The launch of luxury live-aboard super-yacht charters in Sri Lanka has been torpedoed by officials because the boat has not been classified by the London-based Association of Classification Societies (IACS).
The Sri Lankan Aggressor is one of a fleet operated around the world by TVB Group under the Super Luxury Live-aboard Yacht brand, and was due to set sail on its inaugural charters this month (September).
With its focus on diving, whale watching and luxury marine activities, it would likely have been a significant addition to Sri Lanka’s growing attraction as a must-visit tourist destination.
But the yacht has been blocked by the Secretariat of Merchant Shipping from registering, an essential prerequisite, pending IACS classification—a move that has been roundly condemned by TVB.
Lanka Business Online reports the company as saying: “At least seven weeks of charters have now been cancelled, and the whole development is now in jeopardy as the yacht lays idle in the Colombo harbour.
“Charters and safari lodge trips which have now been cancelled costing Aggressor Fleet, local Helitour airlines, local 5-star hotels and Sri Lanka an estimated $700,000 foreign currency.”
Lanka Business notes that IACS is a technical organization, but “TVB however charged that the Merchant Shipping wants all commercial yachts that want to operate in Sri Lanka to hold a IACS classification”.
Says TVB: “The problem is none of the 1,000 yachts operating in the Red Sea in Egypt or the 430 yachts operating in the Maldives or the 500-plus yachts in Thailand are ever built to IACS classification.
“Merchant Shipping is asking for something that no other commercial yachting tourism nation asks for, and dooming any new fleet development before one yacht can start to operate.”
Meanwhile, top diving website Dive Worldwide somewhat jumped the gun by reporting: “Sri Lanka Aggressor launches in September 2016 offering three unique itineraries encompassing a mix of whales, dolphins, wrecks and reefs.
“With a rich culture and great natural beauty, Sri Lanka captures the best of all worlds. The underwater focus is primarily on the 200+ wrecks found around the island.
“Built for power, comfort and stability, the purpose built yacht is a spacious 44 metres in length and cruises at 10-12 knots. She features 13 spacious air-conditioned staterooms for up to 26 passengers, partially covered sun deck, lounge, wet bar, BBQ grill area and a swim deck.”
It adds that “wreck enthusiasts will enjoy a week of discovery and exploration on world-class wrecks such as the HMS Hermes, the first ever British built aircraft carrier, now lying at a depth of 54 metres of the Batticaloa coast on the eastern side of Sri Lanka”.
But not until the issue of IACS classification is settled, which TVB hopes will be soon.