We get quite a few questions from our followers about overseas shipping. How we got our vehicles across the various oceans along our route is actually the most frequently asked question. Unfortunately, we have not been able to identify any easy answers when it comes to shipping vehicles abroad. Basically, overseas shipping of vehicles is a total nightmare and I am glad that we only have to deal with it one more time on this particular expedition.
Some people might tell you that the most important thing to consider when shipping a vehicle overseas is the cost, others might tell you that it is the choice of the shipping company and yet others may tell you that it is the choice of the right forwarding agent. The easy answer… they are all right. However, the overlying problem with the shipping industry is that it is probably the least streamlined industry I have ever come into contact with. As a result everyone has their hand in the pot and everyone has the potential to turn what might seem like a simple task into a complete and total nightmare.
The bad news is, we have yet to really have a positive experience when shipping our vehicles and we have done it three times. Therefore, we are not exactly in a position to recommend any one shipping company or any one forwarding agent, although we are in a position to tell you who to avoid.
Top on the list is Del Ships, a freight forwarding agent operating in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, South Africa. If you are not planning on shipping into and out of South Africa, you have nothing to worry about, but if you are, avoid Del like the plague. Even though you are paying them quite a bit of money to ensure that your shipment goes smoothly, Del completely lacks the capacity and the intelligence to do so and we found out the hard way. Del was responsible for substantial errors to our Bill of Lading, errors that were quickly identified by the corrupt customs officials in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These were simple errors yet were substantial to eventually lead to our trucks being held up in customs for over a month all while racking up additional costs of over $3,000. When confronted with these mistakes even by multiple parties, Del refused to admit any culpability or take any responsibility for the mistakes they made. AVOID Del Ships at all costs… even if you are not shipping a vehicle.
Next on the list, but even bigger up the food chain is Mediterranean Shipping Company or MSC. If you are looking around for a shipping company, chances are you are more than likely to come across MSC as they are one of the biggest shipping companies in the world. MSC should also be treated like a hazard in the road and avoided at all costs. Unfortunately for us, MSC represented the largest, deepest and most damaging pothole on the entire expedition to date. MSC was aware of the issues created by our forwarding agent yet still did not have a problem taking complete advantage of the situation for the sole purpose of making money. In fact, MSC even admitted that the problem with our shipment to Buenos Aires was “a clear case of a problem caused by the forwarding agent who did not complete the documentation correctly,” and therefore was not our fault. Although it was nice to hear that the problems we had to deal with for six frustrating weeks were of no consequence of our own actions, the majority of the additional charges we incurred as a result of these problems were costs charged to us by MSC. MSC knew we were getting screwed, they knew we were a small organization and they knew from the heated discussions in their offices that we were outraged by the situation. MSC alone was in a position to help right a wrong, but instead they decided to take financial advantage of us and kick us in the kidney while we were on the ground during a difficult time.
After further research, this is not an isolated incident regarding shipping vehicles with MSC. Another fellow overlander shipped his Land Rover from South Africa to Australia with MSC in 2004. While the container was on the ground in the Maldives, it was hit by the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami. Although the vehicle was not damaged, the container was and MSC felt it was in their best financial interest to charge this individual for the repairs to and the cleaning of the container. Why that cost should be passed onto the customer after the fact is beyond rational comprehension considering the container is the property of MSC and not the shipper. I guess questionable business ethics and shady customer service is commonplace at MSC and has helped them get to the top quickly. AVOID Mediterranean Shipping Company at all costs for all shipment.
Sorry for the rant, as it is one to some degree admittedly, but I feel a duty to direct people away from companies or organizations that have represented a high degree of difficulty for us on the expedition.