previous years the discussions focus on how regional cooperation might be developed. Some progress was reported but there remains much to do, in particular to persuade governments of the economic benefit of superyachts and getting a harmonised foreign-flag chartering and tax regime across the whole region.

Andy Treadwell, Founder & CEO of Singapore Yacht Events the APYC organiser, spoke in his opening remarks of the need for further cooperation between nations in the region and acceptance by governments of the significant financial benefits that visiting superyachts can bring. Add in the opportunity for them stay for a reasonable period to cruise and maybe charter plus the options of using local facilities and services then real progress would be made.

Education and building awareness about yachting as an activity and the economic impact they can bring are also high on the action agenda. These were mentioned consistently throughout the day and a half conference.

To set the global superyacht scene, a presentation from Martin Redmayne highlighted key issues in the market such as the lack of orders and profitability among many builders, new owners and the advice they are given plus the increasing age of them. Depreciation, the benefits of chartering to help develop new owners and the rise of litigation were also highlighted.

In terms of the Asia Pacific region, both New Zealand and Tahiti show that success is possible. However, the real need is for a harmonised system from Thailand to Tahiti for superyachts to cruise and charter. This dream remains just that and a great deal more lobbying remains before it is achieved. Key challenges remain the resources of time and money to lobby; regional cultural issues, the infancy of boating as an activity in countries such as Vietnam and the constant ongoing need to educate governments and build awareness of the opportunities.

At APYC 2017 the regional success story came from Tahiti Tourisme where the relevant government departments of Marine, Customs, Immigration and Revenue are working together and superyachts are allowed to stay for 36 months. Presenter, Manoa Rey, emphasised that Tahiti’s success was not an overnight success story and in fact it took seven years to achieve.

This group of 118 beautiful islands now has a formula that works and is attracting more superyachts, currently around 50 a year. They are staying longer, chartering if they wish and making use of the infrastructure put in place to support them. The superyacht visits are bringing in about $10m economic impact to the islands each year.

Indonesia came in for a lot of attention on day one including a presentation from Prof Dr Indroyono Soesilo, Honorary Adviser to the Indonesian Minister of Tourism. He outlined the country’s ambitions for marine tourism which see the number of marine-related visitors from 1m in 2014 to 4m by 2019. Also it is aimed to increase the number of yacht visits over the five year period from 750 to 5,000 craft of all sizes.

The view of the conference was that perhaps Indonesia should concentrate on superyachts as they bring in better returns than a large number of smaller yachts. There are concerns over taxation, interpretation of clearance rules and lack of a marina infrastructure. On the latter Indonesia has plans to develop over 30 marinas by 2019.

An Asia Pacific Progress Report followed with a panel of Andy Shorten of the Lighthouse Consultancy, Indonesia; Nigel Beatty, SYL and Chairman, Asia Pacific Superyacht Association; Rico Stapel, Boat Lagoon Yachting, Phuket; Ruurd van Putten from Sailing Centre Vietnam. This was a wide-ranging session showing more work and time is needed to complete the Thai charter licence; the benefits and challenges of cruising in Indonesia and that in Japan official do not know how to differentiate between superyachts and commercial cargo vessels.

On the subject of ‘Superyachts for the new generation in Asia,’ Erwin Bamps, CEO of Gulf Craft; Martin Stothard a Director of Echo Yachts and Stephen White from the Sovren House Group, collectively addressed what owners want. Different options were discussed such as a standard 50m for 12 guests through to mini-cruise ships able to accommodate 36 passengers.

The regional cultural issues and the changing demographics with second generation not wanting the hassle of ownership so chartering becomes a way of meeting any boating needs.

An environmental panel session followed highlighting which included David Jones from the Plastic Ocean Foundation, Zara Tremlett of Phuket Yacht Haven marina and Magafira Ali , a Community Campaigner on Banda Naira. The startling facts here are that 300m tonnes of plastic are manufactured every year of which 8m tonnes ends up in the oceans and 50% of the total is only used once, Various solutions were discussed for handling this waste with the needs of small islands such as Banda Naira.

What can Asia learn from how the Med develop brought presentations from John Leonida of Clyde & Co; Ken Hickling, and Stephen White again. These ranged from captains who have been and would love to return to others that would not even considered coming to Asia because of their perception that it is too difficult.

On day 2 sessions addressed Trend in Yacht Migration, Marketing of the region to attract superyachts, Engaging with the Asian Market and Marina infrastructure. Migration was handled by Peter Staalsmid, the Area Sales Manager for Sevenstar Yacht Transport. He highlighted the changing pattern of yacht transport flows and emphasised the growing demands to and from Asia Pacific locations.

The Marketing panel of MaryAnne Edwards, CEO of Superyacht Australia; Kiran Haslam, Marketing Director of Princess Yachts, Vaihere Lissant, Marketing & Communications Director at Tahiti Tourism and Lies Sol, Chartering Manager for Northrop & Johnson based in Phuket. A number of old subjects arose here but it was suggested that a new association made-up just of national organisations was required to take on a lead role in lobbying and promoting the cause of superyachts.

Market engagement focused with Fabio Ermetto, COO of Benetti; Allen Leng, Chairman of Heysea Yachts in China, and Anthony Gould, CEO of the Galileo Academy in Phuket. Issues covered in the session included what Asian owners were looking for in their yachts; how Asian owners use their yachts, the growing trend of Asian owners keeping their yachts in the Med, maintenance service contracts, and crew demand and crew supply and demand challenges.

As to Asian marinas highlighted in the last session of the day, the need for quality facilities was emphasised; the requirement of very large superyachts berths, the danger of overcapacity and the long distances which are inevitable in in the Asia Pacific region.

Whether the premise that all the discussion was more positive than previous years will only be confirmed or not by what action follows.