The Super Servant 4

By Deane Barker on February 19, 2006

The Discovery Channel has a great show called “Super Ships” which just talks about big ships. And not glamourous ships like cruise liners or warships — just big, industrial ships.

I watched a profile last night about the Super Servant 4, which is a massive freight-carrier which was re-configued to ship…ships. Well, yachts, really.

If you’re a rich guy in Europe who really wants to pilot his 100-foot megayacht around the Carribean, but you don’t have time to pilot it to the Carribean, you can pay many thousands of dollars to ship it to the Carribean. Then you just fly your private jet down there to meet it.

There are other reasons to ship it too: maybe your yacht isn’t an open-ocean type of boat, or maybe you don’t want to put wear-and-tear on it, etc. The bottom line is that this ship will carry your yacht on its back halfway around the world for a price.

I guess it should have been obvious that this type of thing has to be done somehow, but I had never considered exactly how before (I don’t know why I didn’t think of it — I think about my 100-foot yacht all the time…)

The only price they mentioned was to ship what looked like a 30-foot sailboat from Ft. Lauderdale to the U.S. Virgin Islands: $7,500. The rate is based on size and distance, so I imagine to get a megayacht from Europe to the Carribean would be insane.

When the Super Servant 4 leaves port, it submerges so its deck is 16 feet below water, and a bunch of expensive yachts are floated over it in a very precise configuration. Divers swarm around below the yachts to make sure they’re all lined up over supports, then the Super Servant 4 rises up out of the water, lifting all these yachts onto the deck. Hull supports are welded onto the deck to hold the yachts in place laterally, and off the ship goes.

I wonder how rough the seas can get? For the trip profiled on the show, they said there was $650 million worth of boats on the deck. If you get into a storm…and the Super Servant 4 starts rocking back and forth…and a weld breaks…and $100 million yacht starts sliding across the deck….well, the result would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

Oftentimes the crews of these expensive yachts make the trip too, living on the yacht while it’s in moving dry dock. They get water and electrcity from the Super Servant 4, and they spend their days during the voyage doing maintenance and hull work, since it’s rare to get one of these things into dry dock.

When it gets to where it’s going, the yacht owners are motored out to board their yachts, the welded supports are removed, the Super Servant 4 submerges, and all the yachts float free.

A great idea, a great story, and a great show.



  1. I saw that one a while ago, and a couple other episodes. Good show.

    What strikes me about the shows I’ve seen is that most major transports seem to secure everything by just welding it to the deck. I wonder what the deck of the ship looks like after 20 voyages worth of welding and cutting. Do they replace the deck plating every few years?

    Another good episode to watch for is the one on the tender ships in the North Atlantic that steer icebergs away from oil derricks, or move the derricks if they can’t.

  2. Believe it or not, but I took two years of welding in high school.

    When you weld something, the two pieces of metal are melted together to become the same piece of metal. So when you break the weld, you take a grinder and grind the weld smooth. All that’s left is a blemish. Besides the visual cue that something happened, the underlying metal is uniform and can be re-welded.

    You could conceivably do this forever.

  3. After welding and cutting several times the metal will become brittle and breaks easily. It’s like folding and refolding a copper wire eventually the stress wins out and the wire breaks. The whole deck wouldn’t become that way but parts that get fastened to repeatedly would though.

  4. saw the travel channel show, dream boats and the price is $1,000 a foot to have a yacht shipped

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