Posts Tagged shipping
Posted on October 7, 2010 by angela
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!
Posted on September 27, 2010 by jason
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.
Posted on September 24, 2010 by jason
We rolled into Panama City with the sole purpose of taking care of shipping the car to Colombia. Unfortunately, this process takes several days, so we had to stick around a little while.
It’s not necessarily a bad place, just not where we really want to be spending our time. It’s a big sticky and hot city, but they do like their A/C nice and cold.
There is an old town that is crumbling and a new and modern downtown with gleaming skyscrapers. By far, this is the most modern city in Latin America and the cranes all over the city indicate it’s growing fast.
But, there’s not much here to hold our attention. There’s the canal, of course, but for some reason I wasn’t all too keen on going over to see it. We lived next to a major port for 10 years, so we’ve seen plenty of container ships. We’ve seen locks – the ones in Ballard, WA are pretty neat. These are just bigger, right?
So, taking a break between trips to the police, customs, our shipper, and the clinic for Yellow Fever shots – we headed over to the Miraflores Locks.
It was interesting enough. Bode liked it, but maybe liked playing on the old train out front even more.
Here are a few tidbits worth noting…
There are no pumps. It’s all gravity-fed from the lake.
It takes 8 hours to transit the entire canal.
They announce where the ship is from and how much they paid to transit on a loudspeaker. The container ships we were watching paid $300,000 USD each.
The workers could move a new ship in and out of each lock in about 30 minutes.
All the lines are handled by electric trains on rails lining the locks.
The massive ships come really close to the edges of the lock walls. They are all designed specifically for this passage, and there isn’t much room to spare. We saw some scrape the sides.
They are working on a bigger canal that will sit right beside this one.
Posted on March 4, 2010 by jason
We shipped ourselves as cargo to Mazatlan. From the time we drove onto the ferry to the time we drove off was about 21 hours. Total cost to ship the three of us and the bus from La Paz to Mazatlan was $290 USD. Three people and 5 meters / 1800 kg of vehicle. We chose Transportation Maritima de California (TMC) over Baja Ferries simply because of the large difference in the cost. TMC is the freight carrier and it seems some folks don’t know they exist and insist Baja Ferries is the only option. Maybe because it’s hard to find. If you want to make the trip, here’s a quick summary.
Drive out to Pechilingue to the shipyard and pull in through the main gate. On your left is a set of lanes you can’t enter and on your right is drive-through customs.
If you don’t have your vehicle import permit for the mainland, just park anywhere and walk through the gate on the left to the big yellow building to find the permit office. Ask for “vehicular permissio” if you can’t find it – it’s about $30 and is good for 6 months. You can’t go through customs without it. You’ll need photocopies of everything – passports, license, registration,etc.
Now, get back in the bus and drive through customs and you may or may not get inspected. Next, drive onto the scale right in front of you- “Bascula” – and get weighed. You’ll be asked for your carrier and destination (you won’t have a ticket yet.) They’ll give you a paper with your vehicle weight and length and now you can go buy your ticket.
On your right is a permanently closed TMC office and an open Baja Ferries office. If you want a cabin and a nicer boat, Baja Ferries is for you. Everyone there speaks English and they have another office outside the port as well (go past the entire terminal on the main road and turn left after the fence.) If your family is cargo (like us,) loop around the scale and park next to the other big yellow building and go find the TMC office. No one in here will speak English, so be prepared. All prices are clearly posted. We came here a week prior to make a reservation, but no one seemed to be interested in looking it up – we just bought our tickets on the spot.
Figure out when to load (usually two hours prior to departure) and drive over to the ship and wait for someone who looks official to recognize that you want to get on the boat. He’ll go through all your papers and tickets. Before driving on, ask if you can be loaded on top. If you’re on the bottom, your car will be sealed up and you won’t be spending any time at your vehicle. On top, you have fresh air… and you get to ride a big elevator.
Officially, on both carriers, you are not allowed in your vehicle at any time during the trip. The closer you get to the boat, the more lax personnel get about this regulation (at least on TMC – Baja Ferries may be more strict.) Just keep asking. We stayed in our bus for most of the trip (16 hours on the water) and slept in it – way better than the seats in the tiny passenger cabin. Apparently, dinner is included with your ticket in the little galley, but we skipped it and had sammys in the bus.
The other passengers are almost exclusively truck drivers and most of them sneak away to sleep in their vehicles too. Everyone we encountered was very nice. Walking around the boat is not really something you want to do unless you need to. The ride was pretty wild, and the boat not exactly the safest place for a child. Angela, who has never been seasick, had to take Dramamine. There are bathrooms and showers, but you will probably want to avoid these too if you can. This is not the Love Boat and there is no one named Issac mixing drinks(“Outta sight!“)
We arrived in Mazatlan exhausted at about 11 am (now, two consecutive nights of very little sleep) so we grabbed another cheapy hotel (about $20) right near the Old Town and took naps before wandering around. Oh yeah, driving in this town is crazy. Maybe it was because there were two cruise ships in the port and taxis everywhere, but it was total mayhem. Stop signs and individual lanes aren’t really recognized here. Multiple close calls with tour buses and plenty of loco taxi drivers later, I tried to park the bus… and backed into a tree… twice. They let the trees grow out of the street here. Pick your parallel parking spot wisely. Fortunately, our rain gutter took all the impact.
Shopping seems the be the primary activity here, so we got bored pretty quickly after one day. A trip to the aquarium was the highlight. For $6, it’s also the best bargain in town.
Mazatlan is a nice enough place, but we decided we were done and continued south.