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Old 11-10-2015, 11:58   #1
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Shipping Boats by Freighter

I don't remember where we were, but I once saw a small sailboat in a cradle on the very top of a stack of containers on a freighter. As I recall, the boat was completely rigged and it just made me wonder why more boats aren't shipped that way. I'm ignorant about the limitations of container cranes as far as height goes but it would seem to me that a shipping container could be modified without too much trouble into a suitable cradle for a small-to-medium sized boat. Since the container with the boat would have to go on the very top, it seems as though a boat could be longer than the standard shipping container length, allowing for a bigger range of boats to be shipped that way.

Perhaps the people who run the terminals would think it's too much trouble for the special handling of a sailboat in a container but, on the other hand, maybe it could a great opportunity for some entrepreneur to seize this idea and run with it.

Maybe those who are more knowledgeable could weigh in on why this would or would not work.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:06   #2
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

The specialized container handling equipment is unable to lift a containerized load that is taller than the confines of the container. Other crane equipment is usually needed to deck load something like a boat......this doesn't typically fit in the SOP of a modern container operation (fast and efficient).
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Old 11-10-2015, 14:49   #3
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

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The specialized container handling equipment is unable to lift a containerized load that is taller than the confines of the container. Other crane equipment is usually needed to deck load something like a boat......this doesn't typically fit in the SOP of a modern container operation (fast and efficient).
We occasionally loaded yachts and other oversize and breakbulk cargoes onto the large P&O container ships. Pretty easy to shackle on some long strops to the spreader to lift uncontainerised cargo.

Must say though, we never did a yacht with a mast up! That would take some very long strips. Mostly we had horrible gin palaces on deck, but they looked way too unseaworthy to get anywhere under their own power.

I believe it might be possible in some cases to lift directly from the water from outside the ship, although everything I saw was lifted from shoreside.
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Old 11-10-2015, 15:46   #4
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

There are a lot of boats shipped by freighter. In fact, they have float on/off freighters.

The freighter has a door that opens and then they add water ballast to sink the deck low enough to allow the boats to float on. Then they ditch the ballast and off you go.

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Old 11-10-2015, 16:58   #5
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

What you would want to put the boat on is called a "flat rack". These are a pretty standard 40-ft "container" - actually just the lowest 18" or so. They have metal ends that fold down and the majority of "rack" is wood planking secured to the metal frame work.

I use to carry all sorts of weird things on flat racks on my container ship so it is pretty can do. We even turned the ship into a "aircraft carrier" once so we could carry a bunch of 200-ft long crane boom sections!

The cost of carrying a flat rack is based on where it goes on the ship. If it goes on the main deck, it is going to cost a LOT of $$$ as you are then taking up the space of 3 to 6 other containers that could be stacked up in the same spot.

If the mast hangs over the flatrack, you may end up getting charged for more than one space. If there is a giant container handling fork lift at the yard and it everyone agrees, it would be possible to leave the rig up and the whole flatrack/boat would be lifted onboard (to the top of a stack on the side of the ship) in one piece. NOTE: Make sure the yard at the destination port has one of these fork lifts too!

However, if you are at the top of the stack (3 to 6 containers high or so) then it can be relatively cheap.

The hot ticket would be if you had/made a steel cradle for your boat that could then be lifted and secured onto a flat rack. We use to do this with cargo (usually trucks, buses, machinery) and it was a fairly straight forward exercise. Best would be to put your cradle/boat on the flat rack in the yard so you would have more time to get it on and secured correctly without a lot of rush/drama.

Once you know where you want to go and find a shipper, you can talk to them about getting everything done in the yard. However with all the security now a days, it might have to be done at a remote site for security purposes unless you have a TWIC card and all the other needed clearances.

If you do do this, make sure everything is securely tied down, inside and outside the boat. And I do mean SECURELY!!!!! With lots of padding!!!!! Container ships do move around quite a bit!

In the old days if you found the right Captain he could put a bunch of car tires on the deck and crane your boat onboard and lay it on the tires and take you someplace for a couple of cases of beer. I'm afraid those days are long gone, but I have seen it done!
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Old 11-10-2015, 16:59   #6
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

I shipped a 90' mast from Houston to Hong Kong on top of containers to Singapore and deck freight from there to HK. Lots of shipping to Asia and bugger all to Aust.

Houston via Germany to Korea ,Shanghai or Singapore was easy then and probably still so with all the spare capacity. As a side issue, Houston to HK direct was impossible. From US west coast would have been easier. Follow the trade links for economy.

Quite common for motor boats to be deck cargo to and from Hong Hong and Singapore.

Less easy for a 56' yacht on top of containers but very achievable as "break bulk" on a standard freighter of which there are many going to Sg and HK. The loading and unloading is the time consuming and expensive part, the distance less so.


PM me for Singapore shipping agent who can handle the unloading there if you are serious. You will need an agent in Turkey too.

My guess is that you would find Turkey to Singapore easy and to Australia almost impossible for the obvious reasons of trade. Could sail/motor Singapore to Australia easily enough or get a delivery skipper for this shorter run. Maybe enjoy Phuket for a year before back to Oz.

Some heavy equipment travels from Germany to Asia and you maybe could get lucky enough to piggy back.

You need to find a well connected agent in Turkey or be prepared to move to another centre like Gibraltar.



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Old 12-10-2015, 09:04   #7
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

I hesitate to put in my personal knowledge of shipping boats by ship. I just want to point out that there are many other ships than container ships. We shipped all the Mariner ketches as deck cargo from Japan to CA. in wood cradles Polish Ocean Lines transported many power and sailboats on RoRo ships in the hold, in containers, etc. A shipping company or freight forwarding company would be the place to get the information you seek. Hope I haven't offended anyone by intruding.
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Old 12-10-2015, 09:33   #8
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

I have never shipped a boat this way, but it is my understanding that if you do, you need to take some unusual precautions, like sulfur particulates from the freighters exhaust.
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Old 12-10-2015, 09:38   #9
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

You can ship your boat easily at least from the Caribbean across the Atlantic to Europe. In this example case boats were lifted straight from water onto the deck.

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Old 12-10-2015, 10:25   #10
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

I shipped my Athena 38 Catamaran from the British Virgin Islands to Australia.

First It cost a lot !!!! An average Australian wage for a year.
Second, it took 9 months.

They rang me after 3 months to say it was ready and when I said Australia, they said no its in Florida. So on it went.

It arrived in Australia with 20 other boats on the top deck. Under the decks there were speedboats etc. The largest one on the top deck was a 90 ft ketch.

If you want photos there are some on my site amonde.eu just look at the Camellia arrives in Australia article.

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Old 12-10-2015, 12:56   #11
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

This is a topic dear to my heart.

A couple of years ago I decided to move my Hinckley50 yawl, CYGNUS, from Northeast Harbor, Maine to Mallorca, Spain (we have a home there). I considered single-handing her across, but the potential risks of a 72 year old man and a 40 year old boat seemed a bit sobering (falling overboard, heart attacks, equipment failure, etc. etc) .

Then two attractive young ladies, recent graduates of the University of Florida, touring Down-east, Maine saw CYGNUS and I at the dock and started a conversation and with great enthusiasm volunteered to come along as crew. And they claimed they were both good cooks - certainly better than Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Stag Chili for days on end. Now that sounded like a better alternative to a crew of a few smelly guys - until I told my wife!

"No way," she proclaimed

"Why not?," I asked.

"Think about it! Two 23 year old chicks with a 72 year old goat! What would our friends say?"

"Well, my friends would probably give me a high five!" I countered in retaliation for the "Old Goat" comment. But the icy silence that followed for the next few days showed me that I had not won that argument.

So let me get to the point! I started researching shipping by freighter. There were two major players: DOCKWISE Yacht Transport and SevenStar. Dockwise featured a ship that partially sunk and one simply sailed on, the crew secures the vessels and when fully loaded, they blow ballast and head for the Med.

SevenStar's ships are basically freighters and yachts are loaded as deck cargo. I must say that the crew was very efficient and seemed to know what they were doing.
All I had to do was single-hand my boat from Northeast Harbor to Newport (beat the hell out of a trans-Atlantic).

The cost? About $25,000 each way (smaller boats cost less; larger boats a bit more). CYGNUS went over on SevenStar and returned from Palma de Mallorca 14 months later on Dockwise. A total cost of $50,000. There are now other players in the yacht transport game. I understand that there are some freighters that will take yacts on as deck cargo but there is the cost of building a cradle which cost a few thousand and you are on their schedule and may end up in Turkey instead of the, say, South of France. All in all, the $50K seemed worth it - a professional operation, that drops you where they say they'll splash down and pretty much on schedule. However, it will take a day to clean up the boat of salt and grit!

Bottom-line; If I'd been 30-40 years younger, I would have probably sailed her over. But even then, it's not a bad deal on the deck of a freighter.

Sorry for the length of this Epistle!

PJ Kelly
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Old 12-10-2015, 15:05   #12
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

I looked into this for moving a boat up the west coast and found two things. One most of the cost seams to be in dock charges for loading so short hops are reletively expensive. Second it totally depends on the rout, to go up the west coast you wold go via Asia and have at least one, and probably 2 or three, transfers to different boats. Each transfer costs lots plus high storage costs for any delay. Made my trip completely impractical. On the other hand another boat was shipped from Aruba to Holland on a flat rack for about 15.000 euros.
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Old 12-10-2015, 15:14   #13
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

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Originally Posted by nhschneider View Post
I don't remember where we were, but I once saw a small sailboat in a cradle on the very top of a stack of containers on a freighter. As I recall, the boat was completely rigged and it just made me wonder why more boats aren't shipped that way. I'm ignorant about the limitations of container cranes as far as height goes but it would seem to me that a shipping container could be modified without too much trouble into a suitable cradle for a small-to-medium sized boat. Since the container with the boat would have to go on the very top, it seems as though a boat could be longer than the standard shipping container length, allowing for a bigger range of boats to be shipped that way.

Perhaps the people who run the terminals would think it's too much trouble for the special handling of a sailboat in a container but, on the other hand, maybe it could a great opportunity for some entrepreneur to seize this idea and run with it.

Maybe those who are more knowledgeable could weigh in on why this would or would not work.

Fair winds and calm seas.
A friend made a power boat that would fit inside a standard container. They shipped it from New Zealand to Europe to explore canals etc. On a project I was filming in the 90s, two Volvo Round the World racing yachts (60'?) were fitted inside an Antonov freight aircraft and were flown to Europe from NZ. I think the unattached keels were included. Part of the design was that they would fit in with their bows angled together. As I remember the rigs were constructed in Europe. Americas Cup yachts and other large yachts have often been shipped to and from NZ as deck cargo with the keels and rigs unattached. I think the AC monohulls were around 70'. There is at least one large specialised boat transport ship that sinks like a floating dock and the yachts / power boats sail on and off through the stern. I have seen it in action and they were very large yachts being transported. I can't remember how they cradled the yachts complete with keels and rigs. I think the cradles were in place before loading. A friend made lead keel bulbs for some large yachts being constructed in Hong Kong. They were flown by airfreight from NZ. Glad I wasn't paying. Very large 100' / 150' plus, SuperYachts built in NZ are usually sailed away.
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Old 12-10-2015, 16:31   #14
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

Some things to keep in mind:

1. There are videos of boats being dropped during loading and unloading. Deal with reputable lines and maybe get the lifting gear surveyed. Make sure you have insurance coverage for this.

2. Independent freighters can go wherever, whenever they want to. You might wait a long time for your boat. Stick with scheduled carriers.

3. Some shrink wrap their boat to avoid the soot issues.
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Old 12-10-2015, 17:42   #15
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Re: Shipping Boats by Freighter

Yes indeed! I've often seen new imported factory production boats arriving here in NZ shrink wrapped.

A couple of years or so ago I saw about 4 fly bridge powerboats 40' + still shrink wrapped and floating in berths near my boat with a team unwrapping them.

I asked where they were from and was told "second hand from Florida". I didn't say anything but I recalled that there had been a bad hurricane through Florida not long before. I wondered if they had been sold off cheap by insurance companies glad to get rid of them.
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