Phuket yacht marina plan gets first public hearing
Island targets new economic drivers amid Covid
Phuket: The first public hearing on a project to build a sport yacht marina which is being positioned as one of the new economic drivers of the province was held on Thursday.
The hearing was attended by local administrative organisations, state officials, companies and 100 residents from tambon Mai Khao of Thalang district, the proposed location of the Green Port Marina project.
Participants at the event, presided over by district chief Suvit Suriyawong, were briefed mainly on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project which must be prepared.
The effects of the project on the residents' livelihoods and living conditions were also discussed.
Panya Songcharoen, the project officer, said the marina will cater to sport yachts and other types of leisure boats.
Given the nature of its business, an EIA is required under a Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment regulation.
Mr Panya said the Green Port Marina Company, the project owner, has hired the Entic Company to prepare the EIA report. However, before construction can begin, approvals must be secured from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (NREPP) and various agencies.
The project will cover 130-140 rai, up to 90% of which is located on water within a cove developed to accommodate the mooring of more than 220 boats, from 10 metres to 70 metres long.
If and when the EIA is approved, construction of the marina is expected to begin early next year with a soft opening planned for the end of the year. However, the value of the investment is still being worked out, according to Mr Panya.
Marinas are one of the six sectors earmarked as new drivers of growth for Phuket, seen as being overly dependent on conventional tourism.
The other sectors are education, health and wellness, tuna exports, seafood and gastronomy as well as sports and events businesses.
Experts agreed the sheer scale of economic damage to Phuket caused by the pandemic has revealed a systemic void in the province's preparedness to mitigate a sudden nosedive in the conventional tourism industry.
Provincial governor Narong Woonsew said the tourism sector employed 323,219 people locally before Covid-19 struck earlier this year, generating 245 billion baht in annual gross provincial product.
The pandemic has battered the tourism sector severely with visitors to Phuket this year forecast to shrink to five million, substantially down from last year's figure of 14.4 million. Of those five million tourists, 1.5 million will be Thais.
According to the Phuket Industry Council, the province has five marinas, 38 seaports and one deep-sea port. About 1,500 yachts and cruise ships call at the province each year on average.
Mr Panya said the province could use more marinas as it is a world-class destination and strategically located to be an ideal stop for cruise ships and yachts.