The ultimate guide to yacht transportation
Transporting a yacht or boat can be a complicated process, and it’s something which requires thorough research. There are many considerations to take into account before your boat is ready to be transported, including insurance, customs clearance and measurements.
Choosing a respected transport company
Before you start your preparations, marine transport company Global Boat Shipping, stressed the importance of fully checking the company you choose to ship your yacht with. It’s important to be alert and aware, as there are a lot of frauds in the market offering yacht transport services without having the materials, knowledge or even their own vessel.
These companies collect 100% of the freight upon signing the booking note from yacht owners 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 doesn’t always mean the best
In most cases, a cheap service does not always guarantee quality, therefore it is worth considering paying slightly more to ensure the yacht is taken care of and there are no hidden fees. United Yacht Transport commented, “It is always tempting to accept the lowest price for the transport of your yacht, as the rate is generally a significant amount of money. However, some 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 is likely you are giving up something in service.”
The difference between a yacht carrier and a yacht transport broker
According to United Yacht Transport, at first glance, it may appear that there are many yacht transportation providers to choose from, however when you look closely, most of these are actually yacht transportation brokers. In recent years, many new 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. 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.
The problem with this model is that, in many cases, the broker will book the job at a rate, which is below what the actual carrier will accept to transport the yacht. The reputable yacht carriers have caught onto this game and no longer accept bookings from many of these brokers at below market rates, leaving those bookings unfulfilled. Many of these companies now claim to be the carrier, rather than a broker, which has further confused the industry.
If you wish to confirm whether or not you are speaking to a broker or carrier, please ask him or her 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 must have an established relationship with a vessel agent each time the vessel enters and departs any port worldwide. If they cannot provide you with this information, they are most likely a broker.
On the other hand however, a carrier actually handles your yacht from loading 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 contracting directly with the yacht carrier.
Arrangements before you travel
- Make arrangements as early as possible. Yachts cannot be loaded or discharged without customs clearance.
- Most of the time agents in the load or discharge port can assist you with customs matters.
The following documents are required for customs clearance:
- Certificate of registry
- Copy of passport
- Copy of commercial invoice
Even with perfect preparation and the best transport company, there is always a risk that yachts can be damaged, even if it's just a small damage. Make sure your yacht is covered by an All Risks Transport Insurance.
A separate cargo insurance policy is normally required when transporting a yacht on board an ocean-going vessel. This policy is separate from the typical navigational insurance policy and will cover the exposure for loading, discharge and ocean transit. Rates of this type of insurance will fluctuate depending on the port of loading, discharge and the intended route of the ship.
Of course, when transporting such expensive cargo, there can still be cases of damage from accidents/negligence. United Yacht Transport commented, “Before loading your yacht, it is highly recommended that you take pictures of the interior and exterior, so that in the event of damage, you will have document of the condition prior to loading.”
Additional operational charges
When comparing rates from different transport companies, it is important to confirm that the booking is on a water to water basis. This means that all labour for loading and discharge as well as any necessary lifting and cradling equipment is also included in the freight rate.
Delivery times and cancellation dates
Most yacht transportation companies will provide predicted delivery windows rather than a particular set date of arrival. This is due to the many variables that may come into play, such as weather, port delays, customers etc… Although vessel arrival dates cannot always be accurately predicted, there should be a period of time in which delay is considered unreasonable.
For example, a delay of 30 days would be considered unreasonable by most yacht transport companies. A cancellation date will be clearly defined in contracts when choosing any yacht transportation provider. Remember, never enter into a contact without this information being clearly stated.
Arrival in port
Each port authority is authorised to admit or deny sailing into the port and the captain is exclusively authorised to admit entry to the vessel. If you want to be on the vessel during loading or discharging, make sure that your transport company is informed so they can arrange authorisation.
The date of loading can vary so be prepared to be flexible; unexpected lags can also occur.
Make sure measurements and weights are correct
Information about the length, beam, height and weight of your yacht has to be declared correctly in the booking note for three reasons:
- If your yacht is bigger than declared, the vessel may not be able to load it. Cranes may not be able to lift it and it may be too large to fit through the hatch cover.
- Your boat will be measured in case of doubt, and shipment of your yacht can be refused when an offer has been made for a smaller yacht.
- If your boat heavier than declared, it may be a danger to the vessel, crew or stevedores.
Preparing the yacht itself
Weshipboats.com has been in the yacht transport industry for over 25 years and has provided the following points to bear in mind when preparing the yacht for its impending transport.
- Secure all items inside the yacht, such as galley utensils, plates, cutlery etc…
- All ports, hatches and windows should be locked shut and locking device taped over.
- Top and side curtains should be removed prior to shipment, which will prevent water damage to cloth or canvas.
- All electrical circuits should be closed and batteries disconnected.
- Personal belongings and equipment must be itemised and verified prior to shipment. Transport companies will not assume responsibility for missing items not fully accounted for in writing. Major high cost removable items should be pointed out to the driver at the time of pick up.
- If you are planning to ship your boat on a cradle, some precautions must be taken. Even though your cradle may serve adequately for storage it may fall short of what’s needed for shipping. A cradle should fit the exact contour of your hull and be in good condition for sea voyage.
- All fuel and water should be removed from the holding tanks for safety reasons.
- Cabinet doors, drawers and all lockers inside the boat should be secured shut.
- Remove and store plastic or plexiglass fly bridge windshields inside the boat.
- Additional requirements for sailboats: Standing rigging, turnbuckles, mastheads, antennas, spreaders, wind indicators, wires and mast winches should be removed from the mast, after it is unstepped, and prior to shipment.
The different ways of transport loading
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
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
This service is more suitable for larger boats which 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 then 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 then firmly secured to the cradle and floor with straps and chains.
Transport by containers
This is the most economical way to ship your boat, however to do this the boat itself will need to fit inside of a standard container. Most liner vessels in the world today are full container vessels, so if your boat fits in a 40’ container (39’5” long x 7’8” wide x 7’8” high), this is probably the best mode of transport.
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 not available. 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 the flat rack on the transport vessel. Weshipboats.com also recommends shrink wrapping the boat to protect it against damage and debris.
Float on/float off
DYT Yacht Transport also explained the Float on/float off method that they provide. 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 vessel 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.