on 26 Jan 2023
The founders of Indonesia’s newest superyacht agency are optimistic about the country’s future
In 2021, Alex Harrison and Thomas Taatjes founded Eighth Degree South, a new yacht service and support agency for superyachts 20m and up. They are both optimistic about the future of superyacht visits to Indonesia, having worked in the local industry for years. Part of the reason for their optimism is the prospect of a new marina project in Bali.
Harrison handles engineering work, refits and repairs, while Taatjes takes care of the logistics, provisioning and agency work. Taatjes reckons they are the only yacht-support agency based in Indonesia that can offer the combined service of engineering support and agency support for superyachts in Indonesia.
But while Covid concerns and restrictions are nearly gone, yacht visitation has not rebounded to normal yet.
“It’s only just starting to take off,” says Taatjes. “There are a few boats coming through. I don’t think we’re anywhere near to regular traffic but it’s definitely starting to pick up.” Taatjes adds that the real test about a return to normal yacht traffic will come in May, which is the winter season for the southern hemisphere.
They are encouraged by recent changes in the Indonesian government’s official view of the superyacht industry. Harrison points to the elimination of import duties on parts needed for repair and maintenance of superyachts as a major boost. He also says that the facilities and ports that he works with have improved dramatically, citing recent work on 27m Nordhavn expedition yacht.
“It’s a very different place to work than when I was first here, say six years ago, where something like that just would have been stressful, petrifying and very difficult. But now things are improving. I think there is an understanding that there’s a lot of money to be made by local industry, if they support and understand the standards required.”
Eighth Degree South joins a small band of companies, including Catalano Shipping Indonesia, Indo Yacht Support and The Lighthouse Consultancy, which have dedicated themselves for years to opening up one of the world’s greatest potential superyacht cruising grounds. Harrison and Taatjes worked for some of these agencies before starting on their own.
Indonesia has thousands of islands and is a part of the Coral Triangle, with abundant sea life and pristine beaches for yacht visitors to explore. The Indonesian federal government tried to encourage superyacht visits in the middle and latter stages of the Covid epidemic. In 2021, the national government dropped a luxury tax on visiting yachts. A tax on foreign flagged yacht charter remains in place, a restriction that hinders some visitors from making the journey.
Taatjes agrees that Indonesian federal government has been trying to make life easier for visiting yachts. “They they’re very welcoming of marine tourism in this country. They’ve been trying to promote it for very many years. So while the restrictions at the top are very easy, Indonesia is such a big country and there are a lot of autonomous regions. Local government attitudes are usually a bit more stubborn.”
A new superyacht marina in Bali
One of the biggest challenges that visiting superyachts face when coming through Indonesia is finding a place to berth that matches expectations. Superyacht support agencies operating out of Bali have tried to get exclusive rights to a dock area for yachts to berth in Bali in preparation for cruising to Komodo or Raja Ampat.
Taatjes says that there is cause for optimism. Before Covid struck, there was a lot of talk about building a proper superyacht marina for Bali, but Covid put everything on hold. Now there is hope that a renewed focus on marine tourism will give the impetus for real infrastructure.
Taatjes points out that permit requirements in Indonesia have a way of putting proposals on hold. However, an artificial island that was built during the Suharto era near Benoa Harbour and intended for recreational use is now in the hands of a private developer. A proper marina facility may come of it, Taatjes says. The developer appears to be PT Bali Turtle Island Development, headquartered in Jakarta.
The island, Serangan, is home to the Kura Kura Bali resort, which the developers are currently marketing to investors with the prospect of building a marina. The island has a purpose-built bay that is the proposed home of the marina. The necessary infrastructure connecting the island to Bali has been built.
A recent report in Indonesian media noted that Kura Kura Bali on Serangan Island would be declared a Special Economic Zone with a mandate to encourage tourism with resorts and a marina.
Eighth Degree South has only just started, but both Alex Harrison and Thomas Taatjes are confident that the yachts will come back. And when they do, there will be even more service and support awaiting them.