Changes To Scuba Diving Rules Similan Islands, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai
Possible Dramatic Drop to Scuba Diving Numbers in the Similan Islands
The Similan Island Marine Park Authorities (The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation)(DNP) held a meeting on the 16th October in relation to a wide range of issues including the number of scuba divers permitted to dive the Similan Islands and Koh Bon each day. This was a meeting that was conducted after that start of the liveaboard season and many of the rules were implemented without prior notice.
Most these rules have been made for the well being of the Similan Islands and for safety reasons.
It appears that they will limit the numbers of scuba divers to 525 per day. This decision is being fought by not only the local dive operators but also by all general tourism such as hotels, restaurants and even taxi drivers. The town of Khao Lak close to where the liveaboard boats depart from, relies heavily on the Similan Islands tourism for its survival.
This number (525) of divers per day is very close to the number the liveaboard boats currently operate with. From what we understand this should not affect advanced liveaboard bookings made prior to this article (20th October 2018). This could have an effect on last minute bookings and day trips. The have also reduced the number of snorkelers to 3,850 a day. The greatest effect of this will be during the Christmas – New Year period, Chinese New Year and possibly Easter.
In the past, if a liveaboard boat had 20 passengers it was just issued 20 tickets in advance. The park authorities are now saying the tickets will be issued to individuals and possibly passport identification will be required. We believe this will be implemented very quickly.
**There is some confusion over this rule, some interpretations say that the liveaboard company requires the diver’s full name as it appears in the passport, date of birth, passport number and nationality and then the divers need to produce a copy of the passport when boarding the boat. Other liveaboards believe that they need to supply the photocopy of the passport to buy the park fee ticket**
It appears that the tickets will be issued on a first in first served situation. Some of the liveaboard operators are already asking for a photocopy of their passenger’s passports.
Technically the need to supply full names and passport details for scuba divers has always applied to scuba diving in Phuket and Similan Islands. It was however rarely enforced. Since the sinking of the Phoenix boat in June 2018 all scuba diving trip operators have needed to supply full details of their passengers and divers.
There is also some confusion as to the cost of the park fees. In the past if you entered the Similan Islands National Park you paid a THB 400 entry fee on the first day and THB 200 per day to dive on the first day and each subsequent day. It has been suggested that the THB 400 would be paid daily and the THB 200 paid daily by divers. The THB 200 per day does not need to be paid by non-divers.
The Marine Park Authorities has also requested that all divers have individual insurance for scuba diving accidents. All liveaboard have liability and accident insurance, however, most do not have insurance to cover for decompression sickness or hyperbaric chamber treatment. Most liveaboards are now asking for a copy of your insurance policy prior to the trip.
If you do not have personal insurance then they will request that you purchase some. Most travel insurance now covers scuba diving, which we recommend that you have when travelling to Thailand. If you would like to purchase specific scuba diving insurance then we sell Indepths insurance and the price is THB 250 per day.
Other rules implemented.
Single Use plastic bags are banned. This is for divers and boat operators. Plastic is a huge problem for the Similan Islands and this is a great rule. You will be asked to dispose of any plastic bags prior to boarding the liveaboard boat.
Maximum dive group ratios are set at 1:4
There has also been talk of one diving boat per dive site at a time. This rule is not entirely clear at the moment.
One of the issues faced by the liveaboard companies is that they do have to pre-purchase the tickets with individual names. These tickets are non-transferable so if there are any cancellations there will be a surcharge for that park fees.
Further, some liveaboard operators are now stating that they may not be able to offer refunds for late cancellations as they may not be able to resell the cabins due to their inability to purchase replacement tickets.
These rules are new and at the moment and may be fully enforced or everything could return back to normal. There is still a lot of confusion at the moment and as yet liveaboard vessels are still yet to start running for the season. Things should be clearer once the liveaboard vessels fully start around the first week of November.
Please keep an eye on this blog for any updates.
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