Rising Tides in Yachting Logistics

May 29th, 2019

A boom in leisure boat buying reinforces partnerships between craft builders and logistics experts transporting and delivering new vessels to clients oceans away.

The growing appeal of boats for sporting and leisure purposes is fueling booming business for the builders of nautical craft. But with end-users often located far from construction facilities, delivery of brand new catamarans, motor boats, yachts and sailboats presents manufacturers with a difficult challenge: how to transport those out-size, high-value vessels to buyers over long distances without inflicting operational wear or tear?

To pull that trick off, watercraft companies are turning to specialized partners with the experience, assets and networks capable of fulfilling their exacting and increasingly frequent transport and handling needs.

Spreading popularity and media coverage of sailing competitions like the America’s Cup, Golden Globe and la Route du Rhum have been partially responsible for the surge of people taking to the water for sport or pleasure. Meanwhile, significant growth of wealth and disposable income has permitted more consumers to buy, lease or rent the kinds of boats they once considered reserved for the super-rich. But in order to meet the resulting rise in demand, manufacturers must find a way of getting new craft from boatyards to purchasing individuals, dealerships and rental companies often located an ocean or two away.

“Buyers of new boats don’t want them submitted to hundreds or thousands of kilometers of travel and use during delivery, so we organize transport and handling that gets them to their destination in pristine shape,” explains Jérôme Siauve, Manager of Bolloré Logistics’ La Rochelle-based unit specializing in boat cargo services. “We arrange and oversee everything necessary for safe, secure and timely treatment of vessels – from the moment builders hand them off at departure, to their unloading at the destination port.”

Providing that service is frequently more complex and delicate than in normal cargo situations.

Whether they are yachts going to private owners or racing catamarans used by professional sailors, transported vessels are both far larger and more expensive than typical freight – often worth €400,000 to €600,000 or more. Consequently, selected logistics partners must have adapted hoisting cranes, appropriate cradles for transported boats, and technicians skilled in welding those supports into place on the deck or in the holds of hauling ships. In each case, Mr. Siauve says, Bolloré Logistics hires outside experts such as marine surveyors to verify and certify the condition and lashing of transported vessels before they sail as cargo.

In addition, certain boats must be transferred over land by trucks to ports of departure – an extra leg doubling critical loading, unloading, and stabilization and lashing procedures. Complicating matters further, not all sea freight companies operate ships capable of carrying craft needing transport, while those that do usually have limited capacity available.

“Our advantage is in knowing which shipping companies have that, how they manage it, and when that can be used in solutions we provide clients,” says Mr. Siauve, noting that though the yachting transport sector is dominated by smaller specialists, Bolloré Logistics’ deep experience in global freight forwarding has allowed it to become one of the leading full-service companies involved. “It’s an activity that requires time, careful planning and proven partners – all of which play to our strengths.”

Mr. Siauve’s unit has seen demand for yachting logistics rise steadily since it was founded 25 years ago. It currently handles several hundred vessels annually, and operates a monthly transport run from La Rochelle to Guadeloupe. It also oversees regular rotations from Le Havre and Antwerp to Baltimore, and handles spot deliveries to China, Japan, US West Coast ports and beyond.

“These boats are fun and exciting, but they’re also finely crafted products buyers invest considerable money in,” Mr. Siauve. “Our job is to get them to their destinations as new and spotless as they came to us.”

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