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Old 12 Nov 2011
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Europe - USA - Horror shipping company or bad luck?

We just went through a terrible experience with one shipping company and I've sent this post to shipping database, but I wanted to ask you also, did anyone of you had this kind of experience or is that our luck?

In short:
- almost shipped to wrong destination
- agent forgot to send us the most basic papers or forgot about us
- motorcycle was dropped (fortunately only scratches and bruises)
- quote was different than invoice by cca 100-150$
- messed up our CPD (Carnet de passage)
- shipment was late 9 days

Long story:
Me and my girlfriend Irena are on an around the world trip starting from Croatia heading down North America to South America, Australia, Asia and back to Europe, Irena on Moto Guzzi Breva and me on Yamaha FZ6 Fazer. First big thing we had to do is ship our bikes to New York, USA so we got the best quote from Willenius Wilhelmsen and we decided to go with them. After we confirmed that we'll go with WW we only needed to bring our bikes, money and CPD to Bremerhaven, Germany (almost 1000 miles from Zagreb). CPD was requested even though the agent couldn't explain us why does he need it since everybody else told us that we don't need CPD for Germany or USA since we the bikes are registered in Croatia.

When we got to the agent, the sum on German side went up to 1450€, but when I asked him over the phone he said it will be around 600€ per each bike, and in the quote it said:
170 € for THC, 460$ freight, BAF 55% per bike and 30$ per B/L -> well this looks great for someone who didn't have any clue what does that mean, so that's why I called to check in the end how much do we have to pay. If I did business like that to my customers, throwing tons of acronyms in different currencies I would be out of business very soon. And of course, they said that they cannot know what are the costs on receiving side even though later I got an invoice from the same company!? What is your phone dead, or don't you know how to tell me that I could made a call to them and asked!? But ok, all this I would think would be quite normal to expect when we try to cross Panama to Columbia, but Germany to USA!?

Ok, we can come across that they simply aren't interested in small fishes like we are, but than why didn't they redirected me to someone else who wants our money?

They don't accept any credit cards, only cash.

They took our CPD and said that they will send it back to us in Zagreb as soon as the motorcycles come on board their ship and they didn't know why they need CPD but they were sure that the German customs will need it. As we were going back to Zagreb for next two weeks and than we should be on a plane to New York to wait our bikes, they said that they will send the CPD by mail and took additional 50€ for express mail. We thought, that will be great because we will still be in Zagreb to receive it. But than, it came too late, it took them more than two weeks to send it and they had some excuses that it was their national holiday one day so they didn't work on that day. Even if we took that excuse as ok, that is one more thing that they, as an agent that we paid, should know. Thanks to my sister, she sent us the CPD to us in New York so we got it before we had to pick up our bikes.

One more thing with CPD, they stamped only our exit from Germany so it looks that we never entered it. I just hope that that isn't a problem when we try to pick up our 4000$ when we get back to Croatia.

When we were leaving our bikes at the terminal we saw that it said Halifax instead of New York on the papers so they had to change that, but luckly for us that we saw that, who knows where would our bikes be right now...

On the receiving side, when we got near the estimated day of arrival, our agent said that we will receive a notice of arrival. But the day came and we didn't receive any info about our shipment. Until then we had only our invoice and not a single piece of information more even though I called and emailed our agent a few times asking is he sure that we'll receive something and the answer was "of course, why wouldn't you". Well, after a few hours on the phone trying to explain USA agents (we had to find the number by our selves, because the German agents didn't want to give it to us) that we don't have our Bill of lading number, they said that we should call our German agents, and after some time we bagged them to check if they did everything, and look... they forgot to send us our Bill of Lading!!! Now they sent it and we called again USA agents, and they sent us our notice of arrival.

One interesting thing that they didn't mention before: the shipment was late, it came on Thursday evening and our motorcycles for some reason had to go through AQI and CET customs check. Again, they come up with some acronyms for which we had to google around to see what they are. AQI isn't a problem, it's an department of agriculture check to see if there is any foreign soil or similar on our bikes and they do it every working day. The CET check is different, US customs in port Newark (actually our bikes weren't shipped to New York - thing that we learnt later) does this check ONLY ON THURSDAYS! So we had to wait a whole week for that, and New York City isn't a cheap place to stay as a tourist, but thanks to CouchSurfing community we had some really excellent people who helpled us.

So the day that we can pick our bikes came. We got all the paperwork ready in customs and headed to the shipping terminal to pick up our bikes. When we got there we finally paid the last invoice to WW. Why they didn't know what will the amount be, just doesn't make any sense, it's the same company... When I got to the bike, I saw the scratches, but Irena's bike was fine. As it wasn't that bad, I just wanted to get away from there, but I really doubt that they would pay me anything for the damage.

PS If anyone is interested how we went through US customs, PM me because I don't want to talk about that publicly.
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Old 14 Nov 2011
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I would e-mail WW head office asap, that sort of service is just not acceptable by an agent for one of the worlds major shpping companies. That person really needs tuning. Ride safe.
Mike is riding the twisty road in the sky
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Old 14 Nov 2011
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This sounds like a perfectly normal situation to me. Shipping companies are primarily there to service their corporate customers who regularly make shipments of the same items from one port to another.

They are simply not accustomed to having individuals shipping one-off items, and servicing customers who are not familiar with the usual acronyms and procedures applicable to international shipping.

Yes, occasionally we may come across an individual who is interested in our individual independent travel and goes out of their way to make the process easier for us, but to my mind this is the exception rather than the rule and we should not rely on / expect it. In addition, arrival dates and port clearance times can vary enormously due to a wide range range of circumstances, so I always factor in at least +/- 2 weeks around the scheduled dates.

In any case, good to hear your bikes have arrived and I trust the rest of your journey will be without too much difficulty. I also trust that as you travel further your attitude will change to "expect the worst, and smile when it is better" as this will be key to arriving home with pleasant memories rather than a litany of tales of troublesome experiences.
Garry from Oz - powered by Burgman
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Old 14 Nov 2011
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I had nightmares getting my Landcruiser shipped out of Calcutta and then into Russia in very similar ways to the OP. 'Glad' is the wrong word, but am certainly relieved to know it's not just me these things happen to.

Put it behind you as best you can.


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Old 15 Nov 2011
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We used Willenius Wilhelmsen to ship our bikes from Southampton (UK) to Baltimore (I believe that this is the same service which begins at Bremerhaven). This was in April of this year and cost us £575 - we used UK agent HC Travel to book the boat.

Absolutely no problems at all - bikes arrived damage free. I know of other who have also used this shipping company without problem so you may have just been unlucky (or, conversely, we might njust be the lucky ones !)

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Old 20 Jan 2012
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I am going to ship my bike with WW from Tacoma (USA) to Bremerhaven (Germany).
Can people who have experience tell me what documents I need on the US side and also on the German Port?
Also, how much do they charge at the German port? What are the hidden charges?
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