The regulations were changed with effect from December 26, and caused consternation and anger among yacht owners and skippers, and the island’s marinas.
Previously, foreign-flagged yachts were able to stay in Phuket for up to six months before the owner had to decide whether to take the boat out of Thai waters or import it (paying the taxes) and have it reflagged as a Thai boat.
The new regulation requires that owners or skippers must “re-register” their boats every two months for a maximum total of six months.
Already many yacht owners are saying that if this regulation is enforced they will be pulling up their anchors and heading for somewhere more yacht-friendly such as Langkawi in Malaysia.
In Pattaya, where the two-month rule has been in force for years, a marina manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his marina has “99 per cent Thai-flagged boats”. Skippers of foreign-flagged boats don’t bother to go into Pattaya or Bangkok any more.
Ms Nunthita, after listening to views yesterday afternoon (January 15) , told The Phuket News, “The rules for temporary, tax free, importation of boats are aimed at supporting only tourism, not for commerce or maintenance.
“The law is the same – temporary importation is limited to six months. The owner can apply for the boat to stay another six months in some circumstances.”
Two changes to the regs came into force on December 26. First, boats have to be “re-registered” every two months and second, although the boat’s captain may do the paperwork when the boat first arrives in Phuket, the renewals must be done by the owner.
“The period of stay is also linked to the expiry of the importer’s permit to stay in Thailand,” she added.
Asked why the rules had been changed she said, “I don’t know. I think they were just correcting the regulations, which are the same for temporarily importing a car.
“But I understand that the two months doesn’t make sense for Phuket so I will give [Bangkok] an explanation as soon as possible so that at least the captain can do the renewal instead of the owner.”