Milestone for free yacht travel between HKG and Guangdong

Despite Hong Kong and Macao’s close proximity to Guangdong, it had been basically impossible for yacht registered in the two SARs to sail into mainland waters, except for exhibition or other special purposes.

Even under those circumstances, a complicated and lengthy application procedure would be inevitable. The process, in which a number of documents had to be submitted to regulators in Beijing for approval, could take several months.

Under a new policy, yachts from the two SARs can berth at designated piers in Guangdong after going through a registration process and obtaining the nod from local authorities days before their departure.

The vessels are allowed to stay for up to 90 days at any one time and for a total of 183 days at the most in a year.

Operators of Hong Kong and Macao yachts have to come up with a big cash deposit with the mainland customs authorities before being allowed into the mainland. “This is to preempt any move to sell the vessels on the mainland or other unexpected situations,” explained Ye Jialin, Director and Executive Vice-General Manager of Shenzhen Bay Marina Club, which is among the designated piers.

The deposit could be as high as the tax for an imported yacht, or about 43 percent of its value. For a luxury yacht worth 10 million yuan, a 4.3-million-yuan cash deposit is required.

“The huge sum of money, though refundable, could dampen people’s enthusiasm for travel. We’re negotiating with the government to reduce the amount to 20 percent, which is still high but better,” Ye said.

Two Hong Kong-registered yachts made their debut in Shenzhen waters in mid-December last year, while three from Shenzhen anchored at Hong Kong piers, marking a milestone in implementing a free travel scheme for yachts in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.

The scheme had been jointly approved by four Chinese mainland government departments – transport, public security, customs and quality supervision, inspection and quarantine – in June. It allows yachts from Hong Kong and Macao to navigate in waters in Guangdong, but they have to berth at designated piers and be inspected at nearby checkpoints under a pilot program of the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

The first piers qualified to join the program include two in Shenzhen, two in Zhuhai and one in Guangzhou.

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