Setting Sail

June 11th, 2013 - Secure and cost-effective ways to transport yachts around the world.Back in 2007, as the teams competed in the 32nd America's Cup, sailing's most prestigious trophy, another race unfolded behind the scenes.

Twelve superyachts for teams including Alinghi, BMW Oracle Racing, Team Shosholoza and Emirates Team New Zealand had to be loaded and unloaded onto cargo ships in record time as the race travelled between Valencia in Spain, Marseilles in France, Malmö in Sweden and Trapani in Sicily.

“We timed each part of the process down to the last minute,” recalls Stéphane Macon, head of SDV's La Rochelle branch in France and the person in charge of the America's Cup logistics project. “The whole loading and unloading took about a day and a half each time.”

Transporting yachts worldwide is a delicate business whether the boats are destined for international races, individuals or yacht-hire companies. The smallest boats can be shipped in containers but mostly yachts are transported on conventional cargo vessels, container ships or roll-on/roll-off ships that carry the yachts on trailers.

“Yachts are fragile merchandise with unusual dimensions,” notes Macon. “They need special expertise.”

Popular destinations include the Antilles Islands in the Caribbean and Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Macon sees increasing demand for yachts in China at destinations including Shanghai and Beijing in line with the rise in demand for luxury goods there. Preparation of the boats before transportation is key. Macon advises the removal of instruments such as wind vanes and speedometers that could get damaged. Mast lights should be protected with bubble wrap, he adds.

Rarely, yachts can be transported inside containers but this solution only works for small boats with a maximum beam width of 2.3 meters.

Meanwhile, the masts must be dismantled when yachts are transported on container ships which is the case for many routes to Asia, Macon notes. Transporting yachts on container ships is often an expensive solution because of the time it takes to load and unload a yacht – six times longer than containers.

When possible, Macon advises clients to transport yachts as deck cargo on conventional ships because the cost is lower and loading and preparation is easier – masts are left intact, for example. Conventional vessels typically service routes from Europe to the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S., Macon says.

Roll-on/roll-off vessels where yachts are transported on trailers inside the ship can be an attractively-priced and secure solution for boats with the right dimensions – up to eight meters high and ten meters wide. “The yacht is protected from the wind and sea spray,” notes Macon. Routes from Antwerp in Holland to China and Japan, for example, use roll-on/roll-off ships.

Macon advises clients to avoid transhipments, where the yacht ships to an intermediate destination before arriving at its final port. “The more a boat gets handled, the greater the risk of damage,” he says. Some destinations, however, such as Vietnam, usually require a stopover, in this case Malaysia or Singapore. “We either ask the client to take responsibility for the extra risk or we look for alternative solutions,” Macon says."  

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