Fisheries agency chided on port plan

ROUGH SEAS::The Fisheries Agency has been criticized for its plan to build three ports for ‘pleasure yachts’ even though there may be only 200 yacht owners in Taiwan

By Chung Li-hua, Lu Hsieu-hsien and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with Staff writer

Sat, Sep 08, 2012 - Page 4

In light of the nation’s record-high wealth gap, the Fisheries Agency has come under fire for its plan to spend NT$760 million (US$25 million) to build three ports exclusively for the anchoring of private pleasure yachts rather than taking care of disadvantaged fishermen.

The docks — located inside the fishing docks at Pisha Harbor in Keelung County’s Badouzih (八斗子) area, Greater Tainan’s Anping Harbor and Yilan County’s Wushih Harbor — would increase docking space for yachts by 114 ships, the agency said, adding that the construction of the facilities were in accordance with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “I-Taiwan 12 projects.”

The project is not limited to pleasure yachts from high income people, but anyone can use the docks if they have a yacht, the agency said, adding that “it is like being able to park in a parking lot if there are empty spots.”

For those who have currently anchored their yachts at the dock in Pisha harbor — which aims for an official opening on Sept. 21 — the yachts would be charged NT$20 per tonne, the agency said, estimating that the docks would bring around NT$1.5 million to NT$2 million in revenue per year.

However, the Control Yuan in August last year expressed concern that the agency’s move to construct the yacht docks would only serve to waste public resources and build something that would be rarely used.

Citing statistics from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ “Plans on the promotion of yacht events,” the Control Yuan said that there were only 2,500 potential yacht owners in the country, with only 1,600 currently registered. The majority of the boats are registered in Penghu.

The boats are not used for passenger transports or leisure use, the Control Yuan said, adding that yachts registered by owners who are in Taiwan numbered only 200.

There are a total of 328 docking spaces for yachts counting the seven international economic ports, and the 20 fishing ports around the nation, the Control Yuan said, adding that docking space was still abundant.

“Most of the docking ports are either not being used or have a low rate of usage, and we suggest that the agency review the entire construction plan to avoid wasting public money,” it added.

However, Taiwan Yacht Industry Association chairperson Lu Chia-yang (呂佳揚) said that the low rate of usage for yacht ports was because their location is not ideal, which was in part because the nation had not legalized yachting at the time.

“It is becoming a trend to go yachting at sea as a leisure event, and with the passing of the Yacht Regulation Rules (遊艇管理規則) last year, people don’t even need to spend a lot of money and could start with small second-hand yachts going for NT$600,000 to NT$700,000,” Lu said.

Veteran fisherman Ho Chuan-chi (何傳吉), on the other hand, was of the opinion that with fishery hauls only amounting to a third of their former yields, building the docks would be unfair to poorer people.

Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform chief executive Du Yu (杜宇) added that the large amount of funding being laid down for only 2,500 potential users is unreasonable.

In its defense, Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日耀) said the fishing ports would still prioritize the use of fishing boats, adding that the docking for yachts was only a method to increase work opportunities.

“We have taken the Control Yuan’s reminder to heart and will keep it in mind as we proceed with the project,” Tsai said.