Sri Lanka – Next Sailing Destination in Asia?

Siri Lanka

Could Sri Lanka become the next sailing destination in Asia? Could it become a magnet for yachts and world circling superyachts? Priyantha Perera of Asia Pacific Superyachts Sri Lanka thinks both are possible.

He maintains that, “While Sri Lanka is surrounded by the Indian Oceans abundant with scenic views and a high biodiversity of ocean mammals, sailing for pleasure was never a pastime of the Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka was never considered a worthy stop for yachts due to lack of a fully-fledged marina in the country.”

While many proposals and suggestions have in the past floated the need to develop marinas adjacent to domestic harbours in the Southern and Western coasts of Sri Lanka, including the development of Galle Marine and a repair and maintenance centre for yachts, the project is yet to take off.

In the meantime, a series of public and private sector partnerships in Mirissa and Marawila are seeking to create a breakthrough in the country’s luxury boat building, repair and berthing industry.

The first attempt at introducing luxury yacht building, maintenance and berthing in Sri Lanka was made by Belgium Entrepreneur and industrialist Pierre Pringiers. Thirty-five years and an annual revenue of USD 1 billion later Pringiers is turning his interest towards making the country a magnet for yachters and pleasure sailors worldwide. With annual tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka well over 2 million, Pringiers feels that a nudge from the public and private sectors could make Sri Lanka the next sailing destination in Asia.

Highlighting the need to offer a unique destination experience at every location in Sri Lanka, a group of innovative industrialists are seeking to claim a niche among high spending tourists who enjoy yachting and the associated lifestyle.

While Sri Lanka is yet to establish a single full-size marina offering a complete range of service to yachters and pleasure sailors, Malaysia operates marinas with a berthing count of 1400 yachts, Thailand 1300 yachts and Singapore with only one-fifth of Sri Lanka’s coastal size can hold up to 750 yachts.

An unwavering faith in a possible boom in the yachting industry driven by the growing tourism sector has seen the rise of a number of luxury yacht building facilities in Sri Lanka. Few companies are in full operation designing and building yachts, masts, sails, yards, cordage, electrical components, mini marines and moorings. A technical school in down south is training youth from fishing villages to build yachts, in electrical engineering, and in engine repairs and maintenance while another academy trains them in sailing skills and ocean conservation.

Following his footsteps, more boat makers and adventure sports enthusiasts like Neil Marine, Accolade Ventures and German investor Dr Dietmar Doering of Asia-German Sports Exchange program are also diverting heavily into yacht and marine development to promote leisure sailing and yacht berthing in the coasts and to develop local and regional economy through them.

Priyantha Perara reports Sri Lanka is a useful stop for yachts en route to the Red Sea and a good point of departure for cruising the Maldives, Chagos and Seychelles. He says, “Whilst the northern parts of the country were out of bounds for many years, Trincomalee on the NE coast has now opened up to cruising yachts.

Special permission must still be obtained before travelling to other northern states. Colombo, on the central west coast of Sri Lanka, has a large commercial harbour with little provision for yachts and formalities are complex.”

Refuelling and provisioning at the old port of Galle (on the SW corner of Sri Lanka) is straightforward and this is where most yachts clear-in and conditions for visiting yachts have improved slightly.

Trincomalee is a military port and therefore unfamiliar with pleasure boat clearance, it is a port of entry and cruising boats have successfully cleared into Sri Lanka here.

“Delays are likely however because officials are more familiar with commercial vessels” says Priyantha Perara. He adds, “An agent is required to clear into and out of Sri Lanka and basically organise everything else.”

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