Huge Potential Seen for Bali as Super-Yacht Destination

SERANGAN ISLAND ~ The superyachts of the super-wealthy could bring millions of dollars in income and investment to Bali, according to the founders of Bali-based Travel Co. Marine.

The superyacht industry is growing rapidly and Bali is well-positioned to reap the benefits, believe Niel Hempsey and Alvin Edmond, who officially opened a new office on Serangan Island at the weekend.

“The market’s growing and people are now looking for new destinations,” Edmond told The Bali Times, adding that as a stopping point between Singapore and Darwin – major superyacht ports – Bali was ideally located.

Both men worked as superyacht captains for the likes of Ivana Trump and Jim Carrey for many years before coming to Bali, and they hope that the island will become a hub of super yacht cruising in Southeast Asia.

The traditional base for the huge, multimillion-dollar motor yachts owned by film stars, tycoons and royalty is St. Tropez in the south of France.

“They’re based there in the summer; then they head south in September,” said Edmond. “The traditional winter destination is the Caribbean, but more and more boats are coming east,” he added.

According to Hempsey and Edmond, visiting superyachts bring large amounts of money into local economies as the boats need extensive supplies, services and huge amounts of fuel, and the owners look for luxury treatment.

“That’s what we’re trying to do at Travel Co. marine,” said Edmond.

He said the company aimed to provide a full service, and could enable superyacht owners to negotiate the bureaucracy involved in bringing a boat into Indonesian waters.

“The more we look after them the longer they’ll stay,” he said.

“At the moment lots of these yachts are coming from Phuket, down to Singapore, then straight down to Darwin. They’re bypassing Bali,” said Hempsey.

Bali has become an increasingly fashionable and upmarket tourist destination in recent years, with a huge increase in exclusive hotel and villa developments. Its status would be an obvious attraction for the owners of superyachts, said Hempsey. However, prohibitive government regulations and a lack of facilities mean Bali is missing the boat.

“Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore have huge marinas now. Phuket and Langkawi are important yachting destinations – so why not Bali?” said Hempsey.

Bali is already a popular destination for smaller sailing yachts, which Hempsey described as the main basis of Travel Co. Marine’s business at present.

“The superyachts – that’s more of a vision for the future,” he said.

Currently most visiting boats dock at Benoa harbor, which as a commercial port does not have ideal facilities for superyachts, said Hempsey, adding that Travel Co. marine would be providing offshore moorings at Serangan.

And the fees and regulations for cruising permits and for docking are off-putting. According to Hempsey and Edmond, the authorities need to simplify procedures, and encourage investment in marina facilities.

“The government here don’t understand the amount of money they’re turning away,” said Edmond. At the moment, boat owners wanting to keep their vessel in Indonesian waters for more than six months are obliged legally to import the boat, incurring huge duties. If this and other rules were dropped, Bali could reap huge benefits, according to Edmond.

“People will keep their boats here permanently if it’s cheap enough. That would mean millions of dollars for the local economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, a major new marina is under construction at Amuk in Karangasem Regency, according to officials. There have already been overseas publicity campaigns for the project, I Nyoman Mage, spokesman of Karangasem Regency, told The Times.

“Dozens of cruise ships will arrive in the harbor in 2008 because we have been carrying out publicity programs in the United States and Australia,” he said.

The marina would be able to accommodate private vessels, but at present the main focus of the development is to encourage commercial cruise ships, according to I Gusti Ketut Saji, head of the Karangasem Transportation Office.

“We do have plans to provide specific facilities for superyachts in the future, but it is not our main focus at the moment,” he told The Times.

For Hempsey and Edmond, they hope the services provided by their company and others on the island will be the first stage in developing Bali as a major destination for the ocean-going elite, and that there will be a change in official attitude.

“We’re the beginning,” said Edmond. (BT/TH/RD)

The new Travel Co. Marine office is housed in the clubhouse of the Royal Bali Yacht Club at Serangan, of which Alvin Edmond is also commodore. He took over the position after the club had dwindled to only four members after the first Bali bombing.

“I just said, ‘We can’t allow this to happen,’” said Edmond.

The club now has 90 members, and is growing rapidly, with its own sailing dinghies based on the beach at Sanur, and two larger cruising boats at Serangan.

The club will hold its first annual regatta at Serangan from September 1-2, with races for all kinds of wind-powered craft, from cruising keel yachts to traditional Balinese jukung boats. Edmond says the event has attracted wide sponsorship and hopes it will become a major event in future years.

The club is run by volunteers and both Edmond and Hempsey, also a member, are keen to stress its inclusive nature.

“Our next project is to get a youth training scheme going for local kids,” said Edmond. The training would be provided free for Balinese children, he said.

“We already have the boats and the facilities, now we’re looking for a teacher.”

“This is not designed to be a rich expats’ club,” said Hempsey, “the training scheme will be a way to give something back.”

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