The Practicalities & Possibilities of Delivery By Sea
By Peter Kloezeman
Professional Yacht Deliveries Ltd was established in 1995 to meet the growing demand for delivering sailing yachts and motor boats on behalf of owners, manufacturers and brokers. We provide a bespoke delivery service tailored to meet our client’ s specific requirements and have built a global reputation doing so.
We are UK based but the majority of our deliveries are offshore passages in UK, northern Europe, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Atlantic waters. We are also involved in delivering yachts across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In January 2022, PYD crew arrived in the Falkland Islands aboard a Hallberg-Rassy 64 on a passage from Tahiti to the UK via Cape Horn!
Over the years, we have built up a team of experienced delivery skippers and crew, based internationally who are qualified to undertake deliveries for a huge variety of yachts from 30 to 140 feet. We have also developed a professional network of people and organisations who provide assistance and technical support wherever needed. This experience and network has proved invaluable over the last 18 months whilst dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and the implications of a post-Brexit world.
At the start of 2020, we thought the biggest hurdle on our horizon would be the unknown challenges brought about by Brexit. We had numerous enquiries from clients very concerned about the effects of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. VAT was causing unease for many, coupled with the implications of changes to freedom of movement. Many of our clients were simply not sure what keeping their yachts outside of the UK would entail. We had clients planning ahead for the end of the ‘transition period’ and had deliveries scheduled throughout 2020/21. However, these plans were disrupted and came to a complete halt in March 2020 when the pandemic hit.
As the world began to shut down, we had several deliveries at sea including a skipper on board a catamaran heading for St. Thomas, USVI, another skipper on a yacht in the middle of the Pacific heading for Tahiti as well as another delivery crew on board a yacht in Antigua bound for southern France. We had great concern for them all stuck very far from home with no clarity on where the pandemic was heading or what restrictions would be in place. However, despite these uncertainties all these deliveries were completed successfully and our crew returned home safely (some quicker than others!). Interestingly, all of those crew members were very relaxed about their situation and took the view that being on board a yacht at sea away from the general public was probably the safest place to be.
We realised quite early on in the pandemic that when our crew were on a commercial yacht delivery passage they were classified as seafarers. This meant that we were able to comply with all the necessary Covid-19 travel restrictions imposed throughout Europe. This allowed us to restart yacht deliveries sooner than we had expected, but for our clients the restrictions were still very much in place. This meant holiday plans were firmly put on hold but many clients still needed their yachts relocated for numerous reasons. We were able to provide a solution. One of the main obstacles we faced was the lack of travel and flight options to get crew on station and our efforts to compile a clear set of guidelines for our skippers was complicated by different countries having their own rules in terms of border control and Covid-19 restrictions. These seemed to change on a daily basis.
A particularly busy summer followed, moving yachts all over the UK, Europe and to the Baltic Sea. As normal life was still severely restricted, the chance to go sailing was very appealing to our crew despite all the extra effort involved in travelling. In many scenarios we were able to set up delivery ‘bubbles’ where a PYD skipper and crew would go from one delivery straight to another, without any air or surface travel, minimising the risk of catching Covid-19.
One issue, which has been a regular concern during the pandemic, is when clients have been unable to get to their yacht. Because of this, the general condition of the owner’s beloved yachting magic carpet had deteriorated significantly due to lack of use and general maintenance. This had been compounded by some service companies refusing to undertake repairs or servicing without either the owner or crew being on hand to pay bills almost immediately. Therefore, for each delivery, we establish as much information as we can about the yacht and we ask clients to complete a checklist and provide recent survey reports or a brokerage specification. This process continues when the delivery crew arrive and carry out a complete check of the yacht they are about to deliver. This is where we rely on the experience of our skippers to identify the issues that need addressing before a delivery can commence; furthermore, other problems that need to be kept under observation during the passage are logged to be addressed post-delivery.
In January 2021, thanks to the efforts of the IMO, seafarers were recognised by over 150 countries as ‘key workers’ and therefore exempt from some Covid-19 rules and regulations. This gave more clarity when organising deliveries and travel arrangements, but the introduction of mandatory Covid testing was another hurdle. In most cases we were issuing individual instructions for each of our crew on each separate delivery. However, these instructions were quite often out of date with in a matter of days so the relevant Covid-19 restrictions had to be checked and rechecked constantly. It also meant that travel arrangements could not be made until 48 hours before the yacht being delivered set sail.
Because of Brexit our skippers and crew had difficulty arriving in the EU by air and then leaving by sea because they needed to ‘check out’ of the EU. Some places such as Portugal have border control based in marinas but finding somewhere to check out in other countries can sometimes be a problem. Although this can be frustrating, this is now part of the post-Brexit world we live in and despite a definite gap in the understanding of the new regulations between EU port officials, marinas and government websites; again, in our experience a solution can and has always been found.
One of the reasons that we have been so busy has been the difficulty in getting yachts shipped. This has made sea delivery in the past couple of years in many cases, the only practical option. Clients have struggled to get both shipping quotes and practical shipping dates as pressure on the supply chain has reduced the number of ships available and has increased cost too. Even if the stars aligned and a ship was found there were then the practical difficulties of getting the yacht to the ship. In comparison, sea delivery costs have remained static apart from the increasing flight and travel costs due to reduced flight availability
The last two years have certainly not been an easy downwind sail, but despite the hurdles we have kept our business moving forward and have been fortunate to be involved with some fantastic deliveries. We hope that we have provided positive solutions for our clients during universally difficult times and hopefully it will only become easier as we all move forward. Yacht delivery is an interesting and exciting business but going to sea must always be approached with a huge amount of planning, preparation, respect, and also a degree of optimism – something that we feel has been very relevant in recent times and indeed for the times ahead.