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What is for sale?
We found that the best source to locate barges for sale was the internet. There are, like us, plenty of web sites advertising their barges for sale but we preferred the more detailed information that the brokers provided. As a buyer, you do not need to employ a broker who acts for the vendor. The problem in contacting private vendors then is the logistics of contacting the owners and trying to arrange a visit. Far easier to use a broker so use the internet to learn about barging and what is for sale but then use a broker.
We used brokers when we bought Harmonie and we understood that although it is the barge owner who pays the brokers fee, the price of the barge has to reflect the price he is charged by the broker. If the broker charges say 7% plus VAT then it might be costing the owner as much as 10% of the price he eventually sells the barge. It is an advantage for both buyer and seller to use the services of an established broker. The broker we used to buy Harmonie did nothing for his fee to assist us to visit different barges but only provided a bill of sale. The Dutch broker who he worked with did absolutely nothing either and even managed to transfer the payment to the wrong bank!
We therefore decided to use a broker to sell Harmonie whose charges were much more reasonable and who came recommended by a barge owner who had used his services. Within a couple of days of contacting him he was on board photographing our barge. A few days later he was back again taking shots of us under way. This was unusual as most brokers never come near you and get you to take all the photos! Here was someone who wanted to earn his fee.
Peter Coupland at www.dutchbargesforsale.co.uk is a broker with years of experience, based in Amsterdam, who will meet you at Amsterdam airport and show you a range of Dutch Barges. He will also work hard on your behalf when you come to sell and doesn't charge a huge commission like the others! Peter is a Master Mariner so he will arrange for the barge to be slipped and surveyed and even deliver it to your chosen destination if required. We have agreed with him that, even if we eventually sell Harmonie privately, he will not lose his fee. Peter is arranging trips from the UK to see barges for people interested in buying a Dutch Barge so it is well worth contacting him before you buy.
The author of this web site (and co-owner of Harmonie) is a Marine Engineer by profession and so knew a thing or two about marine surveyors and their methods. Having seen Harmonie II afloat and examined the vessel internally, I examined the detailed ultrasonic report from the previous surveyor. This told me that the survey in September 2003 found a minimum plate thickness at one point of 4.3mm but generally between 5 and 6mm. The surveyor only required a repair to an outlet pipe and replacement of the sacrificial anodes. He did not require another survey before 2009.
The then owner was meticulous in his care and maintenance of the vessel so I concluded there would be nothing to gain in slipping the vessel for another survey prior to purchase. This is not the advice I would give prospective purchasers as it is generally accepted you do not part with your hard earned cash until a full hull survey has been completed. We have taken a calculated risk and only time will prove me right or wrong. If you are not qualified to take such risks, employ a surveyor. We should add that the new insurance company, Oranje in Groningen, was perfectly willing to insure the vessel after their surveyors inspection and having seen the previous surveyors report. Their acceptance of cover was a condition of our offer for the ship. We have had two ultrasonic surveys since and have not required any hull repairs apart from one dodgy rivet so my decision then was correct!
I should add that we have since changed our Insurers to a Lloyds UK underwriter who offered a much lower premium for the same risk with a lower excess. We are now paying a lower premium than when we first insured Harmonie in 2005 and UK insurers were then not competitive so it pays to regularly check the market.