Expert tips for Stress-Free Boat Shipping

Boat Shipping to or from Australia can be an exciting adventure, but it can also feel daunting if you’re not familiar with the process. Fortunately, with some careful planning and by following these expert tips, you can ensure your boat arrives safely and smoothly.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with all the knowledge you need for a smooth and stress-free boat transport experience to Australia.

boats in the marina

Your Boat Shipping Options: Setting Sail on the Right Course

Think of boat shipping as as an analogy to having three main highways, each with its own set of pros and cons:

1.Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) vessels:

Picture giant ferries. These are ideal for operational boats, like yachts or fishing vessels, that can be driven on and off the ship under their own power. Here’s a breakdown of RoRo:


  • Convenience: Firstly, the biggest advantage of RoRo is the ease of loading and unloading. Operational boats simply drive on and off the vessel, eliminating the need for cranes.
  • Cost-effective for operational boats: Secondly, since there’s no need for complex lifting procedures, RoRo can be a more cost-effective option for operational vessels compared to bulk carriers.
  • Faster turnaround times: Thirdly, the faster loading and unloading process of RoRo can lead to quicker turnaround times at the port.


  • Size restrictions: Undoubtedly, RoRo vessels have stricter size limitations compared to bulk carriers. There are limitations on both height and weight due to the vessel’s design and ramp system. Your boat needs to fit within these restrictions to be driven on and off.
  • Limited to operational boats: Non-operational boats or boats without proper steering capabilities cannot be driven on and off under their own power, therefore disqualifying them from RoRo transport.

2.Bulk carrier vessels.

For larger vessels or non-operational boats, bulk carriers offer a more cost-effective option. Here’s a closer look at bulk carriers:


  • Handles larger and non-operational boats: Generally, bulk carriers are ideal for oversized or non-operational vessels. Powerful cranes lift your boat onto the deck, where it’s securely fastened for transport.
  • Potentially lower cost for larger boats: For very large boats, however, bulk carriers can sometimes be a more cost-effective option compared to RoRo due to limitations on RoRo vessel size.


  • More complex loading and unloading: Firstly, using cranes to load and unload requires more planning and can take longer compared to RoRo. This can also affect turnaround times at the port.
  • Potential for higher costs: Additionally, the use of cranes and the additional handling involved can sometimes lead to higher overall costs compared to RoRo (though this can vary depending on boat size).

Case Study

Recently, GenFreight facilitated the export of a 24.97-meter Sea Cat from Brisbane to the USA. Our scope of work included:

  • Arranging export clearance for a smooth customs process.
  • Arranging marine insurance to protect the vessel during transport.
  • Coordinating the boat’s delivery alongside the vessel for a water-to-water lift, ensuring the exact timing for seamless loading.
  • Arranging a survey report to document the boat’s condition.
  • Arranging sea freight from Brisbane to the USA, ensuring safe passage across the Pacific.
large sea catamaran loading process

3.Container Shipping:

A Secure Option for Smaller Boats

For smaller boats, container shipping offers a secure and cost-effective option. Imagine your boat nestled safely inside a giant metal box!

Pros of Container Shipping:

  • Cost-effective for smaller boats: Firstly, container shipping can be a budget-friendly option compared to RoRo or bulk carriers for boats that fit within the size limitations.
  • Protection from the elements: Additionally, the enclosed container safeguards your boat from harsh weather conditions and salt spray during transport.
  • Security: Lastly, containerized transport provides an extra layer of security for your boat.

Cons of Container Shipping:

  • Size limitations: Only smaller boats can be accommodated in standard shipping containers.
  • Loading and unloading: The process can be more complex compared to RoRo, requiring special equipment to load and unload the boat from the container.

Case Study:

GenFreight‘s expertise extends to non-operational boats as well. We recently handled the export of a motor yacht from Brisbane to China. Here’s what we did:

    • Designed and built a custom cradle to perfectly support the boat during transport.
    • Wrapped the boat meticulously to protect the paintwork from the elements.
    • Safely loaded and braced the boat onto the cradle and then secured it onto a 40-foot flat rack container for additional stability.
    • Arranged a pre-departure survey to ensure the boat’s seaworthiness.
    • Secured comprehensive marine insurance to safeguard the vessel against potential damage during transport.
    • Handled all export clearance paperwork to ensure a smooth customs process in China.
    • Delivered the boat to the port in Brisbane for loading.

Choosing the Right Shipping Method for Your Boat

The ideal shipping method depends on your specific boat and needs. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:

  • Choose RoRo if: Your boat is operational, fits within RoRo size limitations, and you prioritise convenience and faster turnaround times.
  • Choose Bulk Carrier if: Your boat is oversized, non-operational, or you prioritise the ability to handle a wider range of boat sizes.
  • Choose Container Shipping if: Your boat is on the smaller side and you prioritise cost-effectiveness and protection from the elements.

How Carriers Decide the Route for Your Boat

The captain of your boat shipping journey (the carrier) will assess several factors to choose the most suitable shipping method. Here’s what they’ll consider:

  • The size and weight of your boat: Larger or heavier boats are generally shipped on bulk carriers due to weight restrictions on RoRo vessels.
  • The operational status of your boat: Can your boat steer itself into port? Operational boats are perfect for RoRo transport, while non-operational boats require the lifting capabilities of a bulk carrier.
  • Your budget: While both methods get the job done, RoRo shipping tends to be more expensive than bulk carrier transport.

Size Restrictions: Does My Boat Fit the Bill?

There are no hard and fast size limitations for shipping a boat. However, both RoRo vessels and bulk carriers have limitations on weight and height due to their build. To ensure your boat isn’t too big (or small) for the journey, contact a reputable boat transport company like GenFreight. Our team of experts can discuss your specific needs and confirm if your vessel can be accommodated.

Essential Documents for Import:

To ensure a smooth customs clearance process in Australia, you’ll need to have the following documents in order:

  • Boat registration or title: Proof of ownership is key!
  • Commercial invoice: This document specifies the value of your boat for customs purposes.
  • Packing list: A detailed inventory of everything on board your boat.
  • Import permit (if applicable): Certain types of boats may require an import permit from the Australian Border Force (ABF). This could be for quarantine purposes or restricted items on the boat. You can find more information on import requirements on the ABF website.
  • Certificate of origin: May be required only if you’re aiming to claim duty-free import under a free trade agreement (FTA) in place between Australia and the exporting country.

Essential Documents for Export:

  • Boat registration or title
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Export permit (if applicable): Such types of boats as Heritage or historic vessels; or the boat that has components made from endangered timbers or contains materials regulated for export; or certain types of boats, like vessels with specific defense-related modifications may require an export permit from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). For definitive information on whether your specific situation requires an export permit, it’s recommended to consult the DAWE website

Beyond the Basics: Smoother Sailing with Additional Considerations

covered boat on the 40 FR container
  • Insurance: Marine insurance is your lifeline in case of unexpected damage during transport. Discuss your insurance needs with a reputable provider to ensure your boat is properly covered.
  • Customs Clearance: Navigating customs regulations can be tricky. Consider partnering with a freight forwarder to handle the customs clearance process on your behalf, saving you time and potential headaches.
  • Local Transport: Once your boat arrives in the Port of Destination (POD), you’ll need to arrange transport to its final destination. This may involve hiring a specialised trucking company to move your boat from the port.

Let's Get You Started!

Ready to set sail for Australia with your boat? Genfreight is here to guide you through the entire process. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Contact Us: Get in touch with our friendly boat shipping specialists for a free quote. We’ll discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you may have.
  2. Seamless Documentation & Import/Export Customs Clearance: Leave the paperwork to us! We’ll assist you in gathering all the necessary documentation and handle the import or export clearance process for your boat, ensuring a smooth transition through customs.
  3. Preparation & Pre-Departure: We’ll guide you through any preparations needed for your boat before shipping, ensuring it’s ready for the journey.
  4. Stress-Free Shipping: Relax and let us handle the logistics. We’ll arrange everything from booking the transport to coordinating with the carrier.
  5. Arrival & Delivery: We’ll keep you updated on your boat’s arrival in Australia and assist with local transport arrangements to its final destination.

Additional Resources:

We hope this comprehensive guide has empowered you with the knowledge and resources you need to plan your boat shipping adventure to Australia. If you have any further questions or are ready to get a quote, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We look forward to helping you set sail for unforgettable experiences on Australian waters!