Interest in boating rising here

Interest in boating rising here

By Fabian Koh
The New Paper
Monday, Apr 16, 2012

Owning a boat – a rich man’s hobby?

Mr Derrick Ong, general manager of Marina Country Club (MCC), thinks that’s a stereotype.

Said Mr Ong: “Wrong. Don’t have to be rich. Nowadays $10,000 or $20,000 can get you a reasonable boat.”

With a maximum berth capacity of 750 boats, MCC, situated in Punggol, is the largest boat storage area in Asia and boasts a triple-level dry berth that resembles a multi-storey carpark.

“The most expensive yachts we have here cost up to $3 million or $4 million,” said Mr Ong, who added that such yachts are all less than five years old.

The marina is busiest on holidays and weekends.

“We have queues to enter the marina during these periods. Boats have to radio in and await permission to berth,” said Mr Ong.

He said that the waiting time during these periods has doubled from around 15 minutes to half an hour.

The heightened activity also showed at other marinas TNP spoke to.

There is also an increase in demand for berthing space at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC) in West Coast.

Even with a new five-storey dry stack, berth spaces are filling up fast, with 55 per cent of the 230 new lots already occupied.

The club had to purchase two new fork lifts to increase the efficiency of moving boats around.

For Marina at Keppel Bay, 90 per cent of its 168 berthing lots are occupied, and it is still receiving enquiries for berth space.

Some of its 136 boat owners berth more than one boat with the marina.

MCC takes in about 10 new members every month. It currently has around 500 members.

Gradual increase

A spokesman from the RSYC said it has recorded a gradual increase in membership since the end of last year. It currently has around 2,400 members.

Marina at Keppel Bay is seeing a similar rise.

A spokesman said there has been a steady increase of about 10 per cent to 15 per cent in membership applications annually since it opened in 2008.

And don’t be surprised by the changing profile of boat owners.

Marina at Keppel Bay and MCC both have boat owners ranging from young working adults in their 20s to retirees in their 70s.

Mr Ong said: “While there are still the rich businessman and rich man’s sons, there are many who live in HDB flats.”

In recent years, interest in boating has slowly been taking off in Singapore.The Straits Times reported in 2006 that there were 3,202 licensed pleasure craft.

Though this means a decrease from 3,223 in the previous year, 192 new licences were issued, compared to 184 in 2005.

The number of de-registered pleasure craft also halved in 2007, compared to the previous two years.

Most people use their boats for sporting activities, like fishing and wakeboarding.

There are also those who use their boats for commercial purposes like ferrying people to nearby islands.

Others use them for leisure – with some even going on their boats for karaoke or barbecues.

“Some also play mahjong. Have you ever played mahjong on a swaying boat before? It’s quite an experience,” joked Mr Ong.

Mr E.K. Tan, an instructor from Maritime Education Training School (METS), has been conducting Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence (PPCDL) courses for 12 years. It costs about $400 to get a boating licence.

Boating is popular with people of all ages, said Mr Tan. “I get the full range of them. From as young as 16, which is the minimum age, up to retirees in their 60s.”

A spokesman from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) told TNP that 151 PPCDLs have been issued so far this year, taking the number of valid PPCDL holders over 28,000.

The number of PPCDL holders has increased consistently in the last 10 years.

One of those attending an ongoing PPCDL theory class was aerobics instructor Eileen Kang, 25.

She was there to learn how to drive a boat as her 29-year-old boyfriend had bought a wakeboarding boat recently.

“We enjoy how laid-back boating seems to be. It’s fun and I’m really looking forward to driving it,” said Miss Kang.
This article was first published in The New Paper.


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