On 13 June 2022, key stakeholders from the government and business community met at Swissôtel Bangkok Ratchada for a seminar to discuss the benefits of seaplanes to Thailand.
The seminar was hosted by Siam Seaplane Co., Ltd., Thailand’s first high-standard seaplane service looking to launch its operations within 2022.
Transportation by seaplanes has proven to be a key transportation option in many markets, most famously in the Maldives for high-end tourism, as well as in USA, Canada and Australia for transportation and logistics. Several Southeast Asian countries are also actively pursuing seaplane operations or new seaplane regulations, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Thailand is perfectly-suited for seaplane operations to better connect the Kingdom — from premium tourism to freight, medical evacuations and other purposes.
The seminar saw distinguished speakers that presented different angles to seaplane operations and their benefits to Thailand. Ms. Worakanya Siripidej, CEO of Siam Seaplane, gave a welcome speech, highlighting the history of seaplane flights. The first successful seaplane flight was as early as 1910, with Thailand boasting a water aerodrome on the Chao Phraya River as early as the 1930s. Still today, it is called the Sanambinnarm sub-district, meaning “water aerodrome”.
The first keynote opening was conducted by Mr. Thongchai Pongvichai, Principle Advisor on Maritime Transport Economics, Ministry of Transport. Mr. Pongvichai mentioned that, “this service complements the opportunity to improve accessibility for hard-to-reach destinations such as many islands across Thailand”. The second keynote opening was held by H.E., Mr. Ahmed Zuhair, Minister of State for Transport and Civil Aviation (Maldives), who highlighted the safe operations of seaplanes in the Maldives for decades and their kind collaborative support to Thailand.
Further presentations were given by Mr. Bjorn Courage, President of the Phuket Hotel Association, speaking about the benefits of seaplanes in regards to tourism, and Dr. Ekkit Surakarn, Medical Director of BDMS Medevac Center, who addressed how seaplanes can improve efficiency of medical evacuations through better accessibility, mentioning “Seaplanes are the next link in emergency for medical care beyond frontiers”. Mr. Raymond and Mr. Timothy Eyre from Monte Cleantech addressed sustainability and future electrification of aircraft. Mr. Pitak Wattanapongpisal, Director of the Environment Bureau, Marine Department, also explained how seaplanes can operate in compliance with the environment and safety on water.
Following, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Jinah, Ambassador of the Maldives to Thailand, shared further insights about seaplanes in the Maldives as a crucial contributor to the high-end tourism economy, highlighting zero fatalities over 30 years. Mr. Rob Ceravolo, CEO of Tropic Ocean Airways, the largest amphibious seaplane operator in the world, presented the importance of standardised operating procedures and administration across multiple jurisdictions. Mr. Sébastien Laurent Managing Partner Asia, Financière de Courcelles (an investment bank and M&A advisor), demonstrated how seaplanes are a proven business model globally and that increased air connectivity has a direct link to GDP growth. To conclude, Mr. Michael Blaney Davidson and Mr. Amarit Aiemchareon, from Siam Seaplane, showed how they focus on incorporating sustainability at its core, with a “safety always” concept — innovating its new transportation model through embedding modern technology.
The seminar was joined by government representatives from Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), Marine Department, Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Rayong Provincial Authority Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), airline and aviation executives, prominent Thai hotel owners and developers, as well as various investors and business stakeholders.
In the words of Mr. Pongvichai, “Today is a great step for us to meet and work together for the avail of Thailand, and hearing from several distinguished speakers about the advantages of seaplanes to our country.”
The conclusions were unanimous — seaplanes can be operated safely and through a standardised model, and they can be monitored and regulated as per international recommendations. The Thai authorities, in close conjunction with the attending stakeholders and Siam Seaplane, are collaborating to ensure all processes and regulations are to be in place, in order for many benefits to be reaped. Mr. Laurent, Managing Partner Asia of the investment and M&A bank FDC, succinctly states, “seaplanes boost local productivity and capital gains,” while Mr. Wattanapongpisal, Director of the Environment Bureau, Marine Department, concludes that “seaplanes can be one of the key factors that has the ability to restore the Thailand tourism industry from the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Mr. Courage, President of the Phuket Hotel Association, is convinced, “seaplanes have an amazing legacy in travel and for Thailand can create an entirely new marketplace.”
Mr. Pitak Wattanapongpisal, Director of Safety and Environment Bureau, Marine Department