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When they’re not actually afloat, boats and yachts can be difficult things to move around the world. Many ocean- going craft are too big to go inside a standard shipping container, special expertise is needed to lift them and they also tend to be pretty expensive – frighteningly so, in some cases. In many ways, moving yachts

around the world has a lot in common with the handling of large, delicate, awkwardly shaped structures for the oil and gas industry or wind turbines – hence the involvement of the GAC Group with its long association with the oil and gas industry and, lately, wind energy. Most forwarders like to think of

themselves as pretty involved with their customers, but GAC Pindar, the group’s specialist yacht forwarding arm based in Southampton, takes it a stage further – they have their own yacht racing team in the Extreme Sailing Series. This uses carefully chosen locations – the Golden Horn in Istanbul for example - that allow ‘proper’ racing sailing on the sea but where viewers on dry land can actually see what is going on. Up till now, even sailing’s biggest fans would have to admit that sailing has its shortcomings as a spectator sport as most of the action usually takes place miles offshore.

GAC Pindar operations manager

Beth King is also a keen sailor herself and knows all about how to lift yachts without damage, how they can be dismantled for transport or the logistics of a really big sailing event like the Volvo Ocean race. It also helps that GAC Pindar can draw on the wider resources of the GAC group – where, incidentally, there are many more sailing enthusiasts – including its handling expertise, terminal equipment and buying power with shipping lines around the world. Even more important, says Beth

King “is that people have confidence in you. Not only are yachts high value in themselves, but they may be needed urgently for a race or event and have to get there in time. Yachting is quite a small world, so people soon get to know your capabilities.” But why Southampton? “There’s a huge amount of yachting

and marine industry here and in the wider Hampshire area; a lot of manufacturers are based here,” Beth King explains. “And it also helps that Southampton is a significant, and very flexible port.” Whereas Felixstowe has become essentially a container hub, only offering container lines to handle yachts as deck cargo, Southampton still attracts a wide range of shipping types including deep sea ro ro,

conventional and heavy-lift vessels, as well as regular container services – and it has the quayside handling equipment to match. There is an art to persuading

container ship captains and terminal operators to carry yachts as deck cargo; some lines are quite accommodating, indeed many actively pursue it as lucrative business. “A lot depends on the line. Some, if they have space available, will give you good rates,” says GAC Pindar commercial director, Mike Millar. Others, though, are reluctant because of terminal constraints or tight schedules. Usually, yachts are loaded at the last of call in one region (Singapore in Asia, for example) and offloaded at the first port of call in the destination region (Southampton in Europe) for example. Otherwise they would have to be temporarily offloaded and reloaded at intermediate ports which would greatly add to the cost and complexity of the operation. While ‘deck cargo’ might conjure

up visions of an expensive yacht perched precariously on the top of the stack, ready to be washed off by the first large wave, usual practice is to enclose them stacks of containers. The mast can be dismantled and laid athwart-ships, usually in the space

Southampton suits ECU Line

It’s partly historical accident that the UK headquarters of the world’s biggest neutral seafreight consolidator is in Southampton, but the city suits ECU line very well, says sales and development manager, Ian McCarthy. “There are some very bright forwarding people in this city; there’s still a broad skills base in this area,” he explains. ECU Line, now part of the Indian

Avashya Group and with its own global headquarters in Antwerp, offers the forwarding industry a neutral consolidation service to around 700 export destinations and from around 350 origins through a network of about 75 offices. Consolidators (sometimes known as NVOCCs or non-vessel-owning container carriers) gives forwarders the ability to offer an LCL (less than containerload) service on trade lanes without the difficulty and expense of setting up their own regular consolidations. These days, there is scarcely a spot

on the globe where ECU line doesn’t offer a regular service, very often direct from the UK though there is also the option of operating via other hubs such as Antwerp for lower-

volume routes. “Certainly, the UK has added a lot of services recently, in the Far East Middle East, North America, Latin America, the Mediterranean, Africa and Australasia.” The list includes quite hard-to-reach places like Panama, Tanzania, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Generally, the goal is to have weekly services, though fortnightly ones operate to some of the less busy destinations. Historically, consolidators also

offered services to major ports like Singapore and New York but these have become proportionately less important as large forwarders increasingly operated their own LCL boxes. “Obviously, there is an element

of risk in setting up new services,” explains Ian McCarthy. Until traffic develops, some boxes may go out partly empty, though good market research helps minimise this. Southampton is a purely

operational base for ECU Line. Like most UK consolidators, its physical operations are in the London area, in its own case Purfleet. There is no particular reason why London is so favoured, other than for historical

reasons, Ian McCarthy considers. “We did used to have operations

in Southampton,” he adds, “but we tended to get ‘pigeonholed’ as using that particular port, and we found we were doing a lot of uneconomic haulage – so we moved the operation to Birmingham. But we outgrew there a year or so ago and took the decision to move the operation to Purfleet.” The decision he adds was taken with one eye on the development of London Gateway – although ECU Line uses all the deepsea ports according to its service requirements. Warehousing and logistics is all

contracted to third parties, so there is no particular constraint on where ECU Line sites its headquarters and Southampton continues to suit its needs very well. Consolidation needs some very specific skills, including on the sales side. “It is quite a strange environment to sell in, because the parameters of what you’re selling change on an almost daily basis,” says Ian McCarthy. In- house software has though made the problem of how to physically load the box somewhat easier, though it still requires care and attention.

It’s not just LCL - It’s our Passion With over 189 offices in over 90 countries

Serving 700 export destinations, 50 direct from the UK

Offering imports from over 300 locations, and 30 direct services

Issue 6 2012

GAC Pindar – the boater’s boater

between containers. It should be added that in these

straitened times, even the yachting industry is looking to cut costs and some competition yachts – including those used in the Extreme Sailing Series - have been designed so that they can be dismantled and fit inside a standard 40-ft container. Moreover, the containers themselves can be fitted out by the GAC Group’s container modification unit in the Middle East so that they can be used as a workshop or office at the venue itself. As well as the yachts themselves,

GAC Pindar can also handle the supplies for them or for yachting

events, drawing on the resources of the GAC Group’s urgent freight service. But there are other ways of moving

large yachts around. Those that are too big to travel on container ships – or where no suitable container service is available – can travel on self-geared conventional vessels of the type used in the project cargo industry. Such services are limited, of course, with only a limited number of ports and routes, though sometimes it is possible to set up an inducement call if there are a sufficient number of yachts to load. There are also a few specialised

semi-submersible ships such as those operated by Dock Express that


offer a ‘float on, float off’ service to and from the most popular yachting locations. Yet another possibility are deepsea

ro ro vessels, where these offer suitable capacity and schedules. Yachts will need to be placed on a cradle which in turn goes on a maafi trailer and is wheeled into the vessel and remains under cover in transit. Airfreight, probably using an

Antonov 124 or other large aircraſt is another, though extremely expensive option. It should be added, too, that many yachts – particularly powered ones – are simply too large or too heavy to fit inside even these giant aircraſt. A final option is to hire a crew

and sail the yacht to its destination. Some owners reckon that this can save money compared with a freight solution but, as Beth King points out, they don’t usually take into account the true costs including of course wear and tear on the boat or a replacement set of very expensive sails. Yachts may be powered by the wind, but they are certainly not cheap to run.

ECU Line

The global LCL Specialist

Visit us at Or, contact sales:

email: Tel: 02380 626500

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