The high amount of demanded deposits, bureaucracy issues and the lack of attraction of the involved Mainland city as a sailing destination are some of the factors contributing to the low participation of the Zhongshan-Macau Free Yacht Scheme, the Marine and Water Bureau (DSAMA) and people involved in the leisure ships sector have told Business Daily.
The Zhongshan-Macau Free Yacht Scheme was officially launched in November of last year, allowing recreational boats to sail between the two cities and touted as one of many measures to assist in local economic diversification by exploring the MSAR’s new territorial waters.
However, while DSAMA stated at the time that 100 yacht captains were qualified in the MSAR to apply for the scheme, in the last three months of 2016 only seven ships originating in the Mainland applied for the scheme, with no requests made in the first half of this year.
‘Although the green light has been given to the yacht scheme in terms of policies, there are still obstacles, including yachts from Macau being required to pay the related department of the Mainland a customs bond before entering the Mainland, while those from the Mainland are also required to pay their local related entities a sum of several thousand renminbi as handling fees before travelling to Macau,’ DSAMA informed Business Daily.
According to the President of the Macau Yacht Club, Albert Chuck, and Henrique Silva, CEO of local sailing company Macau Sailing, the amount demanded from each owner to dock in Zhongshan under the scheme is set at between 40 to 50 per cent of the boat’s value.
“So, if I have a MOP10 million boat I have to leave MOP5 million. The scheme is just not happening for both sides,” Mr. Silva told Business Daily.
According to DSAMA, the Mainland’s concerned departments are exploring the feasibility of allowing third party organisations involved in yachting to pay the Customs bond on behalf of yacht owners and in this way lower handling fees.
“The scheme is not easily understood and it’s not convenient. The information I’ve received is that the Chinese side will be charging a percentage of the insurance value. Before, there was no guideline, it was decided vessel by vessel in order to understand how much deposit would actually be charged. They are trying to streamline things and put some kind of system in place but it’s very much still a work in progress,” said the General Manager of luxury yachts company MayWall Corporation Zhuhai, Jerry Wallace.
The current system of applying for a visa also requires yacht owners registered in Guangdong to apply for the yacht scheme visa 48 hours before the expected time of entry in any Macau harbour, having to present a certificate that the owner purchased the mandatory insurance for leisure boats.
No incentive and no space
According to Mr. Silva, other issues have lowered the attractiveness and feasibility of the scheme, such as the necessity for boat owners to acquire a special licence to sail to Mainland China – with no course in Portuguese or English available – and the lack of docking areas in Macau.
At the time the scheme was launched there were about 129 berths in the city – 57 berths at Lam Mau Pier on the Macau Peninsula managed by Macau Yacht Club, 22 at Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, and 50 provisional floating buoy berths to be installed near Coloane Pier.
Mr. Silva told Business Daily, however, that the Coloane berths have remained largely unused while the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf dock was seriously damaged by the passage of Typhoon Hato, leaving Lam Mau Pier the only location available for docking.
For Mr. Chuck, one of the main reasons for the lack of enthusiasm is simply the lack of appeal of Zhongshan as a destination for yacht owners.
“It’s not very attractive to only be able to go to Zhongshan. For example, Hong Kong yacht owners have so many locations to sail to, like Sai Kung, where the water is much clearer. If the scheme included Zhuhai it would be better. I hope there’s an improvement in the scheme and that both sides realise it’s a win-win situation,” the Macau Yacht Club President added.
Opening up Hong Kong
According to Mr. Wallace, the Guangdong authorities are currently seeking to expand the scheme to Nansha, while Hong Kong authorities also want to streamline current schemes to create a scheme of their own to Guangdong, although negotiations are certain to “take their time” to come to fruition.
The yachting businessman stated that with Hong Kong currently lacking docking space and boat repair infrastructure, allowing yacht owners to berth and repair their vessels in Guangdong could ease the current situation.
“The Marine Association in Guangzhou and people in Hong Kong have been working together with Nansha. There’s hope an agreement for Hong Kong vessels will be found next sailing season,” he told Business Daily.
For Mr. Silva, due to Hong Kong naval tradition and the history of developing practical naval policies, there would be a good chance that the neighbouring SAR could negotiate a better scheme with Mainland authorities that would serve as an example to Macau.
“I hope this can indirectly help Macau,” he concluded.