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Spring 2006

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



Yachting catalogue

Navigation tests

Used boats


Video Nautica

Article and photos by Martino Motti


Yacht transport from one continent to another is usually a delicate operation, long and generally expensive. There are substantially three ways to transport large size vessels: of course the simplest is, apparently, to sail the yacht to its destination.

But there is a very real problem in crossing the ocean - for example from Italy to the USA - with large yachts, semi-planing, displacement or of smaller size, when they do not have sufficient range. It then becomes necessary to stop off for refuelling or to have the yacht escorted by a lighter loaded with fuel in order to refuel under way, with obvious inconveniences and costs. The second way is to put the yacht on a cargo ship, with hoisting gear such as crane and belts. The problem here is the maximum size limit and the damage which may occur during loading and unloading. The third way, suitable only for smaller vessels or light sailboats, is by large transport plane. Now we come to the fourth system, not mentioned before because it is new, at least in Italy. Sea transport by float on/float off semi-submersible vessels: the yacht enters a 'floating marina' under its own steam and it ties up. The carrier vessel comes to the surface and the yacht is lifted high and dry. An ingenious and safe system, carried out by the Dockwise MV Super Servant 3. But let's hear a little more. Dockwise is a company with headquarters in Breda, Holland, and has been operating worldwide since 1987 with a 16 strong fleet (max. length 169 metres), 5 of which are dedicated to yacht transportation between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the North American coasts. In 2006 a new 205 metre vessel will be coming into service, with two swimming pools and relaxation and fitness equipment. The company used to specialise in the transport of oil rig sections, pumping stations, pipeline parts, submarines, damaged ships and cranes for container hoisting, all of this mainly in the Persian Gulf during the long Gulf war. At the end of the conflict Dockwise had to reinvent itself, or at least diversify the use of its vessels: hence the insight with regard to yacht transportation. The idea turned out to be spot-on and farsighted, since the company is now undisputed world leader in the field and has created a "Dockwise Yacht Transport" branch. In fact DYT has signed an agreement with ACM, organizer of the 32nd America's Cup, becoming supporter of the Marseille Louis Vuitton Cup act 1 and the Valencia Louis Vuitton Cup acts 2 and 3. But why are we talking about this only now? Because at last Italy too has realised that the nautical world can offer satisfaction and lots of work. The Genoa company Intermare, shipping brokers specialised in chartering and in sea transport of large installations by means of various vessels spread throughout the world, has become general agent in Italy for Dockwise Yacht Transport. After hesitant attempts in Leghorn and Savona, the service finally ended up in Genoa. In accordance with the agreements between the parties and the wishes of the operators, it should be a monthly service between Genoa and Port Everglades - Miami, Florida.

Now let's see how the loading process goes. The vessel arrives at the quay, the valves are opened and the submerging process begins. After about 3 hours the vessel is semi-submerged to a depth of around 4-5 metres. On the basis of the places booked, the characteristics of the yachts and their keel plans, the Loading Master prepares the loading plan, which is a scale drawing of the hold with the position of each vessel. The yachts are stowed, one next to the other, so that the load is proportioned and calibrated. Then the keel supports for each yacht - wooden chocks - are prepared. On the basis of the keel and loading plans, the support props are prepared for each yacht and also welded to the base where necessary. Then an order of entry is drawn up and the skippers are called to bring their boats in at 15 minute intervals. The crews bring the yachts in and "moor" them in the position indicated by Dockwise technicians. As soon as the loaded vessels have killed their engines, a team of divers goes into action. Their delicate task is to ensure that the props are rightly placed with respect to the hulls and, if not, carry out modifications. The men on board the vessel meanwhile fix straps to the yachts for the lashing system. At this point the vessel is ready to surface, an operation requiring about 4 hours. Before complete surfacing the divers go from yacht to yacht for final checks and to put the props under tension. On complete surfacing the crew finishes tightening the straps to secure the cargo. The vessel is now ready to weigh anchor. As may be imagined just from reading about the procedure, this is a relatively fast loading- unloading system and is safe because the yachts do not undergo any mechanical stress. So risks are reduced almost to zero. For the owners' total security and peace of mind, Dockwise covers transport with a comprehensive insurance policy against all risks. Moreover, crews, owners and skippers may - with appropriate authorisation - accompany their yachts to the destination. In fact they yachts can be hooked up with electricity and water so they remain inhabitable. Intermare chose to operate out of Genoa because of the clearly favourable conditions the city offers with regard to crew services. The diving teams, welding squads, shuttle and car hire services, mooring assistants and catering companies are all strictly local, which naturally means a benefit for the city. When the yacht has been taken aboard it is registered and the documents are checked. Before getting under way the vessel and the cargo undergo checking by customs and by an expert who certifies that loading operations have been carried out correctly. All in all, a service that supplies a plus to the great Italian shipyard sector. The following Intermare personnel attended the loading of Super Servant 3: Stefania Morasso (Managing Director), Daniele Sbardellati (Port Captain), Alessandra Terzi (Business Manager) and Gianluca Esposito (Commercial Department).