Having shipped our expedition vehicles around the world we have learnt a lot of lessons on a very steep curve. Shipping your vehicle to another country will probably be the most frustrating logistical problem you will encounter on your overland trip, but with telling you the procedure, what worked for us, what didn’t, and some cost saving tips, we hope you’ll find the process will be a lot easier and less stressful.
1) Decide how you want to ship - RORO or Container?
RORO stands for Roll On, Roll Off. Here you hand your keys over to the port officials and your car is loaded onto a ship in a ferry type manor. You then cross your fingers and haul your ass to the other side for collection. This is the cheaper method of shipping container, and least secure.
You can also ship your vehicle via a container. This is most secure and most expensive option. The limiting factor here is the height of your vehicle. Containers come in 3 sizes and the prize is increased accordingly to the bigger containers.
20FT STD. A 20FT container with max height of 2.3m
40FT STD A 40FT container with max height of 2.3m
40FT HQ A 40FT container with max height of 2.8m
Your best bet is a 40FT container. You can fit 2 vehicles and a motorcycle in a 40FT container, which drastically lowers the cost when you split it between you all. You can be present at loading/unloading of the container but port staff are responsible for the lashing of your vehicle within the container. If you're driving the Americas, look at http://www.drivetheamericas.com/forums to find other people shipping their vehicle to share the cost. You can find bikers on http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/.
2) Find an agent in your country of Origin.
Google is your friend here. Find as many agents as you can for your country of origin. Get in touch with them all asking for a quote for the service you require. For Example UK-Florida port-port 20FT Container arriving on *******.
It is best to google what ports are in your country of destination before contacting the agents. You may want them to quote for several ports to see which port works out cheaper for you.
Port-port refers to a service were you deliver your vehicle to the dock at the country of origin and collect from the port at country of your chosen destination. This means that after it is delivered to the port, your container doesn’t go anywhere else, as sometimes you can get them delivered to a warehouse.
Always state the date you want the container to ARRIVE by.
Shop around with agents as prices vary A LOT for the same service. Some will include all country of origin charges, were as others will not. Clarify what is included in the cost of their service.
3) You may be required by the country of destination to assign an agent there BY LAW
Once again, get onto google. Ask as many agents as you can about costs. If you do not require an agent and you can speak the lingo of the country of destination then winner, winner.
Not all countries require an agent at destination. vYou can simply just ship to yourself. In this case, book a hotel and use its address for the receivers details (with your name) .
4) Deliver your car to port & load.
5) Pay & get your Bill of Lading.
6) Arrive at destination.
7) Get customs clearance & temporary import permit.
8) Pay port fees.
9) Collect car.
So that sounds pretty easy right?! Just like booking a ferry? Unfortunately not. Below are solutions to common problems. We hope you learn from our and other over landers mistakes.
Solutions to common mistakes
The date of arrival doesn’t mean it will arrive on that date.
Seems strange? Well you can count on the ship being late if you are in a rush to get your vehicle out of port and on to a reservation you have made.
Don’t book anything or plan to do anything around the date of arrival. You can also track your vessels progress on apps such as Marine Traffic.
The date of arrival doesn’t mean the date you will get your vehicle back.
Seems strange again? Well once you have cut enough red tape and filled in enough paperwork to make you re-think if bringing your own car was actually worth it, expect anything from 3 days to 2 weeks before you get your hands on your pride and joy. And guess who is liable for the storage costs at destination whilst customs push papers around…YOU! For a week storage in port in Chile you can expect to pay around $1500USD. Ridiculous, we know.
Arrive in the destination port town before your vessel and do as much of the paperwork as possible. This will speed things up once it arrives. Read forums and familiarise yourself with the procedures at the destination.
RORO means Roll on and Rip you off.
Although the shipping cost is substantially cheaper for a RORO service this does lower the amount of security you have. You are passing the keys to your baby onto a complete stranger…and all of his friends. The first shipping we ever did was a RORO service. When we arrived in the USA it had been gutted. Port staff along the way somewhere had stolen around $1000USD worth of kit from it. Bearing in mind, we shipped our vehicle empty. Items that were stolen were water pumps that were bolted onto the vans body work, a jack and water hoses amongst other things. The items that were taken made no sense to us at all and individually were all very low cost items.
We never recommend to anybody to send RORO. Get a container! The amount that was stolen from us exceeded the price difference between RORO and Container.
Some agents in the destination will try and rip you off.
You play to their mercy. They know they can drag their feet and you could potentially incur a lot of charges. Or they add in an additional cost and things will get done quicker. Whilst looking for an agent to Chile, we received a quote for them acquiring the temporary import for us. They quoted $350USD for the permit. The permit is free. We eventually found an honest agent.
Know the procedure and costs at destination and turn on your bull s**t radar. Ask your country of origin agent if they can recommend one. Chances are they have shipped to and used one before.
Port workers at destination and origin have no idea how to do their job.
Whilst loading our vehicle to Chile we asked the port official (who was responsible for loading the container) if we should disconnect the battery of our vehicle. He gave a firm no. This caused our container to be classed as hazardous and our shipment to miss its slot and be rolled onto the next vessel. This cost us around 400GBP ($700USD) at origin and incurred a lot of cost at it’s final destination.
Whilst shipping Panama to Colombia the port officials used the thinnest straps ever to lash our vehicles in the container. Needless to say all of the straps snapped during shipping. Luckily all the vehicles were fine.
We have shipped 5 times now and never met any competent staff. It could just be that they don't give a s**t, but we do!
You will need to be running on reserve fuel when you arrive at port. Disconnect your battery and cover battery terminals. Don’t be afraid to ask the officials responsible for loading your vehicle to use thicker straps or to place chocks under all 4 wheels. They will always try and get away with doing the least amount of work.
Agents will balls things up for you – guaranteed!
Although shipping agents deal with booking shipments on a daily basis, I can nearly guarantee they will balls things up for you resulting in YOU incurring costs.
On shipping to Chile, our agent arranged for us to have 1 weeks storage in Chile at no cost to us. In reality all they had arranged was the use of the container for 1 week at no cost. I had clarified numerous times with the agent about this issue and it was only when I reached Chile that the true agreement came to light.
On shipping from Colombia to UK, again the agent failed to book the correct vessel for us even though we had given 3 weeks notice. This resulted in Gwyn missing the booked flight and incurring extra accommodation costs. It will simply astound you the incompetence that you might meet, given this is their daily job.
Try and make your booking as simple as possible. Give enough notice to which vessel you wish to book a space on. Clarify everything in writing/e-mail. Mostly though, we wish you some good luck.
If possible use an agent that has an office at both the origin and destination. This will speed things up considerably when you arrive at destination. Plus they can include all costs for both origin and destination, so there should in theory be no extra costs.
If you are shipping on a common overland route (for example: Panama – Colombia to avoid the Darien gap) find a shipping partner. You can do this by finding forums such as Drive The Americas or Expedition portal. This will reduce your costs significantly.
You can fit more than 1 car in a container. In a 40ft container you can fit 2 cars and 1 (maybe even 2) motorcycle(s). This again will reduce costs.
Keep your paperwork in order. If you are in a foreign country when you plan to ship, ensure all your paperwork you received at the border is correct. Triple check that every detail is in the correct box and the information is correct. VIN numbers are the normally the part which is incorrect. This will hinder your exit via vessel.