Stanley Yacht Services: Relocating Your Yacht This Summer? Consider This A Cautionary Tale Of Transport

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Relocating Your Yacht This Summer?
Consider This A Cautionary Tale Of Transport

Larry Hemmerich, the unwitting victim of circumstances beyond his control, was understandably surprised to learn U.S. Marshals had impounded his custom-built 37-foot Down East-style lobster yacht, Knotty Dog, hours after its delivery to Port Everglades, FL on February 23. In fact, Knotty Dog was just one of six yachts "taken into custody" by federal agents as the boats were unloaded from the transport carrier, Vesuvius. The unannounced confiscation of his boat left Hemmerich puzzled:
"I expected her to be unloaded the next morning," says the retired 75-year-old Iowan, who shipped the boat from Victoria, British Columbia, to Florida so he and his wife, Jayne, could cruise to Maine this spring. "When we came back the next day, the boat was gone."

Circumstances Beyond His Control

Hemmerich and the other unsuspecting boat owners had paid a total of $300,000 in freight charges to Yacht Path International, a yacht transport service company based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, to deliver their vessels to Port Everglades. Unbeknownst to the owners, however, Yacht Path never fulfilled its obligation to pay BBC Chartering and Logistic GmBH & Co., the company responsible for chartering deck space on Vesuvius for the six yachts.

In response to Yacht Path's non-payment, BBC filed a lien against the yachts, which included two Christensens over 100 feet in length. The Marshals seized the vessels at the dock and turned physical custody over to a yacht auction and liquidation company pending satisfaction of the lien.

To have their boats released to them under these complicated circumstances, the yacht owners were forced to repay their share of the freight charge, plus attorneys’ fees, U.S. Marshals’ fees and storage charges. In Hemmerich's case, that totaled some $41,000, which included the $20,000 he had already paid to Yacht Path. Hemmerich was out-of-pocket an additional $40,000 for travel and hotels. To add further insult to injury, Knotty Dog was damaged in transit and Hemmerich had to shell out two weeks' worth of yard bills. All of this for a boat that was loaded onto the cargo ship almost two months behind schedule!

[Click here to read Mr. Hammerlich's detailed, personal account of the delivery and seizure.]

Other Yachts Seized

In addition to the yachts aboard Vesuvius, liens were filed against several other yachts due to Yacht Path's failure to pay its charter bills. These included four vessels confiscated by authorities when they were unloaded in Vancouver, Canada. The affected owners had all paid Yacht Path in advance of the transport.

Back in Port Everglades, another freighter arrived with 16 yachts, all subject to federal seizure, for the same reason. This time, Yacht Path sent an explanatory, if not apologetic, email to the owners:
"A recent legal matter filed against our company has resulted in a court-ordered garnishment of all our banking accounts," Yacht Path president Dennis Cummings said in the February 28 email. "As a result of this legal action, we are unable to meet our financial obligations to [the shipper]. … To avoid costly detention and arrest charges, it may be necessary for you to arrange payment directly to [the shipper]."
Needless to say, this explanation did nothing to relieve the owners of their burden - the payment of additional fees and expenses above and beyond what they had already forked over to Yacht Path.

Bankruptcy Filing And Charges Of Fraud

Yacht Path has since sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to allow it to reorganize its finances. The company offered some reassurance to its customers, promising to complete scheduled transports and "make significant improvements" to its operations.

The latter would be quite a feat considering the loads of litigation pending against Yacht Path including multiple pending lawsuits filed by former clients seeking refunds for allegedly botched deliveries. Indeed, there's a whole host of scathing comments on the Internet about the company. Meanwhile, in California, Marin International Yacht Sales claims the beleaguered enterprise breached its contract and engaged in fraudulent business practices, in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ["RICO"] Act. That case is also still pending.

Rough Seas Ahead

Yacht Path's top officers, brothers Dennis and Kevin Cummings, seem defensive in their responses, blaming the company's perceived failures on everything and everyone from the shipping contractors they hire to "changing times" in the industry. The pair even lay blame at the feet of their own customers, describing them as "very demanding" and "very litigious".

Buried in these assertions, however, is something of a "you get what you pay for" mentality. For instance, Kevin Cummings claims clients requiring a definite delivery date should expect to pay four times as much as Yacht Path charges with its flexible scheduling. Further, referring to Fort Lauderdale-based Dockwise Yacht Transport, the only company exclusively engaged in vessel ferrying services, Cummings adds, "They're more expensive and so you get a higher level of service."

Excuses aside, however, Cummings does acknowledge the difficulties the family-owned corporation faces as it navigates through its legal woes and attempts to regain public trust:
"We have to prove to the market and to the yachting community that we’re still here and that we’re responsible," he says. "We've got a lot of work to do."

On Its Own Bottom Line: Consider Hiring A Crew

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This is just one story about just one yacht transport company and its apparent inability to deliver on its promises. Be assured this is not intended as a comprehensive indicator of what you can expect from all transport services.

Unfortunately, however, there are many other unhappy endings out there when it comes to the delicate undertaking involved in the ferrying of such valuable commodities as yachts; smart yacht owners should heed the principle of caveat emptor.

When deciding whether to hire a transport service company or a licensed captain and crew to deliver your boat, the prudent approach is to take into consideration multiple factors, including the transporter's reputation and history of reliability, distance between ports, overall costs, and the flexibility of your schedule. The unexamined risk might outweigh the expected reward.

At the end of the day, while having your boat delivered "on its own bottom" may add hours to its engines, it may also afford you extra hours of peaceful slumber knowing your yacht is in the capable hands of a trustworthy crew. Choose wisely either way.


For updates and more details read:

Yachts ‘arrested’ after transport | Trade Only Today
Did Yacht Path owners commit fraud, mismanagement? |South Florida Business Journal
Yacht Path fails to pay and yachts are arrested | The Triton
Hearing set on Yacht Path trustee appointment | Trade Only Today

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