For decades yacht owners have been using yacht transport services to get around the problem of range or to save on engine time and avoid wear and tear. It's also an opportunity to give the crew some down time between seasons. Whatever the reason, it's a complex and interesting business, as we found out when we met with Gina Last at DYT Yacht Transport in Fort Lauderdale.
OnboardOnline: When did you join DYT Yacht Transport and how did it come about?
Gina Last: I first came on board DYT in the fall of 1992 after being transferred by the company with my husband Jeff (VIP Manager of DYT) from the Far East. At the time we worked for the parent company in the heavy lift department and were given the opportunity to move back to the USA and spearhead the new concept of yacht transport using semi-submersible vessels. In 2003 I left the company to work in yacht management and came back in 2007 as the GMS.
OO: As General Manager for sales what’s your remit and how closely do you work with operational departments?
GL: My authority is to ensure we sell at capacity on all trades and by leading a global team of agents. As a team we work very closely with our operational department to ensure that yachts safely fit. It is essential that we know how the keel line is configured, if there are any protrusions and/or stabilizers. Knowledge of the frames within the hull for precise placement of the supports is essential, and careful reviewing of the yacht’s general arrangement plans are part of this process.
Our sales job doesn't end when a booking is made. We guide our clients throughout the entire process, from the moment the booking is made to the time they embark and disembark. At each loading and discharging a sales representative is on board to assist with any questions which may arise and to liaise with our loading masters if needed.
Loading onto Super Servant
OO: Does DYT only transport yachts or do you also handle other types of vessel?
GL: Our vessels are capable of handling all sorts of floating cargo, whether these are river barges or naval vessels, dredgers or tugboats. During our offseason schedule our vessels are employed in different sectors of the maritime industry. However, such projects are never mixed with our main trade which is the yachting industry. Yachts come first and foremost.
OO: How many ships are currently in DYT’s worldwide fleet?
GL: As DYT, we operate the YACHT EXPRESS and SUPER SERVANT 4, both in the range of 700 ft. LOA with a beam of 105 ft. Our service isn’t limited by length, beam or weight, we’ve shipped many superyachts in the 70m range, and we could easily accommodate a cruise ship. There are also advanced plans for a new build in the works.
OO: What is the status and working relationship between DYT Yacht Transport and Sevenstar Yacht Transport?
GL: In 2013 our two semi-submersible vessels YACHTEXPRESS and SUPER SERVANT 4 became part of the Spliethoff Group, one of the largest shipping companies in the Netherlands. Sevenstar Yacht Transport is part of this group and as such we are partners.
One of DYT Yacht Transport's ships, Yacht Express
Both brands, however, operate completely separately from one another; DYT focusing on the float-in/out, dedicated fixed schedule and SYT focuses on global yacht destinations, mainly utilizing the vast fleet of Spliethoff’s vessels.
Since we're limited as far as destinations are concerned, the beauty of DYT being a Spliethoff member is that we can offer clients the services of SYT if we are unable to perform those sailings ourselves and vice versa.
SYT has also been transporting yachts for many decades, and since they also use their own vessels they can offer their clients reliable sailings.
OO: A principal difference between each company is the methodology used for loading vessels onto ships – Sevenstar uses the lift on/lift off method while DYT uses the float in/float out method. What are main criteria for choosing one loading method over the other?
GL: The main criteria from a customer perspective in choosing DYT would be the reliability of our schedule and, for megayachts, the float-in/out process puts less stress on the hull of the yacht.
More generally, at DYT we are known in the industry as the only company that has a fixed schedule and for yachts which need to be in the Mediterranean at a specific time for a certain event, say Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix or a charter pick-up, we remain the most reliable choice.
Besides owning and operating our own vessels, we’ve been doing this for 25 years and although we have a relatively small team, we have a combined 80+ years of experience between us.
Loading Yacht Express
OO: Do owners have the option for a crew member to accompany their yacht while in transit?
GL: For yachts over 90 feet we offer the possibility to hook up water and electricity and a crewmember can join during the passage. Often this time is used to do some light maintenance on the yachts, like pressure cleaning of the hull or applying antifouling.
For larger yachts we will do our utmost to allow more than one person to accompany the yacht, as long as we stay within our own maximum number of guests allowed by Class.
OO: When accompanying a yacht, what facilities do crew have access to and how do they deal with refrigeration, air conditioning, sewage and garbage?
GL: The YACHTEXPRESS was purposely built for the yachting industry in 2007 and as such this vessel offers some amenities which our SUPER SERVANT 4 does not have. For instance, we have a small pool, exercise facility and movie theater and an atrium where guests can gather after meal times.
The SUPER SERVANT 4, being an older lady and originally designed to serve the heavy lift industry, has less comfort and leisure amenities, but there is a small lounge room for riders. As for refrigeration and airconditioning, we provide electrical hookup and cooling water to run same. Sewage and garbage disposal during the transit is not allowed.
What both vessels have in common is an endless supply of stairs, so as far as exercise is concerned a great workout is available on both vessels!
OO: What are the benefits of transporting a yacht over delivery by the crew?
GL: Yachts, regardless of size, are an expensive commodity. When weighing the benefits of transport versus going own keel, one must consider: wear and tear, engine hours, deviation caused by weather, the yacht’s range and many other “what-ifs”. Another benefit is that the crew of the yacht will have some time off prior to starting an owner or charter schedule, often working long hours during the busy season.
OO: Presumably routes and schedules are dictated by events and the charter seasons. Which is the most popular destination and do most clients book a round trip?
GL: It can be said that the Mediterranean is still number one by far in terms of destination. It’s also easily accessible for owners or guests flying in. The charm of the Old World, the scenery and also places to be seen are major attractions for our distinguished clientele.
OO: Are you seeing growth in demand for new or more remote destinations as yacht owners search for novelty or adventure?
GL: In its 25 years, DYT has been the industry standard in supporting yachting destinations. While we focus primarily on the Mediterranean, we have been steadfast in promoting and servicing more remote locations like the South Pacific, year in and year out. We do see the desire for yachts to extend their range but often times they find the distance daunting. By keeping these destinations on our schedule, it gives our clientele the peace of mind to know they have the option to do it.
Transporting Lord Byron
OO: Do local logistics and infrastructure sometimes limit where your ships can go and are things changing in this regard?
GL: In order for our vessels to submerge, we need a minimum of 40 feet of depth. We prefer to do our operations alongside a quay area but, if there is a protected area, we can do our operations off shore. With our current vessels this requirement is not subject to change.
OO: How did “Yacht Express Around the World” come about and what destinations does it include?
GL: For many years we have been keeping a close eye on the Far East as a destination. Many years ago we offered multiple sailings to/from this region for our clients, albeit by chartered lift on/lift off sailings. In 2017 we decided to bring our own submersible vessel to the region as a continuation to our annual “down under shipment.” We started our several month long journey that originated in the Mediterranean and continued to the Caribbean, Florida, transited the Panama Canal onward to Costa Rica, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Batam (Singapore), through the Suez Canal to Genoa, finally ending up back in Florida. That’s really how the name “Around the World” was born.
OO: The South Pacific in particular is keen to attract more yachts to the region – what trend in vessel size and numbers have you seen over the past couple of years?
GL: New Zealand in particular has lightened their charter regulations in the last year. Australia is following suit by pushing legislature for more relaxed rules with regards to charter yachts. If you combine that with the undeniable landscape, beauty and adventure that the region offers, it’s understandable while it’s so attractive to both charter and private yachts of all sizes.
Loading superyachts in Auckland
On average we are seeing three to four yachts over 36m going to the region (Tahiti, AUS, NZ). Since we offer the sailing only once per year, we are bringing those same yachts back the following year. Of course we’d like to see those numbers improve as our fixed sailing schedule can be relied upon to bring the more adventurous yacht owners to and from the region.
OO: What nationality are your ships captains and what’s a typical profile?
GL: Our officers and crew are a mix of Ukrainian and Filipino. With over 120 vessels in the Spliethoff group, we have our own crew department in Amsterdam and a crew agency in the Ukraine and Philippines.
Our officers have been with us for more than a decade, some even longer. We don’t have high crew turnover so we have some long time crew on our vessels too. Crew working on our vessels are all dedicated to making sure clients get A+ treatment during a crossing.
OO: Apart from the captain, how many crew work on board your ships and what are the most common nationalities?
GL: We have 20 – 22 crew on our vessels, all of whom wears many different hats, assisting yachts during the crossing, welding and securing cargo, plus a fair share of entertaining by hosting the occasional BBQ or karaoke contest. When crossing the equator, Neptune comes on board for the rituals and certification of rookie crew!
Loading superyachts in Brisbane
OO: Does DYT’s service include transport insurance and customs formalities?
GL: Yes, our service includes transport insurance for the full value of the yacht as well as cover for the riders. Basic custom clearances in both ports of loading and unloading are also included. However, it goes without saying that import duties, where applicable, are not included.
OO: Do import/export regulations and rates vary widely between different countries?
GL: Yes, but since we have our own appointed customs brokers and ships agents in each port we service, we don’t encounter any surprises on that front.
OO: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your role?
GL: Honesty and integrity are vital. Be courteous and firm. Perhaps the most important thing is to stay true to yourself in whatever capacity you perform your job. Add have a sprinkle of humor. Be empathetic to those around you and be the best colleague you can be.
OO: What would you change if you could?
GL: Each era has its own charm, I miss the old camaraderie from the early days when we would host happy hours alongside the vessel while watching the operations. But I like the structured way of today, where our team’s combined knowledge has improved many aspects of our business. I would not change a thing and it will be interesting to see what evolves next.
Gina Last, General Manager Sales, DYT Yacht Transport
OO: Who do you most admire in the world of business/yachting, who has inspired or influenced you?
GL: There is a high profile owner, and a very loyal client whose name I can't disclose but, dealing with staff who have worked for him for over 25 years, I admire the way he cares for them as an employer and I admire the employees for their unwavering loyalty and respect when they speak about him. It shows that when you are good and fair, this trait is reciprocated by those around you.
OO: What does the future of yachting look like from your perspective?
GL: I believe we will continue to see larger yachts making use of our services but I see a surge in the 65+ ft range with owners keen to expand their horizons. Our clientele is very diverse and I believe we will continue to build on our past and present relations as we strive to find ways to improve and enhance our services.
OO: What’s your motto?
GL: Save water, drink champagne!
About Spliethoff Group
The Spliethoff Group is one of the largest shipping companies in the Netherlands. With almost over a century of maritime expertise behind it, the Amsterdam-headquartered Group has a broad portfolio of specialised services in sectors including dry cargo, breakbulk & project cargo (Spliethoff) project & heavy lifts (BigLift Shipping), container & Ro-Ro cargo and door-to-door services (Transfennica & Transfennica Logistics), shortsea (Wijnne Barends), yacht transport (DYT Yacht Transport, Sevenstar Yacht Transport) and tonnage provider (Bore).
With a rich maritime heritage, Spliethoff Group provides quality services of the highest industry standards. A dedicated team of professionals is committed to making sure all cargoes are handled safely and efficiently. Drawing on Spliethoff’s in-house engineering and logistic capacities, the companies within the Group work closely together to arrive at integrated and cost-effective solutions for clients. The Spliethoff Group operates a large and modern fleet of more than 100 vessels ranging in size from 2,100 to 23,000 tonnes. Versatility and flexibility are at the heart of the Group’s customer service and this is reflected in the fleet, which includes multipurpose, geared tween deckers, heavy lift vessels, shortsea vessels, Ro-Ro vessels and semi-submersible vessels. The company is used to operate in challenging areas, almost all the vessels have Swedish/Finnish Ice Class 1A and some even 1A Super.