Guide to purchasing a yacht in Thailand – Part 1

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Welcome to part 1 of the Pattaya Mail’s weekly guide to buying a yacht in Thailand.  This series, compiled by experts in the marine industry will take you through the entire process of scouting a potential vessel for purchase, deciding whether to buy new or used, financing options, avoiding potential pitfalls, the ongoing costs of insurance, dockage, fuel and repairs, plus much more.  At the end of this series you should hopefully be in a position to make a well-informed decision on whether your dream of being a boat owner is both a desirable and affordable lifestyle option.

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The purchase of a pleasure yacht represents for most people a substantial investment, similar to the purchase of a house.  Unlike a car or other machine, a vessel may last for decades.  Options to repower and upgrade electronics make the fiberglass boat an item of indefinite duration with older, classic styles often preferred to shiny new models.  A pleasure yacht often becomes a very personal, “living thing” with memories attached to it.  Yachts, because of their high cost and their mobility, are also subject to many laws and regulations which the purchaser may not be aware of.

There is no simple checklist of things to do and avoid in the purchase of a yacht.  The intended use of the boat and the financial circumstances of the buyer are the main guidelines but many variables will still be involved.  As in everything else, planning is very important.  Unfortunately, however, the excitement of a new toy and the sales pressure of brokers often prevent a buyer from a careful analysis of the options.  The following is only a general guideline of the various steps involved before and after the purchase of a yacht.

The first thing a potential yacht owner should do is to decide the type and size of boat he can afford and will be comfortable with.  While this concept may seem obvious, it actually cannot be stressed enough.  The choice of boat should be determined by the specific needs and intended use (racing, casual cruising, extended cruising, investment, charter, second home, live aboard, etc.).  The prospective purchaser should know exactly what he wants to do with the vessel he is purchasing.  Not only is a certain type of yacht unsuitable for certain uses but the legal, financial, insurance and other requirements may be different.  Certain yachts are difficult or impossible to insure, as are certain skippers without experience or with negative information on their records.  Certain vessels may not be insured for certain voyages.  If co-ownership is considered, the time to plan for it is before purchasing the yacht.

A sales contract is not a step to be bypassed, particularly where the yacht is an expensive one.  Many things must be covered in a sales agreement.  Among the various issues, you must make sure that you have the right to get the boat surveyed.  If purchasing an old boat you may decide to accept certain defects and not others.  A clause for post survey negotiations should be included.  You should know exactly which equipment is included.  Other items to be covered in a contract are the hull or identification number; place of delivery of the boat; terms of payment; liability for loss before and after delivery.

Thai law offers one type of vessel identification: registration.  The process of registering a new yacht or transferring the registration of an existing yacht is not difficult, but as with many things in Thailand it has it intricacies and processes that must be followed for a pain free experience.  Some agencies and yacht brokers such as Gulf Charters provide this service inclusive in all their new boats and can also provide this service for brokerage boats for a fee.

NB: Next week in part 2 we will cover insurance, chartering out your vessel, dual ownership, and the issue of maritime liens.