Posts Tagged shipping

Shipping Part 5: Go Get It!

Posted on August 11, 2013 by 11 Comments

It took an entire week get the bus cleared by US customs.

In reality, I had all the customs release forms complete and in my hands before the bus even arrived. But, due to an apparent clerical error, no one was able to verify and let me drive away with it. Showing the forms with the official stamps didn’t help – it wasn’t in the computer. Lots of confused phone calls and ‘not my job’ responses later, our agent finally saved the day and found someone in the Houston customs office to clear it in the system. One more week and it would have been confiscated.

We had been waiting around Galveston and were so confident that it would finally get released on Friday that we decided to go to Sonny’s Place to celebrate and wait for the call. If you know Sonny’s, you might guess what we found when we got there. “Closed for repairs.”

It’s all part of the allure. Getting in. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I’m guessing I’ve only made it inside 50% of the time. The rest of the time they were closed for repairs. In all that time, nothing has ever been repaired.

DSC_2054 DSC_2057

Anyway, the call finally came. We ran down to port and then waited another hour for our ‘escort’ – some doofus with port credentials that charges $50 to follow him to the WWL office.

DSC_2059 DSC_2063 DSC_2064 DSC_2065

There was Red Beard. Filthy, but all there. Just the original dings and scratches and nothing missing. So much for all those horror stories we’re heard about RORO.

There was also a gleaming fully restored Texas Splitty, likely being shipped to a European buyer at an astronomical price. It made our bus look pretty sad – but at least ours probably has better stories to tell.

I signed a few documents and gave it a quick look over and that was it. We were given a Gate Pass and were free to drive* into the USA.

It’s been a while.

DSC_2067 DSC_2068 DSC_2069 IMG_0247

So, to sum it all up…

Port and doc fees in Colombia: $110

WWL freight + fees and port fees in Galveston: $580

Galveston agent and customs clearance fees: $190

Galveston ‘port escort’ fee: $50

Total cost to ship a VW bus from Colombia to Texas:  $930 USD

Or, maybe more interestingly, it was $350 for the actual shipping freight and $580 for administrative junk.

Our virtual friends over at Life Remotely have written up a detailed account of their shipping experience with WWL from Brazil to Galveston, and I would recommend using it as a guide of what to expect.  Coincidentally, our vehicles rode on the exact same boat – just a few months apart.

*I got a “one-trip” temporary vehicle registration from the Texas DMV that legally allowed me to drive on this day only. It was $5, but required proof of insurance.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Texas

And Waiting…

Posted on August 8, 2013 by 7 Comments

Still no Red Beard. He’s held up in customs.

We’re adapting to floating among the spare bedrooms of family and friends. When the vehicle gets out of the port, at least we’ll have our own place.

Until then, I’m making parts lists and figuring out what projects to do on the bus to prep it for the next adventure. Welding will be required.

I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for a replacement jalousie screen frame with no luck. I’d appreciate any leads (or a way to repair it).

When clearing everything out in Colombia, I found lots more rust and mold. The past year on the humid Atlantic coast and Amazon seemed to be the roughest one yet on the bus. I guess I can no longer call it a ‘California car’.

Oh – and money. We have to work on that part too. None of this was free (okay, some of it was). We may finally seek out some sponsors, accept advertising, etc. We’ve started down this path before, but never really followed through with it, so we’ll see. A few advertising experiments may be coming. If we can pay for shipping the bus with a few paid posts then we should probably to do it. We promise it won’t be too obnoxious.



Filed Under: Texas

Shipping Part 3: Waiting

Posted on August 4, 2013 by 1 Comment

After making my final trip in Cartagena – to the bank to pay the documentation fee to NAVES – I was finally done. The only thing left was to fly back to the states and wait.

I’ve been able to follow the boat (TASCO) via other nifty maritime tracking sites, but I had no assurance that the bus was actually loaded until a few days later when WWL sent me the freight bill and it showed up on WWL tracking site. It’s official – Red Beard is somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and on it’s way back to the USA.

The freight total came in at $580 USD – a bit higher than the original $350 quote, but I do remember all those abbreviations (BAF, SRC, THD, THL) of additional fees with no numbers next to them. Now, I know. Still, far less expensive than a container.

Fullscreen capture 7302013 23654 PM.bmp  Fullscreen capture 7272013 70223 AM
Track and Trace - Mozilla Firefox 7312013 83127 AM


Filed Under: Colombia, Texas

Shipping The Vehicle Part 2 : Being There

Posted on August 2, 2013 by 6 Comments

After deciding that the Santa Marta experiment was a complete bust, I made the call to drive to Cartagena. I wanted to avoid it because of the hassle of the Cartagena port and because the bus had been running poorly and I really didn’t want to deal with it.

I had been trying to get quotes from Cartagena as a backup plan, and it’s a good thing I did. Again, my direct emails to another 20 companies got virtually no response. Our friend Pedro in Venezuela had a contact and this netted us a container quote of $1500 from Cartagena to Houston. A good deal. But, I had more problems getting responses after the initial quote.

I was weary of Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) shipping because of all the stories and the requirement to empty the vehicle – but, went ahead anyway. The bus was already nearly empty. I found Bode’s country list under the back seat during the clean-out.

The quote for RORO from Cartagena to Galveston came in at…. $350 USD?  Seriously?

Everything always works out in the end. That’s been my mantra for as long as I can remember. And, it does.

Working with the ‘agent’ from the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) was completely smooth. Prompt, courteous, informative email responses (in English). Note – I had more luck contacting the NAVES office directly rather than using the WWL booking method.

IMG_0222-001 IMG_0225-001

DSC_2007 DSC_2011

There are plenty of instructions for shipping on the WWL website, so you have some idea what to expect. One of the important ones: “Private Owned Vehicles shall not contain any personal effects and spare parts” really means “don’t leave anything valuable that could fit into a backpack or it might disappear. Hide tools and spare parts as well.”

The rule about having clear operating instruction inside the vehicle, to me, meant to make sure they know how to put on old VW in reverse. And, make sure they don’t blow anything if they have to jump start it.

IMG_0218-001 IMG_0220-001

I’ll spare everyone the details of dealing with the port in Cartagena, but it took 5 full days. Shipping this way is cheap because there is no stuffing and un-stuffing (container) fees and no agent fee – you do the legwork. It takes patience and can be frustrating. It’s hot. There will be innumerable moto taxi rides across town to get paperwork stamped, or get another document, go to the bank, get inspections, etc. The process requires it.

Here’s a fun example of the system: to get permission to enter the Contecar port, you actually have to go to a different port across town – because they don’t process that particular form.

Just go with it.

IMG_0229 IMG_0221-001

1971 Volkswagen kombi
length = 443 cm
width  = 178 cm
height = 203 cm
weight = 2200 kg

Fullscreen capture 7292013 42342 PM.bmpIMG_0202

Port fees in Cartagena: $60 USD

Documentation fees to NAVES: $50 USD

Total cost in Cartagena: $110 USD

For some reason, I won’t pay the $350 shipping cost to Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics until after the vehicle arrives in Galveston. COD, I suppose.

I’ll give another update after I get the bus, but I expect to pay some port fees on the U.S. side. Still, it seems like a pretty good deal to ship a VW bus from Colombia to Texas.

At least, much cheaper that sending yourself from Colombia to Texas.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Colombia

Shipping The Vehicle Part 1 : Failure

Posted on July 30, 2013 by 7 Comments

My goal was to ship the bus from Santa Marta to Houston.

We’ve still got vague plans of going all the way around the globe, but timing and math dictated a layover in the USA.

And, the Santa Marta port is small with everything located within a few blocks. The DIAN (immigration/DMV), the port offices, downtown, restaurants, hostels, shipping agents, etc are all right next to each other. Taganga is 5 minutes over the hill. Compared to Cartagena, this would be a much better location for dealing with the logistics for shipping your vehicle.

I think I contacted 10 or more companies requesting a quote for container service. Zero replied. A friend who happens to live in Santa Marta and deals in shipping recommended an agent to me and provided her info. Nearly 20 emails into the chain and she still hadn’t provided a quote or any meaningful details. So, I went to her office. Face to face seems to be the only way to get business done – at least here.

This finally got the the ball rolling, but it was another 3 days until she got me the quote. $5000 USD to ship.  Via Los Angeles! What the hell? Maybe I should have brought a map to her office.

I delicately pointed out that this must be some kind of mistake and provided her with the names of shipping lines and their exact routes to see if we could get a more direct shipment and lower price. Maybe 20 more emails ensued and I never received another quote.

Skip ahead to agent #2 – a random person I found online and she indicated she could help. Twenty emails later and still no quote. I knew where this was headed…

IMG_0208 IMG_0209

After dropping off Angela and Bode at the Santa Marta airport (beach bars right next to the runway), I relocated to a campground at El Rodadero.  This gave me an opportunity to really strip everything out of the bus and figure out what goes and stays.

All of Bode’s remaining toys and his bike went to a local school via a Peace Corps volunteer we met earlier in the week. Random ‘just in case’ car parts that maybe didn’t work anyway went into the trash. What’s left of my clothes rapidly entered the realm of the rags. I gave much of our kitchenware to a neighboring camper (who was screwed over by the Braniff Airlines bankruptcy and is still bitter).

IMG_0210 IMG_0214

Now we know what to replace, what to repair, and what we probably don’t need for the next trip.

Here’s something you absolutely shouldn’t bring: bulbs. Amazingly, none of them broke after 4 years of bouncing around, but I also never needed a single one. And, of course, you can buy them anywhere. Something to keep: the wi-fi range extender. This is mandatory.

IMG_0204 IMG_0207

So, with everything down-sorted and the bus cleaned out, we’re ready to ship. All we need is a boat.


Tags: , ,

Filed Under: Colombia

Cartagena Cannons

Posted on October 7, 2010 by 1 Comment

Bode woke us up at 6am. He had fallen asleep for a few hours on the last of the bus rides the night before. Jason and I were exhausted and sore and spent a full day trying to recover from the boat ride. Back’s aching, we barely made it a few blocks just find another hotel.

Early the next day, Jason and Kyle headed to the port to see about getting our cars while Bode and I headed to the old town of Cartagena. It is a beautiful city, with lots of colorful Spanish colonial architecture. A stone wall and several fortresses surround the city, which is the highlight for any 5 year old. Bode loves pirates, cannons and forts so we walked all the way around the city.

Jason and Kyle didn’t get back until 6:30. They spent the day shuffling papers and waiting.
They waited at one place for 2 hours while they had closed for lunch, then another hour and a half once they opened to get a signature.

For some reason, Kyle carries his life insurance paperwork around with him. This, plus an orange safety vest and hardhat were required to enter the port. Jason had to hand over the keys to Kyle.

Once he got there, Kyle found that the container had already been opened. Since they had left their window open, Kyle and Jesse’s van (Wally) had already been pushed out. Kyle tried to start our bus, but the brakes seemed to be stuck. He went back to the waiting area to get Jason, and
after all that security checking,  Jason just put on Kyle’s hat and vest and security badge and walked right in.

Jason squeezed into the container and tried to back Red Beard out. It was stuck, like the brake drums had rusted to the shoes. He gunned it and the car began peeling out (back left wheel only.) Eventually, the wheel came loose and car shot backwards out of the container,
much to the amusement of the port workers.

The vans were now parked in the secured lot at the port, but there was more paperwork to tend to. We also learned we would be charged $25/day for container storage fees (since they couldn’t remove the car) and $4/day afterward for parking fees.

The next day, Jesse joined Bode and I at the Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas, a 17th century fortress that survived attacks by pirates and other adventurers. It had loads of dark winding tunnels to explore, but Jesse hid in a dark corner and scared Bode at the beginning, so
there was a little convincing that had to be done to get him to go in the rest of them.

It was damn hot out, and we returned to our air conditioned room and thought about the guys at the port in their required long pants and closed toed shoes. Until this shipping experience, I don’t think Jason has worn anything but flip-flops for 9 months.

It was dark, and I was out of cash.  I knew Jason was going to the ATM at the port, and when they left early that morning they assumed they’d have the car quickly.  Bode was hungry and we were down to the emergency raisins he hates. I’d connected with Jesse and was in the midst
of bumming some money to feed the kid when the guys walked in. Still, no cars but they were positive we’d have them first thing the next morning.

Confident, Kyle went ahead of us the next morning to get the vans. The rest of us followed with all our stuff about an hour later. The taxi ride took us about 30 minutes. Jason estimated they had spent about $50 USD on taxis going from customs to the port and back again over
the last 2 days.

When we got to the port, Kyle was waiting for us outside…without the vans.  Apparently, they needed a signature from another location. Jesse, Bode and I went to the waiting area while Kyle and Jason took off in the cab.  They were in a hurry to get back by noon, when the port closes for 2 hours.

Both Jesse and Kyle are awesome with Bode, and Jesse felt no need to keep the kid quiet in the waiting room. Literally everyone was in there waiting. There were huge glass windows along 2 sides of this room, all with workers behind them doing something, but not one person was
standing at them. So, soccer with a flip-flop was played, snowboarding videos were watched and no one seemed to mind that we spent 3 hours waiting there with all our stuff in a pile.

By 1 pm the guys had returned with the right signatures and left again to go get the “final” paperwork. By 3 pm we were finally driving out of the port and on the road.

So, if you are shipping a car to South America, count on 3 full days on each end. In total, all the port fees and paperwork in Cartagena added another $100 USD to the total. So, the total cost for us was $850 USD to ship the van. We did our research beforehand and we’re pretty pleased to get the car shipped to Colombia for such a ‘low’ price.

It was great to be back in the van and finally driving again – now on another continent!

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Colombia

Shipping The Car To South America

Posted on September 27, 2010 by 5 Comments

We could write pages and pages about all the details and paperwork involved in getting the car loaded up in a container to Colombia. It’s really not that interesting. It’s tedious.

If you are trying to do the same thing, you can do all the internet research you want (we did) and you will find plenty of information on various people’s experiences. All the details vary by person and shipping company, so it doesn’t make much sense to write up a set of procedures. But, the gist is this….

You can’t drive. The Darien Gap separates the two continents and is impassible by car – even a Volkswagen. The Panamanians will never build a road – they like their international shipping monopoly just the way it is.

So, from here, you’ve got two options. Load the car into a container or use Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO).

The container is supposedly safest and costs more. RORO means you hand over your keys and hope you find your car in one piece on the other side. RORO is a little cheaper, but since our car is full of stuff we plan on keeping, we chose the container option.

We used a company called Marfret via their shipping agent. We’ve seen quotes all over the place, but we figured $1500 USD for a 40 ft container with two cars was a really good price. Many other quotes started lower, but all sorts of additional extra fees added up quickly and put them closer to $2000 USD.

Plan on spending three days to get it all done. The first day dealing with the shipping agent.  The next day dealing with the police inspection (10-11 am only) and customs (2 pm only) for the vehicle. Of course, we had problems with our paperwork, but it all worked itself out. The third day you drive to Colon and load the vehicle.

Our agent actually sent a guy to ride with us and walk us though the entire process at the port in Colon. A huge help.

At the port, they called our vehicle a Beetle – we’re getting used to ignoring all the errors on the paperwork. They also expected us to hand over the keys and walk away for them to load it later. After lots of discussion, we finally got permission to load it ourselves and were assigned an escort.

Driving inside the port is pretty cool and there is huge machinery flying all over the place.  Just a tiny bit dangerous. Angela, Bode and Jesse had to wait outside the gate.

I was able to drive right into the container with no problems and let myself out the sliding door with little room to spare. Kyle wasn’t so lucky and ended up having to crawl out his window and slide under the car to exit the container.

We walked away with the knowledge our car was safe behind a tiny plastic ‘security seal.’  The security at the port is actually pretty impressive, but it’s the port on the other side that we’re more worried about.

We each took one bag and started walking out of the port looking for a taxi to Portobello. It felt pretty weird not having the bus anymore.


Filed Under: Panama

« Older Entries