This shipping story/info document consist of two parts:
- Part 1 is about getting the shipment organized from Suriname (find it here).
- Part 2 is about getting the car out of the container in South Korea.
Note that it is useless reading all this when you want to bring a vehicle that is registered in Germany or Brazil. These countries did not sign the Geneva Convention (they signed the Vienna Convention) and thus these vehicles are not allowed to drive in South Korea. To check if anything has changed, contact Wendy Choi (more on her below; wendychoi2 [at] Gmail [dot] com).
And, if you only want a quick overview of costs and procedure, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Steps involved – Preparation in Seoul
We arrived in Seoul on Thursday, March 24, 2016, and our container would arrive on Saturday April 2, in Busan. This would give us enough time to prepare the necessary paperwork, although we started only on Monday, March 28.
Here’s what we did, what worked and what didn’t, as well as all kinds of practical information.
1. We called CMA CGM in Seoul to ask about the procedure. Few people spoke English. On Tuesday, March 29, we went to the office to hand over the Bill of Lading.
CMA CGM in Seoul
Next to City Plaza (City Hall)
11th floor, Hanwha non-life insurance building
Direct Line : +822 2126 5652
Our contact person was YANG Kyoung-Seoung (Yang being the last name), Import Manager.
CMA CGM in Busan
Our contact person was KIM Young-Ju (Kim being the last name), Import Manager.
Mr Kim’s phone: +82 51 460 5731
2. We received CMA-CGM’s invoice (of their local charges) on Friday April 1 by email (which is given the day prior to, or on the day the vessel arrives). Normally you’d pay electronically by wire transfer. We suggested going to the bank and deposit cash into their account, as we have no local bank account. But our Korean friend Jin offered to pay electronically and we paid him back. This was 189,000 Won (about US $160).
3. CMA CGM insisted we needed a broker, which confronted us with 2 challenges.
Challenge 1: language
Few people speak English and when calling offices, it would happen people hang up simply because they couldn’t respond to us in English. Fortunately we were staying with a Korean friend, Jin, who helped us a lot by calling people and being a translator.
Does this mean you can’t do the procedure without a translator? No, you can organize it, however, having the help of a Korean who speaks English is helpful.
Challenge 2: being the first with a car arriving in a container.
When reading stories about overlanders going to Korea with their vehicle, it was clear that bringing your car was easy. Everybody got their documents organized in a day (or maybe two). But I had not realized that these people had all arrived by ferry/Ro-Ro (most from Japan and Russia). Nobody, we now learned, had shipped to South Korea using a container.
There was no clear procedure and we were talked into following the procedure for regular cargo. This meant having to have our container trucked from BNCT (Busan New Container Terminal, west of Busan) to the Customs Department (downtown Busan, where all ferries arrive).
CMA-CGM and the customs office in Busan (more about them later) insisted we’d need a broker to get that part organized.
We called around, Jin often helping us. It led to the following situations:
- The first broker we contacted quoted us US$ 750, then US $2,000 for the handling and the trucking, including a return fee for the empty container. A no-go for us.
- Via CMA-CGM we got a name, Mr. Martin, whom we emailed twice but whom we got no response from.
- We found one on an expat forum. He replied, enthusiastic about our journey and willing to help. However, after he did his own research he canceled the whole thing. Too complicated, he said.
- We emailed six brokers, finding them with a google search. Only one replied. He asked around and somehow set something in motion without us knowing about it until CMA CGM informed us they had received the name of the broker. Huh? We didn’t even have a quote yet, so our friend Jin called this man once more, told him to stop working and first give us a quote. That took him 3 days (by which point we had already done all work ourselves), quoting 1,500 US dollar.
- Via other overlanders, as well as often mentioned on the Horizons Unlimited forum for motorcycles shipping their bikes to South Korea, we got the name of Wendy Choi. We emailed several times and it was clear that everything was pretty much a piece of cake for her except the trucking part, which was new to her too. While it took a bit of time to get on the same wavelength we finally met on Saturday (April 2).
We had now been making calls for a week and had gotten nowhere. It was time to take matters into our own hands. Discussing with Wendy and Jin, we concluded it was best that we would take the train to Busan and go to the customs department in person, and hopefully get some sympathy there. Jin offered to join us, as a translator, but in our experience it can be helpful to be the two foreigners with all good intentions but not speaking the language. It may help ‘motivate’ people to simply solve the issue so everybody can move on.
4. Organizing the electronic Delivery Order (eD/O), put together by CMA CGM. Initially CMA-CGM said they needed a name of a broker in order to finalize the eD/O (electronic Delivery Order). However, Coen insisted we organized everything ourselves and, miracle oh miracle, they could then produce the Delivery Order in Coen’s name. (
Important: note that if you want to do the customs clearing yourself—like we do—make sure you give your own name as the Consignee when preparing the Bill of Lading (so at the very beginning of the shipping procedure, when getting the car shipped), with you passport number added to it
5. Buying car insurance. Wendy Choi offered us 350 US dollar for 3 months. To us this is a lot of money. Jin, again, helped us, and via a friend we got a 6-month insurance for 400 dollars. Jin paid electronically and we paid him back.
Steps involved – clearing the container in Busan
The car had arrived on April 2, a Saturday, so nothing could be done then. We took the train from Seoul to Busan on Sunday.
6. On Monday, April 4 we went to the Vehicle Clearance Office of the Customs Department, which is situated below the Ferry Terminal.
45-39 Choryang 3(sam)-dong, Dong-gu, Busan
Gps Waypoint: 35.123288, 129.049134
In our two words of Korean we greeted the three officials that set in a pleasantly empty and quiet office, two of them watching a golf game on TV. We didn’t understand exactly what they said, but one asked us something with the word “Nederland” in it, and so we knew they had received the news about our container.
One explained, using pen and paper to draw images that:
- We’d have to get the container trucked here – costs $200 (plus additional to return the container to BNCT).
- Their work would cost $310
- There would be a guarantee fee of $500
You don’t need to speak a lot of words to make it clear this was too much money. He totally understood. Coen, also good at drawing, explained that we wanted one of them to come with us to BNCT to inspect the container and car on the spot. This he understood and started discussing with his co-workers.
We were motioned to sit down on the sofa and were offered a cup of water. God knows what all went on between them and I was grateful to have brought my e-book, expecting to sit here all day. Not so.
Suddenly things started moving:
- Somewhere around 11 am Coen had to sign papers, no idea for what. They asked for the Delivery Order, which we had not received from CMA-CGM yet, so the customs guy called CMA and organized that among themselves.
- They needed to see the insurance, of which we didn’t have a print-out yet. The customs guy called Jin in Seoul and they organized that via him.
- They asked for the international driver’s license and thankfully we had that with us.
- Coen had to follow one officer to go to the ATM upstairs and withdraw money.However, the ATM didn’t work. The officer paid for Coen – paying back would be organized later. We had to pay 180,000 Won which is Customs guarantee fee (which varies per engine displacement (cc)). He gave us a sticker that we’ll have to keep visible on the car, as well as the Temporary Import Document.
- For some reason we no longer had to pay the $500 guarantee fee (which would have been refundable so we wouldn’t have made an issue of it).
And, just as suddenly, it was time to go, two of them motioned.
Where to? we asked.
To the BNCT (20-minute drive via highway).
But first there were a few steps to be made:
- Blunder of the century: we had left the car keys in the apartment! Fortunately this was a ten-minute drive.
- Drive to the Citybank downtown, of which we knew the ATM worked for our Cirrus debit card.
- Buy kimbaps (kind of sushi) as it was past lunchtime.
7. We drove to BNCT (Busan New Container Terminal)
586, Sinhangnam-ro, (Seongbuk-dong),Gangseo-gu, Busan
Gps Waypoint: 35.064121, 128.818721
We were not allowed to enter the terminal, the officers only learned there. We needed a pass from the BPA, the Busan Port Authorities. Brilliant. Also we needed to pay a fee – terminal handling charges: 84,000 won (about 70 US dollar), which we paid cash on the spot (officially you can’t do this but one of the employees, Yoeng, paid it electronically and we paid her back).
But, the officers could enter the terminal and asked for our keys. Had we had a normal car, easy to drive out, the officer would have driven out the car for us and that had been that. However, as you may know, that isn’t that simple with our Land Cruiser (tires need to be deflated, it takes a lot of maneuvering as there is barely a millimeter of space between the roof-rack and door, among other things).
The customs officers took the key of the lock we had put on the container, opened it without us being present, and took a photo. This being South Korea we were okay with that. From their part they were very lenient as we did not want to give them the car keys to check inside (problem with locks, among other things) and they agreed with that, accepting our word on everything being personal belongings and that we had nothing to declare.
8. Back downtown in search of BPA. Problem: our customs officers now learned that there are 2 BPAs nowadays, and nobody knew this until we had been sent from the Ferries Terminal to a building downtown who told us the BPA for BNCT is in a new building, in fact, a mere four kms away from BNCT! There was no time left for that today.
Conclusion of today: We got rid of the trucking issue, and the customs department felt for us and didn’t charge us the $310. Obviously we sincerely thanked the officers for being so kind and helpful. Had we known about the port passes, we would have had our car out the same day!
9. Tuesday, April 5. On our own we returned to Busan New Port, where we first went to the BPA (Busan Port Authorities) where we quickly got a stamp that authorized us to enter the port.
Busan New Port Office
Busan New Port. 1501, Seongbuk-dong, Gangseo-gu Busan,(48940)
Phone: +82-51-972-6348/6394, FAX : +82-51-972-6397
Gps Waypoint: 35.085806, 128.830628
We walked/hitchhiked to the BNCT where our contact person from yesterday, Yoeng, who speaks English fluently, gave us the safety jackets and went with us into the terminal. The container stood ready, two guys organized a ramp, and thus forklift.
The opening of the container and retrieving the car was a piece of cake. The BNCT people helpful where needed. We could use the forklift to get the tent back onto the roof rack, we took some pictures, and drove the car outside with Yoeng guiding us where to go. She then invited us to lunch before we got back to the parking lot.
Here we had the time and place to bolt all other stuff back onto the roof. As we were working on that we got visitors, a whole group of BNCT employees who returned from lunch, including the CEO John Elliot, and Peter Slootweg, the commercial director who happens to be Dutch! Somehow this felt like a fitting end to the whole shipping business.
Resume of shipping costs to ship a car in a 20-foot container from Suriname to Korea (Feb/March 2016)
On the Surinamese side: Total SRD 1673 (about US $375)
- SRD 275 to expediteur
- SRD 53 export tax
- SRD 575 local costs
- We spent about SRD 100 on lashing materials
- We paid SRD 605 to one department, which turned out to be unnecessary
On the Surinamese side: US $1,182 for the shipping
On the Korean Side: Total Won 453,000 (about US $390)
- 189,000 Won to CMA-CGM in Seoul, local charges.
- 180,000 Won to Vehicle Clearance Office in Busan, for the sticker.
- 84,000 Won to BNCT, terminal handling charges.
Total costs: $375 + $1,182 + $390 = $1,947
Summary of the procedure on the receiving end
- Visit the shipping agency on your arrival to hand over your Bill of Lading.
- Ask Wendy Choi to organize insurance for you.
- Option A: find a broker
- He will pay the shipping agency’s local charges.
- He will get the electronic Delivery Order (eD/O) from the shipping agency.
- He will organize the trucking of the container from BNCT to the Vehicle Clearance Office in Busan
- He will organize all paperwork (Temporary Import Document and sticker) with the Vehicle Clearance Office in Busan.
- He will bill you accordingly.
- Option B: do it yourself
- Pay the shipping agency’s local charges.
- Give the shipping agency your own name as the consignee, with you passport number added to it so they can produce the eD/O.
- Go to the Vehicle Clearance Office and:
- Bring your international driver’s license.
- Discuss whether they get the container trucked from BNCT to their office or that they join you to the BNCT to do the container/vehicle inspection.
- Pay the charges for the Temporary Import Document and sticker, and possibly fees for their work.
- If not trucking the container from the port to the Vehicle Clearance Office:
- Obtain a port pass at the Busan Port Authorities at Busan New Port.
- Go to BNCT with a customs officer for inspection.
- Free your car from bondage and explore this beautiful country!
Good luck with it all. We found the people all very helpful and kind. The procedure mostly demanded patience because everything was new to everybody. Let us know if you have any questions.
Edited to add, June 3, 2016: about 2 weeks after our arrival, Ivan and Hyein arrived in Korea with their car in a container as well. They had to get it trucked from the Container Terminal to the Ferry Terminal, which went easy and wasn’t that expensive. Read their full write-up here.