Macau Opinion | Chinese Riviera

In its latest effort to promote Macau’s territorial waters, the government stated last week that upcoming details will soon be announced on a series of new schemes that will allow leisure boats to navigate the waters of the Pearl River delta on their way to different – but only specifically targeted – areas of Guangdong Province.

The areas in question, three in total, are defined as free trade – and undoubtedly the newest experimental – zones of the South China Sea, namely Hengqin, the closest neighbour to Macau, Nansha, in Guangzhou, and Qianhai-Shekou, in Shenzen.

Fairly distributed zones and their promising new and existing marinas that may indeed attract more sailors from the city. In this regard, consider that previous arguments for the failure of luring local embarkations to slide their way to Zhongshan – the first free yacht scheme enacted by the government in 2017 – was a lack of appeal ensuing from Zhongshan proper or its marina.

I have searched but haven’t found many images of the place, except for a few design renderings, in which the water, berthed boats and houses sitting by the river are all bright and shiny and appealing.

I wouldn’t picture the waters of the delta so blue under such a sunny sky, but Photoshop tells there are limits to reality we cannot fight against these days.

In any case, Macau-registered boat owners have barely considered making their way up the delta. The number of registered embarkations for the scheme can be counted on two hands.

Whether the new areas will be more efficient in persuading leisure boat owners from Macau to sign up to the new scheme is still to be seen, but some may be moved by curiosity, others for the chance of navigating further away from the city to enjoy different sea landscapes that are promising fantastic marinas and the luxury experience of the French Riviera, if you take their promotional enthusiasm by the letter.

It is likely the water may be bluer on the other side as we sit here and contemplate the city being walled by high-rise buildings and landfills.

While part of the decision from boat owners, in general, to adhere to the scheme will be weighted against the conditions that will be put up – fees and the like – another part will certainly be related to the attraction of Macau’s marinas to those from mainland China mulling the possibility to subscribe to the proposal.

From this side of the river though, nothing much seems to have happened here to attract the sailing visitors.