As part of Thailand’s strategic objective to expand its marine tourism sector, the government is now moving forward on its Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) programme which aims to make the Thai Gulf region a key business and leisure hub.

The EEC has already included a number of infrastructure investments and others are planned. In marine tourism terms, this primarily applies to initially expanding cruise ship facilities and key ports. For the yachting sector, there are plans to expand the Ocean Marina Yacht Club at Pattaya with an additional 60-80 berths by next year as well as proposals for other marinas in the region.

So far, the investments made or plans include the already approved expansion of U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport and a high-speed rail connection linking Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports. Also, an additional Baht 230bn has been approved for the third phase of the Laem Chabang deep-sea port; the third phase of the Map Ta Phut deep-sea port and a double-track rail network linking Laem Chabang, Map Ta Phut and Sattahip deep-sea ports, all of which will support marine tourism in the east of Thailand.

Speaking of the growing importance of Thailand's east and its geographical importance in the region, Scott Finsten, harbour master of Ocean Marina Yacht Club, said: “The Gulf of Thailand has tremendous natural assets, both offshore and on, and it's encouraging to see the region getting priority attention from the Thai government.

“Not only is Thailand's East seeing significant government investment, but private investment is also increasing,” he adds. “This brings further development of the leisure infrastructure and with Ocean Marina Yacht Club – the largest marina in South East Asia – and Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show, we are positioned to support this growth.”

Billed as 'Thailand's Biggest Outdoor Lifestyle Boat Show', the 2017 Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show retains its lead position in the global marine events calendar kicking off the Asian boat show season from November 23-26, 2017. Organised by and hosted at Ocean Marina Yacht Club in Pattaya, the event has established itself as the place to do business for the regional marine industry with more than 150 businesses expected to showcase their products and services.

As to new marinas in the eastern area of Thailand, the government has identified two possible sites. The first is at Laem Thien Port in Sattahip in Cholburi province. This site already provides some basic facilities as well as offering anchorages. There are also shipyards available for any repair or maintenance work.

In Traad province, the most eastern one in Thailand, a site at Bann Laem-sork near Muang has been identified as a possible marina development location. This could have a 1ha-plus area for marina development but also it would require a breakwater and dredged navigation channel.