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More mooring space at marinas needed

The Straits Times | Carolyn Khew | Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

The berthing spaces at One Degree 15 Marina Club (above) in Sentosa Cove have been full since a year ago.

There is a parking crunch at marinas, as more well-heeled Singaporeans take to the seas in high-end yachts.

And that has led to a wait from a few months to even a year for a berthing space at highly sought after marinas, some of which are looking to expand.

One Degree 15 Marina Club's 270 wet and 70 dry berthing spaces, for instance, have been full since a year ago. There is a current waiting list of 40 hoping for a spot for their yacht at the club, which has mostly Singaporean members.

Marina at Keppel Bay has filled 95 per cent of its 168 berths, with the remaining berths reserved for visiting super yachts. Said Mr Trevor Fong, head of marina management for Keppel Land Hospitality Management: "The wait list backdates to almost four years, especially for yachts between 40 and 70 feet."

A spokesman for Raffles Marina said its marina is "operating close to full" but stopped short of revealing figures. The lack of space here has pushed boaters to look for nearby alternatives in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, for instance, although some also choose to berth there as it is cheaper.

One of the more popular overseas marinas among Singaporeans is Batam's Nongsa Point Marina and Resort. Marina manager Clement P. Waquet has observed a 40 per cent increase in occupancy, with Singaporeans accounting for the bulk of it.

"Most of them come for the weekends. But a lot also are coming on a yearly basis for (reasons such as) cheap maintenance and berthing," said Mr Waquet. The cost of berth can be as low as $200 a month, if customers sign a yearly contract.

This is easily two to three times cheaper than prices here. At One Degree 15 Marina Club, a berthing space for members can cost anywhere between $480 a month for a 30-foot yacht and $10,000 for a 150-footer.

The super yacht market in Asia is reportedly worth US$345 million (S$433 million) a year. Singapore's slice of the pie is reportedly US$45 million. Said Mr Arthur Tay, chairman of the Superyacht Singapore Association: "The actual figures are probably higher given that some Singaporeans may have registered their boats overseas."

And numbers are growing. The number of pleasure craft licences given out by the Maritime and Port Authority for crafts such as yachts and catamarans has increased by about 20 per cent from 2009 with 786 licences given out last year.

Many use the yachts to relax on a cruise to nearby islands like St John's, or to neighbouring waters in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Entry level ones measuring between 20 and 25 feet cost from $30,000 to $100,000 while super yachts which are at least 70 feet long can go up to a few million dollars.

Mr Mark Russell, group general manager of yacht dealer and brokerage Simpson Marine, said most of his buyers from Singapore are in their 40s or 50s: "Most of them are self-made entrepreneurs who like to invest in themselves by buying this lifestyle asset."

Yacht dealer and brokerage Premium Nautical said the sales of their boats are tied closely to the space available at local marinas. "It's very hard to get space available at some marinas," said its general manager Brent Rubbo. "And there is a preference for certain marinas over others because it is a status thing for some people. They want to show off their boats at nice marinas at handy locations with nice facilities."

Some customers hold off buying a yacht when there is no space at a choice marina, he added. It could take any time between two months and a year for a berthing space depending on various factors, such as the size of the boat.

Mr Tay, who is also the chairman of One Degree 15 Marina Club, said it is currently looking at building more "integrated marina properties" not just in Singapore but also elsewhere in the region, seeing as how the interest in yachting is poised to grow even stronger. Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), which doubled their dry berthing capacity in May 2012 to 218 dry berths, plans to "restructure" its wet berths to accommodate more 60- to 80-foot vessels. RSYC has 127 wet berths currently.

Dr Gordan Tan, who bought his first boat for $180,000 eight years ago, said Singapore could do with more mooring spaces. "Boat ownership is possible only if berths are available," said the 56-year-old gynaecologist. "A shortage also causes berthing charges to rise, which can be a significant problem."

This article was published on April 27 in The Straits Times.

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