80% of speedboats move to Bali Hai after botched beach relocation

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Komkrit Polvichit, head of the Special Affairs Division told reporters that almost all the boats have moved to Bali Hai pier.
Komkrit Polvichit, head of the Special Affairs Division told reporters that almost all the boats have moved to Bali Hai pier.

PATTAYA – About 80 percent of the speedboats using Pattaya Beach have moved to Bali Hai Pier following the city’s failed attempt to move them a week earlier.

Both tourists and boat crews manically scurried around the South Pattaya jetty May 8 looking for boats, berths and passengers. As expected, there weren’t enough docks for the boats, which is a major reason why the boat vendors ignored city hall’s May 1 “D-Day” to move off the beach where they have operated since the military mismanaged last year’s botched relocation.

Tourists make their way down from the pier to the pontoon to board a speedboat.
Tourists make their way down from the pier to the pontoon to board a speedboat.

Komkrit Polvichit, head of the Special Affairs Division of the city’s municipal police, said about 80 percent of boats and ferries using the beach had moved, but others had to remain on the sand as they had pre-arranged to meet customers there long ago.

He admitted that Bali Hai still needs development to handle the full load of boats that ferry people between the mainland and islands each day. Once the pier has adequate facilities, all operators will be forced to move.

Pattaya’s knee-jerk May 1 attempt to move all the speedboat operators to Bali Hai Pier failed miserably, with the city council admitting it had been too hasty.

The council on April 24 reacted to criticism by Chon­buri Province by announcing that, effective May 1, all tourist boats would again be banned from Pattaya Beach and required to use Bali Hai Pier. Deputy Gov. Chawalit Saeng-Uthai blasted Pattaya administrators for failing to follow through on last year’s plans to move the speedboat operators and claimed their indifference had created a safety problem.

City hall then announced a goal and a vague plan on how to achieve it. As widely predicted, May 1 dawned with 50 speedboats doing business as usual on Pattaya Beach with no one moving to the South Pattaya jetty.

Nattapong Manasom, managing director of N.P.E. Tour Co., said he wasn’t even aware an announcement had been made a week earlier and no one in authority had told him to relocate his boats.

He said tour groups book far in advance and giving operators such short to notify customers of changes to a departure site was unacceptable.

Other operators also said they ignored the dictate because they weren’t given enough time to prepare and given no information on where at Bali Hai they were supposed to go.

Others pointed out Bali Hai remains incapable of handling 50 additional boats and lacks enough toilets and other facilities to accommodate all the additional tourists.

Maj. Gen. Popanan Luengpanuwat, head of the National Council for Peace and Order in Pattaya, admitted authorities moved to quickly and called another meeting to plan a slower transition with the goal of moving the operators on May 7.

It wasn’t the first time the council and military had to back off its relocation plans. In February last year the army barred speedboats and tourist ferries from using Pattaya Beach, forcing them all to utilize pontoons installed at Bali Hai Pier after the military demolished the pier’s speedboat ramp and kicked operators out of the parking area.

Tourists gather on the pontoon ready to board their speedboats for a day out on the islands.
Tourists gather on the pontoon ready to board their speedboats for a day out on the islands.

The new process quickly proved untenable as it became clear the military didn’t properly calculate how many speedboats needed dock space. Lambasted on social media and shamed by photos of long lines, disabled passengers unable to board boats and people falling on wobbly pontoons, the military relented and sent everyone back to the beach in March 2017.