Yacht exports growing at Port Everglades

Add this to the reasons why Fort Lauderdale claims the title "Yachting Capital of the World": Port Everglades ranks as the No. 1 seaport nationwide for exports of yachts.

The Fort Lauderdale seaport shipped out nearly $247 million worth of yachts on cargo vessels to seaports overseas last year. That's up nearly $40.5 million from the previous year, a new report shows.

Those hefty shipments put Port Everglades $55 million ahead of the No. 2 seaport for yacht exports in 2014: the neighboring Port of Palm Beach, according to a new report based on U.S. census data.

Port Everglades' prowess is no one-year fluke.

The seaport ranked tops nationwide for nine straight years in the export category, which includes yachts and other motorboats without outboard motors, said the new Port Everglades TradeNumbers report.

Why such strong exports?

"Because as the Yachting Capital of the World, we have the yachts here," quipped Jeff Erdmann, a Fort Lauderdale yacht broker and long-time leader of the Florida Yacht Brokers Association.

South Florida accounts for roughly 15 percent of yacht sales worldwide, and many overseas buyers come to shop and then send their purchases back to their home countries, Erdmann said.

For example, Erdmann said he recently sold a 39-foot yacht to New Zealander, who cruised for months in the Florida and Bahamas areas and then shipped his yacht by cargo carrier across the Pacific Ocean.

"There's so much supply in the Fort Lauderdale area that yachts are priced more competitively, drawing international buyers," added Paul Haber, who started a Fort Lauderdale transport business in 2013.

Haber estimates that about half of the business at his United Yacht Transport Company comes from out-of-towners buying yachts in South Florida and shipping them from Port Everglades. Many boats are sent to Mexico's Ensenada for owners who live in nearby Southern California, Haber said.

Last year, Mexico ranked as the No. 1 destination for yachts exported from Port Everglades, receiving $44.5 million worth. That's up by $25.4 million from the previous year, the report showed. Italy and Spain ranked second and third for the seaport's yacht exports, the data shows.

Owners like to ship their yachts long-distance on cargo vessels instead of running them across the Atlantic or through the Panama Canal on their own power. Shipping reduces wear and tear on both the boats and crews. It also takes less time and reduces the risks of mechanical failures and other problems during the long journey, according to yacht captains.

Some of the yachts shipped overseas come from attendees at South Florida's international boats shows, especially Fort Lauderdale's extravaganza, billed as the world's largest in-water boat show. The annual Fort Lauderdale show is set this year for Nov. 5 through Nov. 9.

It's been helping, too, that boat sales are rising overall, spurred by the economic rebound after the Great Recession and a shift among luxury buyers toward bigger, more expensive yachts, Erdmann said.

"We're seeing a greater quantity of large yachts sold," some 200-feet and longer, Erdmann said.

That's likely to boost Port Everglades' yacht exports for 2015, too, Erdmann and others forecast. Said yacht shipper Haber: "This year, we're taking out bigger cargo ships and filling them up."

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009, @dhemlock on Twitter

Article Author: Doreen Hemlock