The ultimate guide to yacht transportation
Last updated: 05/07/2017
When the world’s largest superyachts need to get to another location in time for the start of the season, or to a tricky location at the owner’s request, yacht transportation companies step in to move these giant vessels across the vast distances and rough seas that even the most experienced of captains would find daunting.
As well as working to tight deadlines, these projects involve millions of pounds worth of cargo that needs careful treatment and skillful manoeuvering. So, Yachting Pages spoke to various yacht transport experts to understand the finer details of yacht transportation, from choosing a respected company to the available methods.
Choosing a respected transport company
Before you start your preparations to move a superyacht halfway around the world, marine transport company Global Boat Shipping, stressed the importance of fully checking the company you choose to ship your yacht with.
According to the team, it’s important to be alert and aware, as there are a lot of frauds in the yacht transport market offering such services without having the materials, knowledge or even a transporter: "These companies collect 100% of the payment upon signing the booking note from the yacht owner and then don't ship the yachts! The money is lost and the yachts get stuck in the load port without having a space in a marina anymore."
Cheap transport doesn’t always mean the best transport
As with most things in life, a cheap transport service does not usually guarantee quality. it's therefore worth paying slightly more to ensure the yacht is in safe hands, and to avoid any hidden fees that are not disclosed upfront.
United Yacht Transport commented, “It's always tempting to accept the lowest price for the transport of your yacht, as the overall rate is generally a significant amount of money. However, some transport brokers may quote you an unreasonably low price just to get your business, without the ability to actually follow through. More often than not, if the prices you are quoted are drastically different from a carrier, it's likely you are giving up something in service.”
There's a difference between a yacht carrier and a yacht transport broker
With this in mind, it's worth noting that there is a difference between a yacht carrier or transport provider, and a yacht transport broker. According to United Yacht Transport, at first glance, it may appear that there are many transport providers to choose from, however when you look closely, most of these are actually yacht transportation brokers.
In recent years, many new brokerage companies have either opened shop or rebranded themselves to appear as ‘yacht carriers’, however the majority of these new companies actually operate in the capacity of a yacht transport broker. The business model for this new group of brokers is to book the end client, i.e. the yacht owner, and then try to source the carriage of the yacht to an actual carrier at a lower rate than charged to the end client to make their profit.
The problem with this is that, in many cases, the broker will book the job at a rate which is below that which the actual carrier will accept to transport the yacht. Yacht carriers have caught onto this game and no longer accept bookings from these brokers at below market rates, leaving those bookings unfulfilled, further confusing the industry.
If you wish to confirm whether you are speaking to a broker or carrier, ask the company to send you the contact details for the vessel agent at both the load and discharge ports, so that you can speak with them directly. Unlike a broker, a carrier will have an established relationship with a vessel agent at each entry and departure port . If they cannot provide you with this information, they are most likely a broker.
Furthermore, reputable yacht carriers will offer a service that handles your yacht from load to the discharge port. Think of it as going straight to a wholesaler rather than going to a retailer to buy an item. If you cut out the middle man and do business with the wholesaler, you will generally get the better deal and have the option of direct contact with the service provider.
The different ways of transport loading a boat, yacht or superyacht
The size, dimensions and mobility of your vessel will directly impact which option you choose when transporting your yacht. Below, Weshipboats.com has outlined some of the different ways that the yachts can be loaded onto the transporting vessel, explaining which mode may suit which type of boat.
Roll on/roll off transport
The most common and recommended way to transport boats; here the boat is actually towed on a trailer or cradle into the transport vessel and parked on the deck.
- Eliminates any potential damage while the vessel is at sea because the boat is always secured for the entire voyage
- Easy to tow the boat straight off the ship and to its final destination once it has arrived at the destination port
- Less handling because the boat is driven on and off, not lifted
Lift on/lift off transport
This service is more suitable for larger boats that can’t be moved via a road to the port. This process involves the boat being parked alongside the vessel, with lifting slings lowered from the transport vessel into the water. Divers are then used to secure the boat to the slings by using marked lifting points, and the boat is lifted safely from the water to the transport vessel, where a cradle will be waiting for the boat to be lifted on to. The boat is firmly secured to the cradle and floor with straps and chains.
This is the most suitable method for larger boats that can be moved by road to the port for loading, and is an attractive solution when roll on/roll off is unavailable. The boat is lifted using a forklift or crane onto the cradle on the flat rack, and is then secured, blocked and braced to the cradle and flat rack on the transport vessel. In this case, Weshipboats.com recommends shrink wrapping the boat to protect it against damage and debris.
Transport by containers
This is the most economical way to ship your boat, should it fit inside of a standard container. Most liner vessels in the world today are full container vessels, so if your boat fits into a 40’ container (39’5” long x 7’8” wide x 7’8” high), this is probably your best mode of transport.
Float on/float off transport
DYT Yacht Transport explained that float on/float off transport is often the best option for large super and megayachts. This process involves preparing the deck, which includes the installation of keelblock cradles and supports to the deck of the yacht carrier. The vessel is then submerged into a 'floating marina' that allows for easy loading of the yachts – motor yachts can sail into the carrier to their designated space.
When all yachts are moored in their reserved position, the yacht carrier starts her dock operation, securing the yachts and draining the water. Once the deck is dry, the yachts are secured to the deck and are ready for a safe crossing. During yacht transportation, the yachts are safely stowed between the yacht carriers' spray-covers, protecting them from the elements.