World cruisers and the international charter market are today dealing with the announcement of a massive import duty on boats that plan to stay in Thai waters for longer than three months

The distinctive beauty of the Thai coast has drawn thousands of cruisers and charterers over the years and major charter operations such as Sunsail help to maintain a healthy marine services economy along the coast. The recent surge in popularity of the King’s Cup, the country’s biggest international regatta, is testament to Thailand’s emergence as a stunning, marine-friendly destination.

That popularity is now at risk after the Thai Customs Department introduced a 217 per cent import tax on yachts planning on visiting the Kingdom for longer than three months. As well as deterring some of the more methodical world cruisers, the tax will hit hard the same charter companies that helped to build the country’s marine infrastructure, with profit in mind, of course.

The tax is being actively enforced with Government backing. Many of the owners of Thai-based boats, including four-time King’s Cup winner Bill Gasson, have been forced to move down to Malaysia, even to Singapore, to escape the tax. Charter companies have but a short time to decide whether to eat the loss and continue to trade or pull out, fearing the tax will be varied by the Thai Government to act as an arbitrary profit cap for the industry.