Shipping back across the Indian Ocean
16 Apr 2012 Dave Jesinger: The evolving procedure of cruiser “Repositioning”
We had been enjoyably savouring the many pleasures of cruising SE Asia for two years longer that we had intended, waiting for the International Community to get a grip on the Somali pirate situation. However, by early 2012 the situation had further deteriorated to the point where the Red Sea route was virtually impossible and the route to the Cape was also under threat. There was a significant risk to life or at least the possibility that our family would be faced with a huge bill for ransom.
A group of six boats based at Rebak Marina off Lankawi, Malaysia negotiated jointly to arrange shipment from Phuket, Thailand to Marmaris Turkey which occurred during March 2012. For ease of explanation our experiences have been grouped into sections :-
Shipping Agents: We used Yacht Shipping Ltd of Ocean Village Southampton as our gateway to the process. They were very easy to deal with and always responded immediately to any question. They are associated with Sevenstar based in Amsterdam who charter the ship and employ the loadmasters who turn-up to do the business of yacht loading and unloading. The April monthly OCC e-mail bulletin contained a link to Sevenstar’s schedule which hopefully will be repeated.
The Contract: Basically the shippers offer a ‘Sea to Sea’ service that begins when your boat is picked-up in the slings to the point it floats off 4,100nm away. This includes everything such as insurance and all Suez Canal fees, etc. The only additional costs of significance are the yacht customs clearances at each end. As you are exporting and importing your boat, an agent is probably essential. Not surprisingly, as is the case with most contracts, they are dauntingly written to reflect all possible contingencies and err on the side of those offering the service. So, there is a 10,000$/day surcharge quoted for any delay you might be responsible for in the shipping. However, delays by the shippers which occurred at each end for us, are not the subject of compensation. There are also weird restrictions such as crews not being able to board the vessel which is plainly impractical as you have to re-connect and remove the backstays. This restriction was waived along with that banning luggage being taken off-and-on the vessel.
Costs: Whilst shipping prices may vary dependent on demand, you can budget for the Phuket to Marmaris passage on being charged around 800$US per foot of overall length. The only additional costs will be for the customs agents. The payment terms in our case were a deposit of 25% to book the place with the balance at least one week before loading.
Customs Agents: Now we come to the thorny subject of the agent at each end necessary to organise the exportation and importation of your boat and at the Turkish end, the provision of the Transit Log required by cruisers. It is probably true to say that this was the only area of the whole process where we customers were less than happy. Sevenstar recommended a preferred agents at each end which people who had shipped the previous year had said we should avoid due to excessively high charges and mistakes made. As a group we sought local advice and found agents at both ends that were pleasant, most efficient and very much cheaper. Needless to say, all went exceedingly well.
Preparation of your Boat for Shipping: You need to bear in mind that headwinds in the Red Sea can reach 30-35kts, so with the boat speed added, your pride and joy might be exposed to a 50kt sand and dust storm. We applied shrink wrap to all moving items of gear such as winches, furling gear and much else. We also collapsed the spray hood and bimini, covering the whole cockpit with a protective plastic sheet. There were fine red deposits around the decks after transit but no other sign of deterioration.
One perhaps not surprising tip was to remove anything that could easily be taken from the decks such as shackles, etc. This because of pilfering by customs officials associated with a certain canal that might require access.
Timescales: We were warned that due to the nature of chartered shipping, dates for loading and arrival could not be relied on. This was certainly true, even within as little as one or two days before. You need to be extremely flexible and certainly must refrain from booking airline tickets until you were absolutely certain of when things were about to happen. Like, just after the event. Several crews on our shipping had to forgo flights of have their boat loaded for them by someone else.
To keep track of the vessel there is a useful website which can be found by inserting the vessel’s name with the letters ‘AIS’ appended. This gives details of the vessel, recent ports and a track updated every 2-6 minutes. Bear in mind that vessels do not broadcast their position anywhere near the areas threatened by piracy.
The Event Itself: About a day before the vessel appears over the horizon a loading list will be promulgated. This is sacrosanct as there is a loading plan which specifies where each boat will sit on the deck and this can only be realised by loading in a specific order. When your turn comes you go alongside and with the assistance of the Sevenstar loadmasters you remove the backstays (triatics as well for a ketch). Two slings suspended from a loading bar are positioned under the boat with guidance from a snorkeler in the water. The boat is lifted to deck level when all persons leave the yacht. After positioning supporting pads are fitted to the hull and eventually welded to the ship’s cargo hatch covers. The boat is also supported by six or more wide webbing straps tensioned like tent guys to deck hooks. The backstays then must be replaced and all electrical power disconnected, gas turned-off, along with such automated systems such as bilge pumps. Don’t forget wind generators that don’t take well to 50+kts.
Most important, don’t leave a hatch open or leave open even the smallest access to your boat. One member of our contingent did so and found on arrival in Turkey they had become hosts to a contingent of the ship’s rat population.
The unloading occurs in reverse order and is obviously very much quicker than loading. It is worth getting the previously launched yacht to hang around for the 30-40 minutes or so before the next launching to guard against an engine not starting or the cooling water not appearing. It is amazing how many of these events occur.
There are other unexpected problems, arising from the temperature change from Thailand’s almost constant 32-34ºC and the 10ºC one might expect in Turkey in March. Many seals on water pumps, watermakers, etc that are pliable at the higher temperatures become less so in cooler climes and lead to leaking. Additionally, our high pressure watermaker hose failed, the pipe for filling the water tank was so brittle as to break into around five sections and another boat had the engine heat exchanger seals fail.
Of the 14 boats in out contingent, only two sustained light damage in the process. One cat was ‘topped and tailed’ when the crane hook dislodged a masthead VHF antenna and a keel sheath was cracked by a misplaced wooden supporting block when the boat was moved around 30cm after the initial loading. The other damage was to the wooden toe rail of a boat by the tension applied to a webbing strap.
Summary: Overall we would liken the experience to that of a Panama Canal transit in that, despite the concerns, it led to an almost magical transformation of our cruising lives. There is an additional advantage that you get a couple of week’s break in which to visit venues on the way to the port of arrival. We spent a very pleasant time with family living in Dubai and also had a few days exploring the fascinating city of Istanbul.
Interestingly, the vessel was approached by pirates in the Red Sea but the four heavily armed Russian security staff that went aboard in Galle, Sri Lanka held them at bay until an Egyptian patrol vessel arrived. In addition the vessel had razor wire liberally strewn across to deck to impede any visitors.
Our agent in Southampton served us well and one could not speak highly enough of the four or so Sevenstar loadmasters at each end who carried out a demanding task with extreme care.
The last word has to be that, any operation involving a German owned vessel, registered in Antigua, crewed by Filipinos, with Ukrainian officers, chartered by a Dutch company using an agent based in the UK ought to expect problems. On the contrary it all worked seamlessly.
22 Mar 2012 Dick Moore
Special shipping service for cruising yachts needing to cross the Indian Ocean: Sevenstar Yacht Transport are continuing to offer a shipping service for yachts in each direction between the Mediterranean (Genoa and Marmaris) and the Far East (Phuket, Singapore and Male). The yachts travel as deck cargo on specially adapted ships.
If you are wondering how to avoid sailing through the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin, this is worth checking out.
Sailings westwards for 2012 are already booked but we reproduce below the schedule for eastward travel in the Autumn and homebound travel in the spring of 2013 .
To the Far East from Europe in 2012
MV Donaugracht or substitute in August 01/25 Genoa Italy & Marmaris Turkey :&
MV TBN in September 01/15 Palma de Mallorca Spain & Genoa Italy & Marmaris Turkey:&
MV TBN in October 01/15 Palma de Mallorca Spain & Genoa Italy
Male Maldives & Phuket Thailand & Singapore
Other ports upon request (Sharm Ash Shayk, Hong Kong ,Kaohsiung)
Sailings from the Far East in 2013
MV Floragracht or sub in March 05/20 Singapore & Phuket Thailand & Male Maldives:&
MV Happy Diamond or sub in April 05/20 Singapore & Phuket Thailand & Male Maldives:&
MV TBN 05/20 Singapore & Phuket Thailand & Male Maldives
Marmaris Turkey, Genoa Italy and subject to enough interest Jeddah Saudi Arabia
Other ports upon request (Hong Kong ,Kaohsiung, Sharm Al Sheik)
Sevenstar are offering flexible booking terms. You have until 1st December to decide if you want to ship next year, or even a whole year later.