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Published on : Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Yachting in Sri Lanka is about to get a strong boost with the establishment of marinas to service this global pleasure sport. Sri Lankan entrepreneur Indhra Kaushal Rajapaksa has teamed up with marina professional Simon Arrol and Sebastian Devonshire to launch Marina Lanka – a new company dedicated to servicing the pleasure boating industry.
“Sri Lanka is about to get a major boost in its pleasure boating industry,” said Rajapaksa. “Although the port of Galle has for long been a port-of-call for yachtsmen from around the world, it has lacked the infrastructure and modern facilities. We plan to mobilise some of the best experience in the industry to give a major boost to yachting in Sri Lanka,” he added.
In the competitive world of international tourism, Sri Lanka has much to offer and the steady increase in visitor numbers currently being witnessed is most encouraging. But while coastal tourism and beach holidays are booming, the availability of boating and watersports is currently limited. If Simon Arrol, Managing Director of Marina Lanka has his way, this is all about to change. His experience of marina projects in 40 countries leads him to believe in the great potential for a boom in water sports.
Known as the “Marina Guru”, Arrol has spent his 40-year professional career in maritime engineering, specialising during the past 25 years in the design, development, and operation of yacht marinas. Following his presentation at the successful Boating Conference 2012 in Colombo, he teamed up with Sebastian Devonshire and Indhra Kaushal Rajapaksa, both of whom have a wealth of relevant experience in Sri Lanka to form Marina Lanka Pvt Ltd.
“Marinas are the infrastructure of the boating sector,” says Arrol. “Without marinas it is really very inconvenient to own and operate a boat. Not only does a marina provide a
place to berth your boat safely, it also offers supporting services to help you maintain and service it. We intend to collaborate with BAFF (Build a Future Foundation) and with the BTI (Boat-Building Technology Improvement Institute) so that people can be trained in the necessary skills.”
Arrol is delighted that the Government has recognised the potential for marinas and watersports. During last week’s Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo, the Marina Lanka exhibition stand had many distinguished visitors including delegates to to CHOGM 2013 and Sri Lankan Ministers and officials, including Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa. Enthusiastic about the inquiries received, Arrol says he was quizzed about when the first marina would be open for business.
“There is also a very important and pleasurable social aspect to marinas”, continues Arrol. “A well-designed marina should have a yacht club, or if not a formal yacht club then at least a lounge bar where yachtsmen can meet. As with most hobbies and sports, sailors love to gather together and swap stories, some believable and some less so!”
Sri Lanka has a coastline of about 1,300 km with many pristine bays, beaches, and lagoons, but apart from surfing and whale-watching there is almost no organised boating activity. With the provision of marinas at intervals around the coast, both Sri Lankans and foreign tourists will be better able to enjoy a range of activities such as sailing, motor-boating, blue-water fishing, and day trips. This will not only open up a whole new leisure and sporting sector for Sri Lankans, it will also make the country more attractive to foreign tourists, many of whom presently sit on the beach thinking how wonderful it would be to get out on the water. As to the value of this Arrol declares, “I am convinced this additional tourism activity will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year before the decade is out.”
The veteran marina developer is keen to stress the importance of training. “Our plan is to operate a Yachting Academy where would-be boat owners and others can be trained in sailing, boat-handling, navigation and other skills,” Arrol explains. “Not only is training important from a safety standpoint, but it will give people the confidence to make best use of their boats. This Academy will deploy the curricula of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) as their qualifications are recognised internationally.”
Sri Lanka is not well known in yachting circles but last year’s Optimist World Championship Regatta at Trincomlaee is likely to be the forerunner of many more regattas and events, according to Arrol. “I am not suggesting that boating will ever approach the popularity of cricket,” says Arrol in lighter vein. “It is however, a most pleasurable sport and one that is accessible to people of all ages.”
So does this mean that the Government needs to find funds to build marinas? “Not at all,” assures Arrol. “The private sector can be relied on to build the marinas and waterfronts. As a marina developer, the only thing I ask is that the government facilitates the release of suitable sites and draft modern regulations so that yacht owning and operation is hassle-free for both domestic owners and foreign tourists.”