Singapore, the ‘Little Red Dot’, has a well-earned reputation for being a buzzing metropolis, an established international business hub, and hugely popular with travellers. World-renowned for its good governance and diverse mix of cultures, Singapore has historically been a strategic trading post and a maritime gateway to key Asian markets. Today, the tide is now turning towards this tiny island city-state that shows big promise as a primary service centre right in the middle of the South East Asian (SEA) cruising destinations that make up such a significant part of the global yachting map.
For decades now, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean have been the traditional summer and winter sailing grounds respectively for yacht owners and operators, the two regions providing perfect synergy in terms of opposing peak travel seasons. When the weather in Europe turns colder, the yachting season will begin to take off in the warmer climes of the Caribbean, where destinations such as Antigua and Saint Lucia offer spectacular white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters for relaxed sailing.
In recent years however, experienced and novice sailors alike are discovering the extensive SEA coastlines further afield and exploring their endless waters. This region is unlike any other with vastly different destinations for short sailing trips or longer cruises; from the unspoilt and secluded islands of Myanmar’s Mergui archipelago in the north all the way east to Lombok, Flores and Raja Ampat in Indonesia.
Strategically located at the heart of Asia, Singapore serves as an advantageous entry point to cruising SEA. For an island that is just over 720 square kilometres, the city-state is rising in prominence and its world-class marinas, excellent fuel bunkering services, and its reputation as a top-notch tourist destination all contribute to its appeal. In an effort to provide greater convenience to sailing visitors, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority also set up new processing facilities earlier this year at both ONE15 Marina Sentosa Cove and Raffles Marina, underpinning Singapore’s status as an efficient business and leisure epicentre.
While Singapore may not be a cruising destination in itself, it serves as an excellent re-fueling, provisioning and service hub for visiting yachts for a multitude of reasons. For instance, visa-free travel for a period of 30 days is available to citizens of most countries and many diplomatic missions are represented to process documentation for onward cruising grounds. Further, Singapore is increasingly being recognised as a regional maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub with several full-service repair facilities for yachts and helicopters and speedy customs turnaround. Investing in developing these facilities further would bring increased commercial potential to attract global industry leaders, enabling Singapore to become an international repair and refit base.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining, shopping, entertainment, wellness and cultural experiences in Singapore. Additionally, stringent regulations, low taxes and high standards of transparency and governance have made Singapore a global wealth centre, creating a stable and conducive environment for existing and new yacht owners. To put it briefly, the city has everything required for not only managing a yacht but for managing a business; in fact, the Singapore Registry of Ships is ranked the fifth largest in the world* and several specialist agencies have been established to assist foreign investors who want to register their yachts here.
Meanwhile, the yachting industry in the region and beyond continues to explore new business territories. Technology is a major disruptor to the yachting community, with advancements being made in cleaner propulsion, lower energy consumption, security measures, connectivity and many other areas. Telecom operators such as MTN and OmniAccess have greatly expanded coverage, easing connectivity woes when sailing regionally. Singaporean security firm, Oneberry Technologies has automated physical security to conduct remote monitoring and surveillance through a virtual guard system. Ground breaking video analytics can reliably detect approaching, loitering, or zone crossing objects even on water - a world first in water-based analytics made possible by cutting edge AI neural networks. Given Singapore’s startup-friendly ecosystem^, the possibilities to nurture mounting interest in yachting and open the market to other innovations are increasing exponentially.
The Mediterranean and Caribbean seas will always be the major summer and winter yachting destinations – perhaps for reasons of habit and convenience, but also because of the highly developed yachting culture and infrastructure they offer, with some of the most glamorous cruising experiences imaginable. Nevertheless, the sustained exposure and patronage of the equally beautiful but as yet undeveloped destinations in SEA will serve to bolster interest and investment in yachting from mature markets. And above all, it will eventually create a huge new consumer market for the benefit of the industry worldwide.