What's the best practice?

One of the most common dilemmas we come across on a day to day basis, is the confusion over whether to ship boats RORO or pack boats in containers. What's the best practice, and what delivers the lowest total cost. We say "total cost" because it's important to take all the factors into consideration, and not just the loading and shipping. Either method of shipping can deliver great results cost wise, and damage free, but there are pros and cons depending on the size of boat, and if its on a trailer or not. Below are the main Pros and cons or each method of shipping your boat.

RORO - Roll On, Roll Off


  • Your boat has minimal handling, and therefore less chance of damage(especially if on a trailer) because it gets just towed inside the ship and towed out again.
  • No forklifting, and trying to wedge inside a confined space.
  • All Quarantine inspection and wash can be done at the port with no need for additional costs to transfer off port.
  • Boats are shipped below deck in a secure weather proof hold.
  • Larger boats in cradles are still towed on and towed off, as these are secured to roll trailers. Again once the boat is craned from truck or water into the cradle, there is very little physical handling of the boat.


  • It can be more expensive, as it's charged on total volume (m3) including the trailer / cradle.
  • You can't load personal effects or other items inside the boat.
  • Theft of small items such as fish finders etc. These are best detached and stored in a lockable hatch in the boat.



  • You can load multiple small boats in one container to reduce cost.
  • Any other items you wish can be loaded in the spare space in the container. Ie personal effects or spare.
  • Cost can be cheaper as the unit cost for a container is the same irrespective of how many boats are loaded inside. Only the loading and unloading are affected.
  • More control of who handles the boat: loading and unloading are contracted by the freight forwarder, not the port company.


  • Your boat size is limited by the door opening size of the container.
  • In most cases trailers are too wide to fit. So either the mud guards/axles have to be removed(in some cases cut off), or the boat has to be removed from the trailer and cradled inside the container.
  • Damage. Done right it's not an issue, but at a certain boat size point to many compromises need to be done to make it fit. More damage occurs trying to unload than actually load.
  • Many larger boats have to be loaded on their side due to space. This puts the weight distribution of the boat on the wrong part of the hull, and can cause hull cracks.
  • When it arrives there is often a large job of putting it back together, before you can even leave the unload depot. In most cases this reassemble can't be done on site at the un-loaders yard, so trucking costs can skyrocket to truck it in parts.


At the end of the day, the choice come down to ensuring the boat can be shipped damage free, and within budget. Make sure that pricing you get includes ALL the unloading charges at destination, and that its handled by one company taking responsibility for the whole process. We generally find boats over 20' are best suited to RORO because of the risk of damage.

There is nothing more disheartening and damaging to our industry to hear of damaged boats, or people duped with a cheap container prices, only to find when it arrives there are thousands of dollars of extra charges, and many man hours putting all the parts of the boat back together.

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