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Old 12 Apr 2002
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Airfreight out of UK - UK Costs and Packing Requirements

This thread arose from seeing PanEuropean's picture of his crated bike in http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/ubb...ML/000130.html and a direct posting to him as to how it works/am i being ripped off:

Your posting and the picture of your bike in 'Flying bike from Europe
to Nairobi' caught my eye.

I'm shipping my bike from London to Cape town in 2 weeks and would be
grateful for your advice.

I have a quote of £2 per kg which i am happy with (& is way less than the £6 full
rate) It will be consolidated by the agent onto the SAA flight.

The uk packing/delivery to airline is a big chunk of the costs. I have been told (by my Cape Town agent)I cannot crate it
myself (it must be done
professionally) but your posting suggests
this isnt the case.

the breakdown of costs in GBP is:

freight ...............................880...51%
uk packing, carriage etc.....478...28%

........................................1736...100 %

The agent is KTM's agent in South Africa. I realise I am paying more
for (hopefully) experienced operators but would like to avoid the uk
packing if it is possible.

Sorry for so much info.


[This message has been edited by Jerome (edited 12 April 2002).]

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Old 12 Apr 2002
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Hmmmm. Sounds odd to me. Who is KTM? Are they an airline, freight forwarder, or motorcycle vendor?

In principle, the airlines don't care who packages the freight, as long as (in the case of Dangerous Goods) the packaging meets IATA specs. Packaging, per se, can be as little as just the aluminium container that the airlines furnish.

Could it be that the packaging fee they quote you also includes filling in all the DGR paperwork, and checking the shipment to ensure it meets IATA packing instruction 900? Even at that, the price is very high. USD 50 is more than enough for someone to fill in all the paperwork for the shipment, walk it through, and label the box accordingly (at the departure end).

AFIK, there is no reason why you should not be able to package the bike yourself. Just make sure the packaging is suitable for being moved around with a forklift, and that it can be opened easily when you drop the package off, so that the person receiving it can visually confirm that there is less than 1 gallon of fuel in the bike, and the battery is disconnected, and there is nothing untoward or undeclared in the crate. (The air carriers are more nervous now post September 2001). You might be asked to deflate the tires, strictly speaking, this is not required for motor vehicle tires, but is a requirement if you are shipping aircraft tires that are mounted on aircraft rims. Sometimes the cargo agents confuse the rules. Once those checks are made and the DGR paperwork is done, you can secure the box/crate/package up with steel bands, if you wish. There are also labelling requirements that need to be met, but it should not cost money to do that - just a few stickers.

The insurance fee, if it is just insurance for the shipment, seems very high to me. If you have existing household insurance, inquire if it would cover the bike in transit. The in-transit (shipping) insurance for my ST1100, valued at USD 12,000, only cost me about USD 30 for a round trip trans Atlantic by air freight.

GBP 2 per kilo is quite competitive. By comparison, over the counter, full list price rates Canada to Europe are about USD 4 per kilo for something the weight of a motorcycle. But does your bike weigh 440 kg? What kind of motorcycle is it? (880 divided by 2?). This sounds odd. Also, be cautious about what else you include in the crate. The airlines probably could not care less, but customs clearance at the other end might be complicated if you have a lot of spares, etc. When I air freight my bike, I just fill the panniers up with clothing, underwear, etc. - stuff that is obviously used personal goods, of no resale value whatsoever, and not in the least a risky object, security hazard, DGR, etc.

Let me know if this is the info you are seeking.


[This message has been edited by PanEuropean (edited 12 April 2002).]
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Old 12 Apr 2002
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Thanks for your reply. It was very helpful.

KTM is the Austrian manufacturuer. My bike's a 640 cc single. http://en.ktm.at/set_index.asp

I do feel very ripped off by the uk forwarder as they want 28% of the
total costs. I'll get another quote from another agent and call the
airline direct.

btw, What does afik stand for?

The benefits of a custom made crate are that i'm going to ship the
panniers with it with my camping gear, clothes etc so it is less
likely to be stolen.

But you raise an
interesting point on the bike spares - cables, bearings etc. They're
bound to charge duty on new spares and tyres. I'll try to make them look secondhand.

For the DGR they want me to drain the fuel, engine oil and disconnect the
battery. When i flew my last bike from Beirut to Milan i didnt have
to drain the oil. I assumed it was an airline rule rather than
different interpretation of one set of rules.

Is there a web site where i can get the DGR requirements? - or may
SAA have their own more stringent regulations?

I'll check my policies to see if my existing ones will cover the
insurance - thanks.

The calculation is;

220 x 100 x 120 / 6000 = 440 x £2 = 880 so the weight, about 180 kg, is
less significant than the volume.

is that correct?

Many thanks,


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Old 12 Apr 2002
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Some answers:

1) AFIK is email shorthand for "as far as I know", sorry about that.

2) There should be no need to drain the oil out of the motorcycle, unless there is some risk of the oil leaking out when the motorcycle is in the normal, upright position. Oil per se is not a dangerous fluid, however, the air carrier would be PO'ed if it leaked and messed up the plane. In any case, the IATA classification "vehicle, flammable liquid powered" presumes that the vehicle has various fluids in it, and the only restrictions given (that I can recall off the top of my head - I don't have the DGR book with me) are the two about less than a gallon of fuel, and the battery disconnected and terminals taped off.

3) Each airline is required to publish any variations they have with the IATA DGR (Dangerous Goods Regulations) in the DGR book itself, in the section dealing with airline and national variations. The whole purpose of having IATA (International Air Transport Association) draw up the DGR - and they are now in their 43rd year of doing it - is to have a common set of rules and interpretations that all carriers and all nations adhere to. Each carrier and each nation has the right to establish variations, but those variations must be published in the back of the book. Typically, the variations don't address minutia such as motorcycles. They tend to be more technical in nature - e.g. airline "X" won't accept radioactive materials, or country "Y" requires bilingual declaration forms filled out. Anyway, look up the UK and ZA, along with the air carrier you will be using, and see if they have any variations published for UN number 3166, which is the classification motorcycles fall into.

4) Regarding the DGR book, every cargo agent, every airline cargo office in the world will have a copy at their office or freight counter, just ask them to allow you to look at it. It's not available on the web. You can buy a copy from IATA for USD 40 but it's pretty dry reading unless you are in the industry. The book is about the size and thickness of a telephone book, the cover of the current edition looks like this:

I'll try to scan the pages that are applicable to motorcycles (UN code, packing instruction, etc.) and post them here.

5) Freight rates vary as much as airfares do - it's very much a supply and demand business. However, transatlantic shipping of a 350 kg Honda ST1100, occupying an entire LD6, only costs USD 1,000. So the total rate you are being quoted for a 180 kg bike with much less cubic volume sounds very high. There is a lot of air freight activity between ZA and Europe. You might get a much better rate if you go through a consolidator, who might ship your crate by overnight truck to another airport (AMS, ZRH, FRA) and then airfreight it out of there on a cargo aircraft. I have used Motorcycle Express, out of New York, USA in the past and have been very happy with them. They specialize in shipping motorcycles all over the world, from any point to any other point. Gail Goodman is the shipping manager.

6) Generally, you should be OK shipping items that are clearly 'personal effects' in your panniers, along with the motorcycle. It would take a pretty thick-headed customs agent to give you a problem with that. They generally treat whatever comes in the panniers the same way they treat whatever comes in your suitcase - if it's personal effects, especially if it is used and not in resalable condition, it's free and clear of all duty and tax. However, don't ever mention the word "camping gear" near an air freight office - that has the same effect as saying "bomb" at the security counter, or "hijack" while on the plane. Camping gear often contains a great amount of undeclared dangerous goods - fuel bottles, matches, combustibles, etc. Most airlines will automatically open and inspect anything that remotely looks like camping gear, because of the large number of incidents that happen each year due to people inadvertently shipping DG's with camping gear. By way of illustration, here's the public poster put out by IATA to remind travelers of the danger of shipping DG's without declaring them - probably looks like your camping gear collection:

7) Respecting the motorcycle spares, it's tough to say what would be the most trouble-free way of shipping them so far as customs are concerned. Maybe carrying them with you in your checked baggage? Maybe including them with the bike toolkit so they look like part of the bike's compliment of equipment? Have you considered contacting the motorcycle manufacturer and inquiring if you could buy these spares once you arrived in ZA? Might be cheaper/easier. Hard to say. The 'most official' way of handling this would be to make up a small manifest of the spares, and declare them as 'spares in transit' - most developed countries would not charge you duty or tax on something like that, on the assumption that you would not be leaving the (new) spares behind in the country.

8) If you are trying to reduce the cubic size of your motorcycle - I presume the measurements you gave were the crate, in centimetres - you could remove the two tires, and pack them laterally beside the motorcycle. This would give you a big reduction in cube, based on the appearance of the motorcycle on the manufacturer's website. Is this picture similar to your bike?

9) It would not be unreasonable for either an airline or a cargo consolidator to charge you a small fee for handling the DG paperwork and inspections. Something in the area of USD $50 would be OK. Be aware that the carrier or their agent cannot, by law, fill in the DGR forms for you - you must do that yourself. But it is simple to do, only a one page form, and they can show you how to do it. There is a two page, 45 item checklist that the carrier or agent accepting the shipment must complete - this is what they would charge a fee for.

Hope this helps,


[This message has been edited by PanEuropean (edited 12 April 2002).]
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Old 13 Apr 2002
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Thanks for a very comprehensive answer.

Summarising status is:

1 Crating Methods

1.1 make a (reusable) crate to put the bike in - £345
1.2 strap it to a (one off) pallet (as in your picture) which gets put on an LD7 used by SAA - £50(http://www.hawaiianair.com/cargo/serv/serv_ld7.asp)

Not a difficult decision but because i'm also shipping my cases I want the security of a sealed crate - so I'll have to pay for it.

The excess baggage quotes for the cases at passenger rates were £5.40 or £8 a kilo

2 Reducing Crate Size

The bike used to look like this:

I'll drop the front wheel off and the handlebars. As you suggest i'll also get them to remove the rear wheel hoping there's room for the two cases.

3 Freight Cost and Volumetric Calculation

I tried http://www.motorcycleexpress.com/express/home.asp before but they don't ship London/SA.

I believe Megafreight consolidate. They have a permanent weekly booking of space to CT which is how they're so competitive at £2/kg.

As I understand it the volume of my proposed crate of L x W x H:

220 x 100 x 120 / 6000 = 440 means i can ship up to 440 kg in that space.

I'm relying on Megafrieght's experience with shipping bikes to CT and JHB. The other UK agents I spoke to hadn't done it before. I'm happy to pay for good service - I'd just rather it was less!

3 Fluids

3.1 Its interesting that some petrol can be left in.
3.2 That's good news on leaving the oil in, especially as I changed it yesterday putting in stainless steel cleanable filters.
3.3 I've had to remove the battery before and nail it to the bottom of the crate. Just disconnecting it is a lot easier.

I'll go back to the agent and try to persuade them.

4 Pannier contents

I have to create an inventory of all the stuff inside, including tent, sleeping bag etc. I'll not take matches, lighter etc in panniers.

Please can you advise on:

4.1 the petrol stove?
- Declare it as DG and tie the empty fuel bottle upside down to the bike or
- Leave it at home

4.2 the camping stuff - tent etc
- take it as passenger luggage or
- list it on my inventory with the bike?

5 Spares

Thanks, I'll create an 'in transit' list.

I called a few CT dealers and they sugessted bringing spare tyres with me. I think it'll be harder to avoid paying duty on these so I'm thinking of taking them as my passenger's 20kg allowance. - any thoughts?

Thanks again for your advice.

Next time I'll try to have more than 6 weeks to organise the trip

[This message has been edited by Jerome (edited 12 April 2002).]

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Old 13 Apr 2002
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Just some thoughts – I may have missed or misunderstood some of your purposes, so forgive me if these are inappropriate:

1.1) That’s one helluva price for a crate, unless you have a cabinet maker constructing it our of rare woods with decorative inlays. However, having said that, make sure your crate can handle loads placed on top of it, because some boxes may be put on top of it when they ‘build’ the LD7 igloo (the ULD – unit load device, also known as the ‘can’) that will be put into the aircraft.

2) If you remove the two wheels, the windshield, and the mirrors, you would have the smallest possible cube. Because you’re paying for cube, the more you can shrink the box, the better.

3) Check and see if it is cheaper to make the smallest possible crate for the bike, without including anything in it, then make separate boxes for your other items. The cost calculation is normally done by taking total dimensional weight (of all pieces in a shipment) then comparing it against total scale weight. In other words, there’s really no advantage to you in having only one box – you could ship 3 for the same price, assuming that the governing pricing factor (weight or cube) is the same.

3 duplicate) If you can easily get all the petrol out, great, get it out. The 1 gallon allowance in the packing instruction is there because it’s a real SOB to get the last gallon of fuel out of an automobile.

4.1) The petrol stove – don’t take any fuel for it or fuel bottles, empty fuel reservoirs, or anything remotely related to fuel within 50 km of the airport. Try to avoid even thinking about the word “camping fuel” when in the airfreight office in case any of the staff can read minds.

5) If it was me shipping the spare tires, I’d first take them to a large tire shop, a place that does work on trucks, buses, etc. and have them “brand” the side of the tires with my name or the bike’s license plate number. This does not affect the integrity of the tire, but it really helps show the customs people that you have no intention of reselling the item in their country. Then I would ship the tires with the motorcycle, in the same crate. The only reason any customs person would want to charge duty on a spare would be because they think you would resell it. If the bike is an off road machine – which is obvious – and spares are not available in the country you are visiting, then it makes a lot of sense to bring your own consumables. That’s all you’re doing. You could also suggest that one set of tires (the one on the bike) is for paved roads and the other set (the spares) are for dirt roads – that makes sense as well.

Too bad you’re leaving so soon – I arrive Southampton May 18th, with my bike.
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