10 June 2022

Interesting Jobs - Richard Howatt from Peters and May

By Paul Knox-Johnston Sales & Marketing Manager (Marine)

They say that getting married, moving house and changing jobs are some of the most stressful life events, but we would also like to humbly include shipping your yacht into this (admittedly first world problem) list. Handing over one of your most prized possessions and trusting that it will reach its destination in one piece has definitely kept more than a few of us a little awake at night.

Being the helpful bunch we are, we tracked down an expert who not only talked us through the ins and outs of the shipping process, but also took the time to tell us all about what his job entails.

In our next ‘interesting jobs’ article, we have the pleasure of chatting with Richard Howatt, UK Marine Sales Manager, from distinguished logistics company Peters & May

Hi Richard, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, we know that you are incredibly busy at the moment, but firstly would you mind telling us a little more about what your role is at Peters & May?

Hi Paul, happy to. My focus is on the transportation of yachts around the Mediterranean. In short, I arrange and book the shipping of yachts from the UK.  Everything from big corporate clients, such as Sunseeker, who are delivering multiple yachts, through to private clients who wish to move their yacht to a new territory in the Med.

It all sounds rather glamourous, does that mean you get to travel all over the Med?

Sadly not, it’s actually much more technical than you would think! We work out the most suitable method, calculate the price and offer the best solution based on the client’s needs. This could be a barebones quotation of getting the yacht from A to B or a full-service solution that could include the collection of the yacht directly from the owner, all export formalities, providing the cradle or trailer, purchasing the space, organising the shipment, acting as an agent and dealing with local red tape, customs clearance and admin, through to the final drop off at the designated location. My role is to manage the whole process and work closely with the technical team to ensure the safe delivery of the cargo/yacht. Every yacht has a unique set of requirements and it’s our job to customise the best fit for the owner or business.

It does sound much more complicated than we had previously considered. What would you advise someone who is thinking about shipping their yacht?

Do your homework! Make sure you speak to a reputable company with the expertise and knowledge to handle the complexity of shipping a yacht, there are only 5 or 6 well-established companies worldwide and I would strongly advise people to use them.

Tell us more. What should we look for in a shipping company?

Look for a long history of trading, if they are offering a much lower price and are a newly established company then they may not be able to sustain their business model and you run the risk of them going bankrupt before the transportation is complete.  I hate to say it but, there are quite a few cowboy operators who quite often close down and then reappear a few months later, trading under a new name. They also need to have the knowledge and local network to deal last-minute changes or when things go wrong.  It’s worth talking to other boat owners who have previously shipped their boat about their experience.

That’s good advice. What else do boat owners need to think about when considering transporting by ship? 

Firstly, make sure your offer from the shipper is detailed. Always clarify what is included and what is not.

Then, check your annual hull insurance policy.  Quite often a standard policy does not cover shipping transportation so you will either need to ask your provider to include it or take out a new policy just to cover this.

Leave plenty of time to reach your destination.  Be aware that when booking your yacht transport in advance, there may not be a definite vessel scheduled to depart Shipping van be based on demand and so always ask whether it is a potential or definite vessel. It is quite common for most shipments to operate under a potential vessel, but reputable companies will base the possibility on historical demand and during peak transportation seasons (i.e. the Med in spring), we know that a vessel will leave at least once a month. Be flexible with your dates and plan accordingly, you may only find out that the vessel is confirmed to leave with one week to go.

Thanks Richard. Peters & May have been established since 1973 so you are obviously doing something right. What do you do to make sure the boats are safe on the journey?

We have built our reputation on the safe shipment of vessels and goods so we always ensure we have the correct information from the client to begin with. Our methods are tried and tested; we use customised cradles, work with the boat’s drawings and use CAD to devise the best lifting and placement of the boats. The loadmaster has detailed plans and directs the crew ‘on the ground’, we also have divers in the water to ensure that nothing is incorrect or missed. We can’t use too many lashing straps as cleats are not designed to take stress, so angles and quantity are also incredibly important.

What is the largest vessel that you have shipped?

We have a dedicated team dealing with the shipping of commercial craft so we are quite often looking after extremely large vessels. The heaviest boat we have shipped was over 1000 tons! Personally, I have arranged the shipment of a 65m private yacht ‘Family Day’ that required the use of semi-submersibles to help load it.

And the smallest?

The smallest, and perversely the most pressurised, are the skiffs and dinghies of the British Olympic rowing and sailing teams, any damage or delay could actually mean the loss of a gold medal!

As an industry, what would you like to see us stop or start doing more of?

I would personally like to see the industry go greener, especially with better manufacturing practices and an increase in electric vessels, hybrid technology and fuel efficiency.

How has Peters & May risen to the challenge of sustainability?

Unfortunately, it is not a very environmentally green industry, but here at Peters & May, we do what we can, particularly limiting the use of single-use plastic.  One of the biggest changes that we made in the past couple of years and that I’m most proud of, is we try to limit the use of shrink wrap when transporting the yachts.

How has Covid impacted the industry?

During Covid, as you can imagine, there was very little movement of private yachts but we did see a lot of customers bringing their boats back home so they could have the opportunity to enjoy them in the UK. We are now seeing the reverse with people considering taking even longer breaks abroad. However with freight rates currently really high (they have doubled after covid), we expect to see this trend start to increase even further in a year or two when everything settles down.

Has Brexit changed anything?

There is now even more paperwork to do as customs procedures have got much more complex. It had a huge impact on the yacht brokerage market as the requirement to pay VAT has meant that yachts are no longer being bought in the Med and shipped back to the UK.  The UK government were also really not set up to deal with the repercussions of our exit from the EU and were incredibly unclear on their policies. An example of this was the deadline for everyone to bring their boats back to the UK in 2020 in order to retain their VAT paid status. We saw an influx of transportation demand as everybody scrambled to arrange the shipping of their yachts, at least before the government completely changed their minds halfway through the year and cancelled the new policy!

What else do you do at Peters & May which might be useful to boat owners? 

We don’t just ship boats, we are an all round general freight forwarder and can ship all sorts of commercial and private cargo all around the world.

And finally, is there any boat that you cannot ship?

No, there are always ways and means to transport a boat, we just have to work out the best solution. It may involve semi-submersible vessels or having to float the boat in to load but we can always get there in the end.

Thanks Richard!

If you’ve come across a job in the marine industry that is a bit different do let us know and we’ll do our best to find out a bit more about it!

About Peters & May

Peters & May has over forty years’ experience delivering world-class international logistics services. It specialises in the global shipping of commercial and private vessels, as well as offering transport solutions for a wide range of cargo by air, land, and sea. 


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