On the eve of the 2012 Cannes Film festival, Lady Joy, a star American attraction, arrived by ship under gray, rain-spitting skies in this grimy north Italian port, before setting off along the coast for the French Riviera, her stylists and makeup artists primping her for a cocktail party she would shortly host. Lady Joy is a $38 million, 157′ megayacht.
Launched in Seattle in 2007 and one of the largest private seagoing vessels in the world, she was perfectly capable of sailing to France from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, her last port of call.
Rather than working her passage, she was carried across the Atlantic, at a cost of more than $200,000, to ensure that she would arrive on time and shipshape.
Transporting yachts on freighters instead of sailing them on their own bottoms is a growing worldwide business. This year, four companies that dominate the trade will carry some 4,000 yachts ranging from 35′ sailboats to motor yachts 200′ long.
Customers include wealthy owners whose floating mansions and crews follow the sun; charter companies renting time in beautiful cruising grounds; boat builders delivering sparkling new craft to boat shows; 1 percenters hosting V.I.P. receptions at the World Cup; and an assortment of sailors who find that the convenience and safety outweigh the cost.
“What yacht transport really is — we are selling time,” said Rick Gladych, an insurance broker at Omni Risk Management in Seattle, who insures yachts while they are riding the freighters. “The industry has made it so easy, like catching a bus down the street.”
Since the business started in the mid-1980s, yacht shipping’s bread-and-butter route has been to and from the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Yacht Express, the giant freighter that transported Lady Joy, was packed with 18 other yachts and their tenders, all bound for a summer of cruising in the Mediterranean.
Yacht Express is one of three semi-submersible ships owned by Dockwise Yacht Transport, based in Fort Lauderdale, that allow “float-in, float-off” service. To load and unload, the boats flood their ballast tanks with nine million gallons of water, letting the sea pour into the cargo space, 48 feet deep. Yacht captains drive into the hold, divers fix stanchions beneath each boat, the water is pumped out, and the stanchions are welded to the deck before the ocean crossing. At its destination, the process is reversed.
Dockwise Yacht Transport carries some 600 yachts a year, said CEO, Clemens van der Werf. He said the company catered to larger megayachts, many of them high-speed yachts filled with palatial accommodations and water toys in place of large fuel tanks.
The company typically charges 25% more than its competitors, who rent space on cargo ships, using giant cranes to lift yachts into on-deck cradles. Shipping costs vary with boat volume and value, and distance; but as an example, Dockwise’s high-season rate across the Atlantic between Fort Lauderdale and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for a $12 million, 120′ megayacht is $194,000.
Growing wealth in Brazil, China, Australia and India has created new markets for boat deliveries, said David Holly, chief executive of Peters & May in Southampton, England, another major player in the business, which delivers thousands of new boats worldwide.
In addition, the ease of yacht transportation has opened exotic cruising grounds like Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam to yachters who could not get there on their own or might fear pirates in transit, said Jan Maarten Boissevain, of the sales department at Sevenstar Yacht Transport, based in Amsterdam. Sevenstar is able to ship yachts on the large freighter fleet owned by its parent company, Spliethoff, which gives them greater control, he said.
“The world is less safe,” than it used to be, he said, “but people want to go to new places, not sailing with 16,000 other boats along the south coast of France.”
When Guy Goodwin, a retiree of Edmonton, Alberta, and his wife set their sights on the Mediterranean, he chose to pay Dockwise $35,000 rather than drive his big Nordhavn trawler across the Atlantic. “We’re not getting any younger,” he said in Gaeta, Italy, where his trawler, C’mon Girl, was docked. “My attitude is, 300 miles offshore, it is either boring or not. We’re more interested in the destination.”
For Daryl Wakefield, president of Westport Yachts, a company with operations on both the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts that builds 11 luxury boats a year ranging in size from 85′ to 164′, and in price from $6.5 million to $40 million, a $200,000 shipping bill aboard a ship from Seattle, Washington, to Fort Lauderdale is a no-brainer. Fuel for the transit trip alone would cost $135,000 he said, not to mention 21 days of running time.
“You want it as pristine as you can get it,” he said. As he talked, 4 boats were waiting for pickup by Yacht Path, based in Fort Lauderdale.
“Our biggest challenge was finding an available cargo ship,” said Kevin Corbett of Plus Investment, who last autumn arranged for the purchase and delivery of 2 used yachts to Chinese owners using Yacht Path. Shipping the $23 million Lohengrin, a 161′, 470-ton aluminum megayacht from Fort Lauderdale to Hong Kong required a freighter with a 500-ton crane, which took 2 months to arrange. Delays are the customers’ biggest complaint. The trip, which saved a month’s running time on the yacht and $200,000 in fuel, cost $450,000.
In The Med, meanwhile, Lady Joy has been spotted this summer off Saint-Tropez, France, Montenegro and the Spanish Balearics. She is available for charter for $250,000 a week, before her scheduled return to Florida from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, aboard a Dockwise transporter in October.
Source: New York Times (Jim Carrier)