“There are two reasons why we focused on Ao Yon," he explained at a meeting at the Royal Phuket Marina. "One is that it is near the navy base and the other is that we found there were a lot of yachts moored there with no owner in sight.
“This is our main problem -- that we couldn't find the owners. Sometimes they leave boats there and go back to their home country, and we don't even know who they are.
"This motivated us to ban all yachts [Thai and foreign-flag] from Ao Yon. Any yachts left, whose owners we cannot identify, will be seized,” he explained.
Temporary mooring or anchoring is still allowed – but not for long periods, he said, “I can't say exactly how long that would be but, for me, temporary means no more than 10 days or so.”
This rule affects both Thai-flag yachts or foreign-flag yachts, he added.
“Please note that, once you have registered [your foreign-flag boat] at the Chalong one stop service, you have to tell Immigration officers about all your destinations around Phuket. The job of my department is just to check boats in and out,” Mr Phuripat said.
He stressed that boats staying long term may stay in only to places: Chalong Bay or a registered private marina.
“Chalong Bay is just a check-in point for boats. Sometime you can leave a boat there, but at other times they may be no moorings available, so private marinas are a better option.”
Asked about criticisms of safety at Chalong, with shifting sandbanks, mooring that move, thieves and heavy traffic, he acknowledged, “These are problems we are also concerned about.
“I am waiting for budget approval [to get more moorings] but it is so hard to get." With a laugh, he added, "If this were my own company, I would invest money to make it comfortable for all boats coming to Phuket.”
Asked about anchoring in favourite bays such as Patong, Kata, Karon or Nai Harn, Mr Phuripat answered, “Actually, no one anchors there for long in the heavy waves and wind at this time of year.
"Most yachts stopping there are cruising, so they stay there temporarily. Our real concern is people who leave yachts [long-term] without no one to look after them."
He also clarified the rules on Automatic Identification System (AIS) equipment for lesiure and cruise boats.
First he said, “Any foreign-flag cruise boat, motor yacht or sailing yacht coming into Phuket by sea must install an AIS system.”
Asked for a definition of "yacht" he said it was any leisure craft. Pressed on the point -- how small does a boat have to be not to qualify as a yacht? -- he repeated that any non-Thai-registered boat coming into Phuket waters by sea would have to comply.
This appears to mean that if one were to sail a Laser or Sunfish from Malaysia, for example, it would be required, on arrival in Phuket, to have an AIS installed.
“I believe that most foreign-flag boats probably already have AIS," he said. "If they don't, we can be flexible. Once they have checked in at the Chalong One-Stop Centre, we will give them 10 days to get the AIS installed and recorded in our system."
As for Thai-flagged boats, the rule is less stringent. Only boats large enough to carry 25 or more passengers must have AIS installed, and not immediately. They will have one year to install AIS once the details have been announced.
That said, boats of this size registering for a Thai flag for the first time must have AIS in order to be registered, Mr Phuripat said.
The original announcement to foreign-flag boats stated that the AIS must be turned on at all times. Mr Phuripat said that this meant it must be turned on at all times when the boat is underway, not when it is at rest.
But he warned that the penalty for not installing an AIS system could be a jail sentence of up to six months.
“Once we have succeeded [in having the leisure industry install AIS] we will begin considering AIS installation for fishing boats,” he added.