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Yacht transport business
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2013-07-11 at 5:24:09 PM GMT
Posts: 26
Yacht transport business

Yacht transport via freighter is a common practice these days but although several of our cruising friends have used the process, we were completely uninformed about how it works when we made the decision this Spring to ship from Costa Rica to Victoria.

Over two months later, we are still waiting for a ship to arrive and load our boat and the story is nowhere near being over.  But at this point, we would like to describe how the business appears to operate.  As a prospective buyer, you may find it interesting, if not useful and beneficial to know these facts.

1.  Search the web for transport companies and call them.  Often their sites are not up to date on their routes and schedules and may not indicate online that they are servicing your destination.

2.  Prices for the same route vary wildly e.g. from $15K to $25K for same route and same carrier.

3.  Most companies are brokers only and pool with each other to charter one ship.  It also appears that one broker will rent space from another broker then sell it to you so that the price to you passes through two middlemen.  Some companies own their own ships but may sell some space to brokers.  All these models are priced differently but involve the same product.

4.  Chartered freighters (not owned by the brokers) are subject to significant delays in their commercial loading and unloading schedules which, in turn, impact their punctuality at the ports of yacht loading.  These can be delays building up to weeks.

5.  In addition to the transport fee, there may be agent fees at point of loading and/or unloading.

6.  The shipping company may ask for documents showing your purchase of the boat and payment of sales tax,  for presentation to Customs in your home country. 

7.  Shipping contracts vary - some involve your commitment to the sailing, without any proviso on delays to the shipment date;  another may commit to providing a shipment within a defined time frame and release you from the contract if it cannot be done.

Here is a description of our experience to date, prior to shipment:

 Early May - contract signed with company A.  Shipping date projected but not confirmed - late May.

 Late May - Company A short of boats - extends shipping date to mid June.

 Early June - Company A cancels all intent to ship.  Had partnered with Company B which has just gone out of business leaving Company A still short of boats.

One week later - we sign with Company C who charges $4K more than Company A and is non-negotiable.  Other brokers ask for even higher fees.  Projected shipping date June 15.

June 15 - freighter to be used by Company C is delayed indefinitely.  Company C switches to another freighter with a sailing date of July 18.

July 10 - three further delays on this freighter (port delays and a tropical storm) put the loading date in Costa Rica at July 24.

We shall see !


Last edited July 11, 2013
2013-07-11 at 5:56:16 PM GMT
Posts: 3
Wow, Carol!  Have times ever changed. When I moved Wanderlust V from La Paz, Mexico, to Nanaimo, BC, in 2006, all my dealings were with one very well-known yacht transport company and various other BCA members also used the same carrier. My one and only complaint was that they could not give a fixed date for loading, but they estimated it within a month and a local agent was in La Paz to keep me and others informed. So as you know, I spent a month in La Paz waiting. But other than that, I had excellent service. Thanks very much for the update; it will be valuable to other BCA members considering shipping back to Canada. Looking forward to seeing you on your return! Good luck.

2013-07-11 at 6:10:59 PM GMT
Posts: 26
Yacht transport business

Thanks Glenora!  We are very much looking forward to getting home.

Yacht transport seems to be an intricate business and perhaps with more boats choosing this option, the business will get loaded up with less stable providers.  Right now, the company we are using is the only major provider on this route, stopping in at  La Paz and Ensenada between Golfito, Costa Rica and Victoria.  They are expensive but are customer oriented with a legitimate office in Florida and dedicated staff.  Our experience with Company A was quite different.

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