Shanghai has awarded its first batch of licences for piloting private yachts - the latest fad for the growing wealthy class in the commercial capital.
The 11 men and women now have official approval to sail or pilot pleasure boats on their own, as the government tries to encourage private yacht ownership to make the city a sporting centre.
A Shanghai-based property developer set up the mainland's first private flying club last month, also to cater to the wealthy.
'Yachts will become a new fad after property and cars. Wealthy people are looking forward to owning their own yachts and foreigners want to have fun like they can in other countries,' said an official of the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration, which granted the licences earlier this week.
Foreign residents with sailing ability will also be able to get licences, but they must first take a course through a designated local company and pass a test.
The first group of yacht captains was mainly composed of local entrepreneurs and senior corporate managers, many in the property sector which has made people rich amid a speculative boom. Some already own boats.
'They're either satisfying a personal interest or thinking the ability to sail will benefit their business. Rich people regard yachts as an essential part of their lives and business,' said Wang Zhenjiang, of the Jinmao International Cruise Company, which trained the first group of captains.
Two in the first training class failed to get licences.
The licence costs 20,000 yuan, including one-month training and an examination. It will allow captains to sail in the Huangpu River and areas within Shanghai's territory in the Yangtze River and the East China Sea. But sailors cannot venture outside Shanghai's territorial waters due to differences in water traffic rules.
Although the city is starting from scratch - there is only a temporary dock for yachts on the Huangpu River - the maritime official said more facilities and related regulations were planned.