By David Robinson

Continuing to grow membership and having a stronger presence at the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show are two of the objectives that will be discussed at the annual general meeting of the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA) to be held in Hong Kong next week.

In the two and a half years since APSA began operating, its membership has grown to 61 from the 48 original members. Of this total, 53 are from 11 countries within the Asia Pacific region and the other eight come from outside.

APSA’s key purpose is to promote the region as the third cruising area for superyachts and to promote the service industries there to those yachts to help them with their programmes. Colin Dawson, APSA’s chairman, told SB: “Alongside this was an objective to assist non-Asia Pacific companies with the potential markets here for them. There had been a call from the floor of the first Asia Pacific Superyacht conference held in Singapore to create a body that could speak with one voice to jointly promote the region, in the belief that each individual company can grow better if the region as a whole grows. A not-for-profit organisation, APSA has managed to dodge political bullets and self-interest to genuinely promote the region and how it can host visiting yachts.

“While we would never dream of taking sole credit for the increase in superyachts visiting the region,” he added, “I do feel we have played our part amongst the many who are working hard to make the Asia Pacific region a viable alternative to the Mediterranean and Caribbean cruising grounds.”

Alongside the AGM, APSA will also host a two-day forum looking at the challenges of creating a superyacht hub in a major city in the region. Dawson explained: “The point is to have round table discussions amongst members and a few selected guests to discuss challenges ranging from location to immigration and service facilities to how to effectively gain government support.”

Activities in 2014 will be a key part of the discussions at the AGM, but having a stronger presence at the Monaco show is a priority. “We wish to build on the success of our presence at the Singapore Yacht Show in 2013 in spreading the word about how wonderful a cruising destination the Asia Pacific really is,” Dawson commented. “We have plans to show the region in its best possible light and will also have a greater presence at the Monaco Yacht Show. General and specific gatherings (to discuss certain aspects or problems) have proven popular during the year and we hope to hold more of these, as well as industry Q&A sessions supported by members.”

As to priorities for the region and visiting superyachts going forward, Dawson said: “We need to look at crew immigration policies, cruising permits, the shortage of berthing space in certain countries (like Hong Kong), crew training and the overall promotion of the region’s spectacular cruising grounds. Good progress has been made during the year with work on charter regulations in Thailand and we hope that this work can spread its tentacles to other countries where similar work needs to be done.”

In terms of China and its growing market, Dawson told SB: “There is no doubt that China is seen as a key focus for many Western companies, though it is fair to say that the take up of superyacht purchases has not been the mad rush that many people thought it would be. Cruising and berthing for foreign yachts in China is still extremely difficult. While China is an important part of the region and we have some very supportive members there, it is but one country in a very large footprint that APSA has and as such falls within an overall strategy rather than anything specific.”

APSA’s membership includes ordinary and associate members. “We have a simple structure based on the number of employees a company has. Currently this stands at annual fees of US$1,000 for 1 to 10 employees, US$2,500 for 11 to 49 employees and US$5,000 for companies with more than 50 employees,” Dawson explained.