Singapore Yacht Charter scene
Yacht chartering in Singapore has seen an upsurge in demand in the last 4 years. This can be seen by the number of companies in the yacht charter business and the number of yachts they operate. Prior to 2008 there were only a handful of companies offering charter yachts, with as few as half a dozen yachts.
Today there are over 2-dozen charter yachts, operated by at least 10 companies.
This surge in demand is due to a number of factors. As Singapore and the region climbed out of the GFC, both locals and foreigners alike found themselves with more disposable income.
Coupled with a relatively limited selection of unique leisure options (how much golf or karaoke can you take?) and an increased awareness of the water lifestyle in general, the yachting industry has been thrust into the entertainment limelight.
This has been enhanced, in no small part by the advent of huge development projects like Keppel Corporation’s Marina @ Keppel Bay and One Degree Fifteen - two upmarket marinas which have brought yachting right to the centre of town, and into the public eye.
The majority of charters are privately booked trips by individuals or groups of individuals, celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, wedding or just an excuse to get a group of friends together.
At Lloyd Marine, we estimate 80% of charters are private groups, with 20% being corporate charters - from a team bonding day out to entertaining customers or the big boss when he comes to town. Our largest yachts take up to 27 guests (along with 3 professional crewman) and we find that the average sized charter party would be 20+.
There are exceptions of course - we have had couples hire a yacht for themselves for a quiet getaway, or even a marriage proposal. Charters can be day trips, starting in the morning and returning in the early afternoon, or evening charters - heading out just before sunset and returning well after the sun has gone down. Peak demand is on the weekends, which in the charter scene is usually defined as Friday evening through to Sunday, and discounts are often given for weekday charters.
Prices start from around S$1000 for a short charter and go up depending on the size of the yacht and the duration of the charter. If food and beverage is required, customers have the option of using the charter company’s approved caterer or self-catering. Fuel is usually an extra cost, however on sailing boats such as Lloyd Marine’s catamarans this is minimal.
Although there are several thousand holders of the Powered Pleasure Craft Drivers Licence (PPCDL) in Singapore, all charter yachts have their own professional skippers and often crewman as well. There is no bare-boat yacht chartering in Singapore (smaller craft and kayaks yes, but not yachts). This is because modern yachts have such complicated systems on board it would take the charter company several hours to brief the charterers for a trip that may only last 4 or 5 hours.
Add to this, the extremely busy and regulated Singapore port waters, one can understand how no charter company would let their million dollar yachts go out without their own professional skipper in charge. There is also the question of liability. Professional crew are highly trained in the yachts systems, and sailing the vessel and ensuring passenger safety is their main priority.
Due to the increase in numbers of both private (SZ) and charter (SZH) yachts in Singapore, as well as a large increase in the average size of yachts, the local port authority in charge of overseeing safety in Singapore’s port waters, the MPA, have increasingly had to regulate the yachting industry. Only a few years ago, there was little regulation governing the local charter industry, and unlicensed charter yachts and crew were commonplace.
Today it is a different story - charter companies must abide by strict licensing codes, and inspections occur frequently. The yachts themselves are inspected, along with safety equipment onboard and the crew’s qualifications. This increased vigilance within Singapore’s port waters has on the whole been welcomed by the charter industry as increased safety at sea is a common goal for all involved in the marine industry.
The Singapore yacht charter scene is currently thriving and potentially an exciting tourism draw-card, but there is an area of concern that the industry currently faces. There are moves afoot to regulate the number of foreign crew on yachts, both private and charter, in an effort to encourage the industry to employ more Singaporeans.
Whilst this is an honourable objective, in practice it is simply not practical, at least in the short term, as few Singaporeans have the training, experience or the desire to serve as crewman on yachts. Foreign crew have the expertise and many years of experience and until Singaporeans have undergone the necessary training and gained the experience needed for this highly specialised field, foreign crew are essential for the safe manning of these vessels.
Without experienced crew, yachts cannot sail safely so the yachting industry will die. Therefore much care must be taken in this crucial area before changes are made.
Chris Lloyd, Lloyd Marine Pte Ltd