For twelve consecutive years, the Skal International “Sustainable Development in Tourism” Awards have been presented during the Opening Ceremony of its annual World Congress. Skal recently closed its 74th World Congress aboard the Carnival Glory, the first time this yearly event took place on a cruise ship. This year, Mermaid Cruises & Shipping Co. won an award in the category of Transportation.
Mermaid Cruises & Shipping Co. Ltd. was founded in 2004 in Paknampran, a fishing village on the Gulf of Thailand not far from the resort town of Hua Hin. The region is dependent on tourism, with water-based activities a major part of this. All sea and river tours in the area up until then were on traditional fossil-fuel powered craft with the associated pollution. With its base on the banks of the Pranburi River, an area renowned for its mangrove forests and wildlife, the company decided to develop a silent river boat that would not pollute the water and air or disturb the wildlife, while also enhancing the overall experience for tourists.
The result was a 12-seater, electrically-powered boat called The Kingfisher, built in the style of a traditional Thai long-tail craft. The company then also decided to develop a larger craft to take over from its conventional diesel-powered, day-cruise vessel. The concept was to construct a comfortable boat for around 40 persons, incorporating luxury and fun features, but operating so as to cause the least harm to the environment while providing maximum comfort levels for the passengers. SunCat1 was completed in December 2010 and is a 3-way hybrid craft, with its batteries powered by solar, wind, and mains power
The company has also completed its third electric boat (The Firefly): a 22-seate,r long-tail craft used at the floating market in Amphawa (near Bangkok) to take visitors on tours of the local rivers to see the fireflies after dark. This area had been plagued by noise pollution problems caused by diesel-powered boats, leading to residents even cutting down the trees where the fireflies reside so as to stop the boats visiting the area.
The aim of Mermaid Cruises is to achieve the best possible practical balance between power provision, eco-friendliness, and cost efficiency. The company’s boats run on just one-tenth of the cost of the fuel needed for conventional crafts. The absence of engine noise, fuel smell, and vibrations also make it a much more enjoyable experience for passengers. The company organizes free tours for local schools and orphanages to enable local children to enjoy their environment and also teach them something about how to live in a more ecologically-friendly way, especially in relation to garbage disposal and mangrove/shoreline preservation.
Mermaid Cruises is the only company in S.E. Asia that develops, builds and operates electrically-power boats. The company’s 3 craft is the only electric boat registered in Thailand. Mermaid Cruises has also built electrically-powered road vehicles to transport passengers to and from its marina.
For more information, visit www.huahincruises.com
Skal is a member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) .