This shipping story/info document consist of two parts:
- Part 1 is about getting the shipment organized from Suriname.
- Part 2 is about getting the Land Cruiser out of the container in South Korea (find it here).
Why Shipping from Suriname – a Flashback
After nine years of traveling in South America we were ready for a change. This meant shipping the Land Cruiser to a new destination. Contrary to our original idea to continue north to Central and North America, we decided to ship across the Pacific, and go to the Far East.
The idea was to ship from Colombia (e.g. Cartagena). However, we never got there. When we were in Venezuela , the president closed all borders with Colombia and the only way to exit the country was to Brazil. That brought us back in the Amazon.
We didn’t feel like driving all around the Amazon, through Peru and Ecuador to Colombia. We let go of that idea. Instead we returned to the Guianas with the idea to ship either from Georgetown (Guyana) or Paramaribo (Suriname).
Here’s what we did and how it went. If you have any questions or you want to share your own shipping experience, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
In Georgetown we contacted agencies:
- Muneshwers Limited in Georgetown
- This company works as agents for Maersk and Sealand.
- Remona was the head of the department; Nicholas Puran a sales executive. Nice people full of good intentions to send a quote, which they eventually did after we visited them an additional 2 or 3 times…
- 45/47 Water Street, Georgetown
- [email protected]
2. CMA CGM in Georgetown
- 45 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown
- Mootoo Kiseon – [email protected]
- After the first visit, we heard nothing. After we called and emailed asking for that quote we had been promised, we drove past once more. Only then Kiseon bluntly told us they don’t have direct lines to South Korea and so he couldn’t help us. We were done with this place. It came all across as very unprofessional. Nice people, but not who we were looking for.
3. Laparkan in Georgetown
- 2-9 Lombard Street, Werk-en Rust, Georgetown
- Persons we spoke with: Elizabeth Culpeper and Teshanna Chinn
- [email protected]
- [email protected]
- It’s kind of an unorganized bunch when you get there and initially we weren’t hopeful. Until we spoke an employee who pulled up a quote ten minutes after we set behind her desk! Now that drew us our attention, obviously.
- The same woman was also very helpful talking us through the process. Normally you need a broker to handle all the customs paper. But, we prefer doing everything ourselves. She said we should probably need 3 weeks! Lots of stamps to be gathered from Misters Important, and you even need to get a tax number (because you need to pay export tax – no this doesn’t make sense but that’s how it is. We would learn this in Suriname as well).
- Across her office is another office, also of Laparkan. Here we met John Tularam, a customs brokerage manager. Super nice, helpful guy. Explained the same procedure but said that he would be happy to guide us through the process (thus telling us, “Now you go here,” Now you go there,” etc.) without charging us for it. He even had example letters we could use.
- The quote we received from Laparkan (Nov ’15): US$1485 for freight rate and about US$130 local fees and US$ 125 for lashing.
Laparkan would have been the agency for us to have done business with, had we stayed in town. But, we didn’t stay in Guyana and drove on to Suriname.
Read More: Impressions of Georgetown
Shipping the Land Cruiser from Paramaribo, Suriname
From what we understood from Surinamese, there are two liners that operate: VSH, the agent for Maersk, and CMA-CGM. Both are located at the port, the offices across the street from each other.
1. VSH United in Suriname
- Contact persons: Daniel and Giovanna.
- This is how our conversation with Daniel started after we said we wanted a quote: “Well, I’ll first add your data to our system, which will take about a week.” We fell silent, then followed with a, “I beg your pardon, what did you say?” and, “Do you realize what you’re saying?” He didn’t, so we added, “Adding a name and address to a system needs a WEEK?”
“Okay, maybe we can do it in 3 days.”
- This, obviously, didn’t bode well at all.
- Fortunately, Giovanna had a brisk, professional attitude, jotted down our data and said she would get back with a quote (which we got after only 1 follow-up email – not bad for how things work in the shipping world).
- The quote was US$ 1188 for freight (Dec ’15).
2. CMA-CGM in Suriname
Here the best of all: Cathy Tirtosentono at the Export Department is the kindest, most professional person we’ve met in all our shipping experience. She was the very first person who ever – in all our shipping experience over the years – responded to a request for a quote via the contact page on the company’s website!
This was a very promising start.
After we actually met her, we immediately took the decision to ship with CMA-CGM in Suriname. Cathy continued her professionalism in responding to emails, making phone calls to find out about procedures, to check up on things, etc. Truly a pleasure to work with.
Normally you work through an agency. We, again, wanted to do everything ourselves. Let’s expand a bit more about the subject. Why are we so keen on this?
A broker vs. organizing it independently
We like to stay in control of a process where already you depend so much on others. An important part of this is driving our car in the container. As you will see later, it fits only when the tires are completely deflated. Letting others do that, is asking for damage. We simply don’t have confidence in others.
That doesn’t sound nice, but it’s partly based on stories we’ve heard from other overlanders who handed over their keys. Their cars were badly damaged. This doesn’t mean it always happens, but still, we don’t like to take our chances with it.
Paperwork to Ship the Vehicle in Suriname
Initially we would have to hand over the whole process to an agent (broker). But bless Cathy, she called around, made inquiries and very quickly we had a number of nice people to work with throughout the process. Among the steps involved:
1. Coen visited the Expediteur next door and met Elizabeth. She drew up some documents and entered the data in the new Asycuda system, which cost SRD 275 ( the equivalent of about US$60). Among others, the value of the car and other belongings were established because we needed to pay an export fee. In our case we stated US$2000 for the car and US$ 500 for our used personal inventory.
2. With those documents Coen went to the Ontvanger to pay the 0.1% export fee. You can argue the ridicule of this, but since in our case it ended up being SRD 50 (about US$10) we didn’t bother.
3. CMA-CGM works with a new system which means you do your own booking in a computer system. This was after Cathy had registered us in that system. We book the date, type of container, port of destination, etc. Cathy was kind enough to let us do that in her office and talked us through it (or somebody else at the office will). Note a detail: it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer, but does work in e.g. Chrome.
4. We talked to a guy at Operations, whom Cathy had talked about because we wanted to drive our car in the container and do the lashing of the vehicle ourselves. He confirmed that this was okay. We paid SRD 100 (USD 20) because they provided lashing material (although we bought our own too). A couple of requirements:
- You need to apply for a harbor pass at Operations the day before you actually stuff the container. This means handing a copy of your passport.
- You need to get a safety helmet, jacket, and safety shoes to get into the port (we borrowed all that from friends). This is not just a requirement on paper; they enforce it.
5. We drove to the Douane Recherche – the Customs Department (gps waypoint: 5.808225, -55.167692), to make an appointment. One of the officers has to be present when stuffing the container, and another will come with a dog (because of drug trafficking).
6. Then back to CMA-CGM to get the Collection Order which we needed to go to the Uitvoertafel, where we had to show all the paperwork prepared at #1, at Elizabeths’. The Uitvoertafel drew up a Customs & Excise payment bill, which we had to pay at the Ontvanger. With the payment receipt we finally got our fiat to ship the car.
7. The day before the stuffing we returned to the CMA-CGM office to pay the fees, which is partly in US dollars and SRD. To get US dollars in Paramaribo, you can find cambio offices everywhere. One is near the Harbor on the corner of Molenpad and Zwarthovenbrugstraat (gps waypoint: 5.816460, -55.167703).
- Freight US$ 1182
- Local charges SRD 575
What went wrong?
One little mishap. Coen was told at the Uitvoertafel that he had to pay SRD670 for customs because a customs officer has to come to the container to check it and seal it.
Later he learned that SRD65 is the actual seal fee we should have paid. The ‘outside visitation fee’ of SRD605 is only relevant when you stuff your container outside the port, which was not the case for us. Well, I’m sure if you push it you can get that money back after having filled in numerous forms and waited forever with tons of follow-ups. We didn’t. It was a minor issue in an otherwise easy-going procedure; we felt all parties had been very helpful towards us in every step.
Stuffing the Container in Paramaribo, Suriname
We picked up our harbor passes at Operations of CMA-CGM at 8 am, followed the customs officer at 8.30am into the port. At the container we met all parties and set to work:
- The day before, Coen had already taken the green box and jerrycans off the roof. He had also unbolted the rooftop tent which was now fixed only with a strap. The guy in charge of stuffing called his co-worker with a forklift to take off the rooftop tent.
- The dog was ordered to sniff around the front seats, in the back of the car, and around the rooftop tent. Everything was okay.
- We deflated the tires and a ramp was provided (already in place when we arrived). We drove into the container (with a millimeter to spare between the roof rack and the top of the door). We inflated the tires again (because the roof of the container is higher than the door).
- We disconnected the batteries and took a photo of this for CMA CGM, which they required (note that they require you empty your fuel tank as much as possible, and like some proof of that as well).
- We had bought our own lashing materials and Coen hammered wooden blocks around the wheels. We had also bought iron wire to strap down the car (we carry 4 turnbuckles for the occasion) but the lashing guy said we could use their straps.
- The rooftop tent was placed underneath the Land Cruiser and lashed as well.
- The stuffings guys closed the container and Coen placed the CMA-CGM seal.
- The customs officer wrote his paper (which we had to hand over at the Export department of CMA-CGM) and sealed the container with a customs seal.
- We photographed the seal (its number) and added our own padlock.
Read More: New Continent, New Country – South Korea
At noon, the Land Cruiser was on its way to another continent. I had been prepared and brought a meal for lunch and lots of bottles of water, expecting to be here all day. This was not the case. What a blessing!
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