There are three different types of commercial
ships that can and do transport small vessels (versus mega-yachts) across the seas. Dockwise Transport is the "premier" mainly because of the simplicity of the "drive on/off" feature. But they also use divers to position and weld "stands" to hold the vessel when the ship pumps out the water/refloats. There have been a few reports of sloppy work and damage to private vessels who use the DWT system. Since the DWT system is fundamentally the easiest for the customer, they can charge ever increasing fees
as power yachts and other well-off boating
folks suck up the available spaces. Also DWT used to offer significant discounts for booking 6 months ahead and paying at that time rather than waiting until the last minute. They also have "standby" rates where you have to wait until actual loading day to see if there are "no-show" boats.
- - Also I noticed after getting a few quotes from DWT over the years and comparing them to quotes received by fellow boaters with smaller boats - that, DWT seems to almost double the rates if your vessel is 50 ft or bigger.
- - The second way to ship a vessel is deck cargo on commercial
ships that take bulk cargo in their holds. These days these type ships are also taking a few containers in what I would call "juri-rigged" containers lock-down systems. I have seen some where they only use chains over the containers and no lock-downs as they try to keep them onboard. These type ships lose containers overboard
more frequently than full size dedicated container ships especially since the ship was not designed to have that much weight high up on deck. There are several "agents/brokers" in Europe
and the Caribbean
who specialize in leasing the available deck space for "mast-up" shipment. These type operations charge about 1/4 to 1/3 less than DWT.
- - Finally, there are the "big" commercial container ships that are dedicated to containers only. They do not have open deck space as everything above decks is a "jungle-gym" of container supports/lock-downs. Unless you have a pseudo-container "cradle" like the big manufacturers of boats already have, you have to have somebody make a "cradle" that envelopes your vessel and has the properly positioned "lock-down" system to engage the permanently built superstructure where the containers are stored on these large container vessels. At large container ports
you can watch them lift
and load various size vessels onto the ship.
- - The giant container ships are loaded with containers as normal except they leave an open/empty set of container spaces on the top center of the whole system of stacks. The open space is where they put the cradled vessels. These cradles are a skeleton of a real container and the only thing holding your vessel in place is the normal system of container lock-downs. The same crane system that loads the normal containers lifts and places your vessel in its pseudo-container "cradle" into position.
- - As I said this system is the least expensive and the most trouble and hassles as you or your manager must arrange for de-rigging your boat and having the proper pseudo-container "cradle" built to specs of the container ship. Then a different outfit must be contracted to transport your "container-cradled" vessel from the boat yard to the container ship pier where your vessel is handled just like a normal somewhat over-sized container. No modifications are made to the actual container ship.
- - Because of the complicated procedures needed to utilize large container ships and the hassles of arranging everything, DWT can charge even higher rates. DWT's rates when they started were quite reasonable and less than half of what they charge now. DWT has the better "mousetrap" so to speak, and their rates reflect this. And I suspect over the years of more and more success they really would prefer to not deal with the "little guys" anymore since they can fill the ships with the rich boy's toys.
- - Basically they are pricing small boats out of being able to use them and we are left to "get there" on our own keel
. Hiring mercenaries or a small country's armed naval vessel to escort you is competitive with DWT. I have read in the mega-yachting magazines of several mega-yachts hiring the Thai or other small countries naval gun-boats to escort them to the Red Sea. A growth industry?