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Port Takola marina – Phang Nga Bay

Port Takola marina – Phang Nga Bay

With its distinctive limestone cliffs and emerald green water, as featured spectacularly in the 1974 James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun,” Phang Nga Bay in Thailand has long been a favorite of yacht owners cruising in Southeast Asia.

Phuket Island has been the natural base of the region’s sailing community, but its four marinas can often be crowded in the high season of November through January, making it hard to find a berth. Now plans are afoot for a new marina on the other side of Phang Nga Bay, about 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, across the sea from Phuket Boat Lagoon and 3 kilometers off the town of Krabi on the mainland.

The new marina, Port Takola Marina — on the site of a former shrimp farm at the mouth of the Krabi River — is still under construction, with a first phase expected to be ready in the middle of 2012. When completed, the marina will have about 250 berths that can accommodate yachts ranging from 10 meters to 35 meters, or 33 feet to 115 feet.

The marina is being developed by Suriya Na Nagara, a retired surgeon admiral in the Royal Thai Navy who hired Simon Arrol, a marina consultant, to design it. Mr. Arrol was the managing director of Camper & Nicholsons Marinas, which specializes in marina investment, development and management, for 16 years before setting up his own company, Arrol Ltd., in 2008.

“There will be quite a significant boatyard, with plenty of storage for yachts, which is always a service in demand from foreign-owned yachts, which may want to lay up during the monsoon,” Mr. Arrol said. “There aren’t many marinas with sufficient space offering that service.”

The total cost of the first phase of development is about 680 million baht, or $22.1 million, including the land cost, said Dr. Na Nagara, adding that he would consider adding berths for larger yachts in the river, outside the entrance channel to the marina, in the second phase of the project.

“There is demand for berths larger than 35 meters, and whilst we do have some ideas about providing these in the future, for the time being we are focusing on completing the marina as presently designed,” Mr. Arrol said.

Robert Reynolds, managing director of Krabi Consultants, a property consultant involved in the project, said the marina was now 50 percent excavated. The overall plan includes homes with private berths at the marina, as well as homes in a nearby wooded area.

“The intention is to develop low density private villas, nothing more than two stories, probably one hotel between the marina and the beach, and possibly a private hospital there,” Mr. Arrol said, noting that the general environment in Krabi is “much more peaceful” than Phuket.

Mr. Reynolds believes Krabi has become a viable competitor to Phuket as a less-crowded destination offering a wider variety of outdoor and nature activities.

“Its infrastructure is excellent and the international airport hosts direct flights from Europe and Asia,” he said.

In recent years, Phuket has established itself as a popular destination for super yachts — technically 24 meters long or more, although the generally accepted length today starts at 45 to 50 meters — offering year-round cruising grounds as well as refit and shore-side facilities. It is home to four large marinas: the Boat Lagoon Marina (180 wet berths), the Royal Phuket Marina (81 wet berths) and the recently opened Ao Po Grand Marina (200 wet berths), all on the east coast, and the Yacht Haven Marina (200 wet berths) in the northeast. There is also a cluster of berths in Ao Chalong, with plans to build this into another larger-scale marina.

Gareth Twist, managing director of Ruea Yachts, the new super yacht construction division of Yacht Solutions in Phuket, says the Port Takola Marina will be a good complement to Phuket marinas, pointing out there is a need for more options for yachts and cruisers to head out for a day’s cruise to another safe destination with facilities, fuel, power and water.

“Having this additional marina in Krabi up and running will offer a perfect stopover for any of the yachts based in Phuket,” he said.

The new development is “proof that the marine business in Thailand is going from strength to strength,” he added. Ruea Yachts unveiled in Monaco last year a new design for a 60-meter luxury yacht aimed at the Asian super-rich.

But even with the new Krabi marina, Mr. Twist believes more berths will be needed in Phuket, as existing marinas reach capacity for a month or two during the peak season. He noted that discussions were under way for two more super yacht marinas to be built, one on the east coast of Phuket and one on the mainland, just north of Phuket.

But for Jean-Jacques Lavigne, executive director of the Superyacht Singapore Association, the main problem for super yacht owners (in the 50 meter and above sense) is not the berthing capacity, but maintenance and refit capabilities. He noted that there were few yacht maintenance facilities in Southeast Asia “to the point where vessels only consider short stints in the region.”

“Many a time, yachts have to go all the way back to Australia, which, given the high Aussie dollar, is not the most optimum solution,” Mr. Lavigne said.

Seeing an opportunity, his association has been arguing for a super yacht refit center to be developed in Singapore to complement the existing one in Phuket, the Ratachai Slipway.

“We see a clear business case,” he said, “as Singapore is the physical and logistical gateway to the region.”

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