• Saturday , 17 February 2018
How to ship your motorcycle as cargo by sea

How to ship your motorcycle as cargo by sea

We finished the Asian leg of our ‘around the world’ journey in Indonesia and chose to use sea freight to send the motorcycles to Canada, where we will ride the final leg of our trip. We first researched airfreight but found that the costs were prohibitively expensive. Although per kilo charge for airfreight was actually reasonable on Cathay Pacific at $3.95 per kilo (our per kilo between Turkey and Nepal was $4.50) the additional fees for dangerous goods, customs clearing, crate, airport fees, etc were adding up to about $1,800. We were looking at a total cost of about $5,200 to send two motorcycles by air from Indonesia to Canada – too expensive! Since we were already planning an extended stay in Bali there wasn’t a good reason to avoid sea freight, we had the time. Airfreight is good because you know exactly what day your crate will arrive and generally it is easier to retrieve your crate from an airport rather than a seaport. In Canada we weren’t concerned about high levels of corruption, hidden fees, and delays that can be expected in many sea ports around the world so we were comfortable shipping to Vancouver by sea.

Our total for sea freight from Jakarta to Vancouver came to $2,232.12, which is less than half of the quoted airfreight costs.

The first steps of shipping by sea are the same as shipping by air – reach out to shipping companies and request quotes for your approximate dates of travel and your choice of ports. We actually requested quotes for more than one point of departure from Indonesia (Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali) and the costs were very similar. In the end, we left from Jakarta.

Step one. Find a shipping agent. We sent numerous requests for quotes but actually only received one viable/affordable quote in return; many agents in Jakarta didn’t want the hassle of dealing with motorcycles. We had a good experience with our agent in Turkey and contacted them to learn if they worked with an agent in Indonesia. They did and sent us a recommendation. After our research we learned that there are many more shipping agents in Bali who are accustomed to shipping personal goods and working with foreigners. From what we learned Bali is probably the best place to ship from, but due to our circumstances we needed to ship from Jakarta (we have provided our ‘request for quote’ email at the end of this report).

What are all the costs that might go into the final fee? And, what do you want to make sure you see on the quotes?
• DGR (dangerous goods certification) fee and certification: This is not a required component for sea freight as it is for airfreight so you will not need this.
• Bill of lading; port and handling charges; carnet du passage (CDP) processing fees; fuel surcharge; security surcharge; customs clearance; storage fees; customs brokerage; registration; transportation from crate location to shipping location; value-added tax.
• Crate: If you make your own crate you must make sure that you have the specified type of wood that is hard to purchase on your own. This is fumigated wood and is stamped as such. Our crate was built with standard wood and then was fumigated at the port and we were provided with proof of fumigation.
• Price per cubic meter: This is the most important piece of the equation. Sea freight is charged by cubic meter rather than volumetric weight as in airfreight.

Cubic volume vs. volumetric weight – what is this?
In sea freight you are charged by cubic volume rather than volumetric or actual weight. In airfreight you are charged based on whichever is higher, the actual weight or the volumetric weight. Volumetric weight is calculated by height x width x length in centimeters divided by 6,000. Cubic volume is calculated by height x width x length in meters. For sea freight weight does not matter; you will be charged by the cubic meter only.

Our final external crate dimensions with both bikes (two Suzuki DR 650s) and all our gear in one crate: 130cm (height) x 150cm (width) x 245cm (length). To measure cubic meter the formula is: (130/100) x (150/100) x (245/100) = 4.77 cubic meters. If this crate were being shipped by air that equals 796 kilos using the volumetric formula. The actual weight was estimated at 550 kilos though it was never actually weighed. We only took off the windscreens, mirrors, and one hand guard protector. We did remove the metal side panniers and packed them next to the wheels. We removed the soft side bags and packed them elsewhere in the crate.

We packed all our luggage and gear in the crate with the motorcycles including helmets, riding gear, etc. On our personal flight to Canada we only packed some clothes, all electronics, and any other items we deemed too valuable to be out of our direct control.

Step 2. Preparing your motorcycle for shipping
We arrived at our crating location in Jakarta with some fuel still in the tanks. Our shipping agent told us that per the instructions of the shipping company (NYK Line) we were required to remove all fuel and oil. We were later instructed to remove the batteries; not just disconnect them. The batteries were not allowed to travel in the crate. This is not always the case. Our friends who shipped at a similar time with a different company were allowed to leave the batteries in the bikes as long as they were disconnected. We arranged with our agent to have containers available at crating to put oil and fuel into.

It is logical that they would want all liquids out of the motorcycles because the crate was to be packed into a container along with other crates and any leakage or issue with our crate could cause problems with other people’s goods. We were frustrated that we had to dispose of our batteries but in this case we realized that the batteries were over three years old, near the end of the useful life (we had worked them hard) so needing to purchase new batteries in Canada was ok with us. We actually ordered new batteries in Canada online so they would be waiting for us when we arrived in Vancouver.

Making the bikes small for shipping in one crate was important in keeping our costs as low as possible. By shipping in one crate we reduced our costs (two crates would double all fees). Our friends were not allowed to ship their two bikes in one crate due to weight (that is what they were told) but this was not a concern with our shipper.

Mike took the following items off the bikes: windscreens; luggage systems (hard and soft), and mirrors. Our goal was to keep our crate below 5 cubic meters and we did not need to unbolt the handlebars or remove the front wheels to be under 5 cubic meters. If we were going by air we would have unbolted the handlebars so they lie flat as well as remove the front wheels. Our cubic meter charge was only US$85 per cubic meter so we didn’t work very hard to make our crate as small as possible which saved us time and effort on both ends.

Starting the crate build in Jakarta.

All bubble wrapped. Our crew of packers.

It looks like a real crate now.

Final costs of sea freight

Our final bill broke down as follows (in US$):

Fees paid in Indonesia
*Ocean freight per cubic meter ($85 * 4.3): 365.50
*Bill of lading fee (BL): 25.00
*AAMA per document: 30.00
*VAT at 1% on the ocean freight, BL, and AAMA: 4.21
*Handling and stuffing per cubic meter ($35 * 4.7): 164.50
*EDI: $15.00
*Packing fee per cubic meter ($50 * 4.7): 235.00
*Fumigation and ISPM by crate: 55.00
*Fumigation and ISPM per cubic meter after first three ($5 * 1.7): 8.50
*Custom clearance per shipment (charged by shipment rather than per carnet): 150.00
*ISPM: 5.00
*Wooden pallet: 85.00
*Trucking and forklift: 300.00
*Telex release: 35.00
*Repacking goods: 35.00
*Note that the cubic meter is different for the ocean freight. That is because the freight company mis-measured and our local agent did not correct them. The 4.7 is the correct size that we measured.

Fees paid in Canada
*OCF handling D/O fee for co-loader: 32.00
*OCF handling D/O fee for direct: 115.00
*OCF handling D/O fee for personal effects: 135.00
*Warehouse fees (Vancouver port CAD1.3 per 100kgs with cubic meter at 250kg, minimum fee of CAD 40): 32.22
*Warehouse fees (Storage CAD1.75 per 100kgs per day for first 14 days, minimum CAD15 per day): zero (waived)
*Warehouse fee for customs inspection: 32.22
*Warehouse fee to dispose of our crate and packing material: 16.11
*Canada agent fee (US$100 per carnet): 100.00 – we negotiated this down because technically a carnet is not required for currently registered US vehicles.
*Canada agent personal effects fee: 150.00

Additional costs included:
*Tips we paid to our Indonesia agent and packers: 48.86
*Two flights for ourselves from Bali to Bangkok and Bangkok to Vancouver (international flights were much less expensive from Bangkok than either Bali or Jakarta). We did have to change our flights (Bali to Bangkok) from those originally purchased so incurred additional fees: 1,956.39
*Luggage purchased to carry our stuff on multiple flights (our market bags just weren’t holding up): 92.33
*Hotel costs: 0
*Misc (photocopies, etc): 0

Summary of costs
*Sea freight in Indonesia: $1,512.71 but the actual was $1,535.04 because the price was quoted in dollars but we had to pay in local currency at a specified exchange rate
*Sea freight fees in Canada: $648.22
*Flights and misc: $2,048.92
Total Cost: $4,281.04

A note on potential accommodation costs when shipping by sea. Sea freight takes time and has unpredictable timetables. We spent three weeks in Jakarta preparing the bikes for shipment (about a week was spent cleaning them so they would pass Canadian customs inspection and another two weeks for crating and paperwork). The carnets would not be stamped out of Indonesia until the crate was actually loaded onto the ship. Once we had our paperwork/carnets completed and the bikes were in possession of the shipping company we spent our waiting time in Bali where we stayed in a hostel for a week and then rented a house for an additional four weeks (rent for the house was $300 for the month). Luckily for us we stayed with friends in Jakarta (so no hotel costs while arranging shipping) and with our cousin in Vancouver (so no hotel costs while waiting to retrieve the bikes). This reduced our out of pocket expenses considerably. If you ship by sea be sure to take into account the waiting time and where you will spend that time. Some port cities can be expensive. Our ship was delayed by one week. We anticipated at least a week of delay on the posted shipping time so we spent an extra week in Bali and scheduled our flight so we arrived a week after our crate was scheduled to arrive in Vancouver. As it worked out we arrived in Vancouver one day before the ship arrived, we had a lucky guess.

Our experience
We used PT Combi Logistics Indonesia (Jl. Petojo VIJ-I No. 36, Jakarta 10150, +62.21.3805560, chris@combilogistics.co.id, www.combilogistics.co.id) to ship our bikes and they were excellent. They were with us every step of the way, communication was clear and questions were answered quickly, they didn’t let any detail slide, and everything went smoothly. Based on friends that shipped motorcycles with other agents in Indonesia our costs were very similar or slightly less.

Mike and our agent Chris at Combi Logistics. She is salt of the earth and was great to work with.

It was required that we have a Canadian agent to list on our bill of lading and we used the company that Combi Logistics uses in Vancouver, Rutherford Global Logistics. We would not recommend the services of Rutherford Global Logistics.

We shipped our motorcycles during the Ramadan period, which meant that everything moved slowly in Indonesia. Furthermore, we were up against a national holiday (Eid al-Fitr, end of Ramadan) where everything (including customs) closes for more than a week. This constrained the dates that we could ship. Important reminder to investigate holidays in the countries you wish to ship from and to.

In Indonesia, preparing to ship the motorcycles took much longer than our experience with airfreight in Turkey. We had assumed that it would take one day to crate the motorcycles and only a couple of days for customs paperwork, we were wrong. The packing took a week. This was partially due to the fact that they hadn’t crated motorcycles previously. In the end, it was fine and the crate was well-made and as small as possible with more bubble wrap around our bikes than we could ever imagine. Once the crate was packed it was delivered to a warehouse for fumigation and customs processing. Fumigation took a day and customs inspection took a day. But, customs didn’t stamp the carnets until the crate was loaded into the container and onto the ship. This meant we waited another week to get our paperwork back from the agent before we flew to Bali from Jakarta. Mike had also spent many days washing the motorcycles and removing any traces of dirt. We also had to prepare and provide a detailed gear list of everything that was included in the crate besides the motorcycles.

Our ship was delayed by one week in Singapore because it was shifted to a different ship for the Pacific crossing due to extreme delays on our original ship. The sailing from Singapore to Canada was perfectly on schedule (we were shocked). We arrived by air the day before our ship arrived in port. We arrived on a Thursday night and the ship arrived on Friday.

Our agent in Vancouver was not helpful and we would not recommend their services. In fact, we did their job for them and believe that we were overcharged because I forgot to ask about a couple of the fees (I did get the storage fee waived and one carnet fee waived). Steps in Canada:

1. Ship arrives and your crate or container will be taken to a consolidator. Try to get the name and contact information of the consolidator from your originating agent or if need be from the agent in Canada. Ours was TDK Logistics (they were very helpful and we would recommend their services).

2. The consolidator will note in an online system that the crate is available – called an “arrival notice”. This notice is accessible only by an agent. Our arrival notice had not arrived after a few days and our agent (Rutherford) told us to keep waiting. Instead I called TDK and was informed that our crate was there and they were waiting on Rutherford. I asked them to note in the system for the arrival notice, which they did immediately and then I called Rutherford and told them to access the notice and email it to me.

3. Go to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in downtown Vancouver (GPS 49.271314, -123.100892 or 1611 Main Street #412, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W5) and bring your printed out arrival notice and your passport. Because we are US citizens with US-registered vehicles we did not have to fill out “form 1” and were only required to fill out a soil inspection request. The cost for the soil inspection is CAD45 and is payable by credit card. We also provided our bill of lading (they need the container number) and a list of goods packed in the crate (this was not required but I gave it to them). Form 1 would also require information from your vehicle title. Customs then inspects your vehicle. This was completed the next day. We were told that the inspection officers leave every day by 9:30 and return around 3:00 so if you were to get your request in before 9am then the inspection could occur on the same day.

4. Once the inspection is complete you will receive an email from the CBSA that says you have paid and passed. Print the documents.

5. Return to the CBSA with your printed paid and passed documents that you received by email. At this time we did have to show our vehicle titles and because we were having a discussion about carnets (we wanted them to fill out our certificate of location) we ended up being stamped into Canada. This is technically not required for US-registered vehicles and if we hadn’t mentioned the carnets they would not have been stamped. The CBSA will give you documents that “release” your vehicle.

6. Drive to your agent – ours was Rutherford (again, not recommended) and pay any fees due. Our list of fees is above and I think we should not have paid all the co-loader fees but in my haste I did not question those even though I am not totally sure what they all are. I think only one would have been required. The agent will then release your vehicle (or, in our case, our crate) in the online system that the consolidator has access to and will give you another printed document.

7. Drive to your consolidator – ours was TDK Logistics (recommended) and provide them with your documents (from CBSA and from the agent). They will check their computer and then release your crate (or container). We paid them a CAD 40 docking fee (we knew in advance about this fee), an additional CAD 40 for the customs inspection (because they must take time and accompany the customs inspectors they charge for this), and we paid them CAD 20 to dispose of our crate and packing material.

8. Drive away!

Getting them unwrapped took some time.

Almost there.

Overall the process in Canada took us almost two weeks because the agent didn’t check in with the consolidator about our crate and there aren’t any custom inspections on weekends or holidays. Our crate arrived on a Friday. We received our arrival notification the next Friday and went to customs that same day. Customs inspected our crate on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) and we retrieved our crate on Wednesday (it was an all day affair).

Request for quote letter
Dear ,

We are looking to sea freight two private motorcycles from PLACE to PLACE and need a turnkey service to complete this task.

It is our hope you can help us arrange the crating, customs clearance, and shipping of our cargo.

We are kindly requesting an estimated shipping quote to sea freight two motorcycles. The line items of the quote should have the following:
• Bill of lading
• Sea freight (charge per cubic meter)
• Additional sea freight freight charges, if applicable
• Handling, forklift and storage fee at port
• Fumigation
• Agent and carrier fees
• Palletizing/crating and ground transport to port
• Export customs formalities

We would like to airfreight any of the dates from DATE to DATE.

Motorcycle specifications as follows:

Bike 1 – TYPE:
• Volumetric weight is estimated at ## kilos
• Maximum crate dimensions: Length (#cm), width (#cm), height (#cm), I will remove front wheel, front fender, windscreen, mirrors, and top box and side panniers to reduce volume. Crate may be as small as #x#x#cm.
• Estimated actual weight of motorcycle including luggage systems and gear, #kg

Repeat bike information or put in bike information for one crate.

NAME and contact information


Additional questions you might ask based on quotes
Is VAT included?
Do you anticipate any other charges?
Will we be able to track our shipment online?
How do you accept payment?
How long are these prices valid?
Can we be involved in the crating process?


An airfreight checklist – we adapted this from another traveler (Hackneys) – this is relevant for sea freight as well

*Get a detailed quote that includes all the line items listed
*Get a schedule that shows which flights the bike is scheduled to fly on
*You might need to provide tie downs for the crate. Use quality tie downs. Protect all painted surfaces and plastic the tie downs contact using layers of cardboard or towels.
*When you tie the bike down, compress the suspension and use four quality tie downs. The crate is going to be tossed around by forklifts; the bike needs to be more secure than when you carry it into your pickup.
*Ensure all items on the bike are securely strapped in place or secured. Our bikes after being tied down were shrink-wrapped that kept all items in place.
*Do not ship any detachable electronics (GPS, iPod, etc.) on the bike.
*Do not ship the keys in or on the bike.
*Do not forget your title and Carnet when you deliver the bike for shipment, they are required.
*Do not forget your keys when you pick up the bike.
*Provide a detailed list of the contents of the crate. Don’t forget things packed in the luggage or the tools.
*Take pictures of all sides of the bike strapped to the pallet before the crate sides and top are attached.
*Take pictures of all sides of the crate once it is assembled.
*Remove or cover any old airway bill stickers or shipment destination stickers.
*Take a picture of the airway bill sticker on the crate and make sure the number is legible.
*Ensure the crate is well marked with “this side up,” “fragile,” “do not stack,” etc.
It helps if the crate can be forked both from the side and lengthways. This allows easy insertion into pickup beds, onto trailers, etc. when you pick it up.
*Don’t count on being able to take the bike out of the crate at the point of entry. It may be a very busy airfreight dock and you may need to get the crate onto your truck or trailer quickly to clear the dock for other shipments. You will need to enlist a friendly motorcycle dealer or other business that has a forklift to remove it. You may need a forklift with long forks if you are removing the crate lengthwise.
*If you are riding the bike away from the receiving dock, make sure you arrange to have a hammer and prybar at the dock in order to take apart the crate.
*Ensure that there is a house airway bill prepared for the shipment (allows the bike to be received by you for customs purposes, this usually requires you to use a freight forwarder/customs broker).
*Get a copy of all invoices, waybills, etc. from the shipper on both ends of the transaction, especially on the foreign end.
*Plan on one full day to pick up the bike at the foreign destination. Most of this time will be spent in clearing customs. If you have a good customs broker, they will save you at least six hours in this process.
*Ensure your shipper has 24/7 online shipment tracking capability.
*If you are picking up the bike and riding it away, don’t forget to bring riding gear and your helmet to the pickup point.
*Keep a close eye on your tools and gear around the shipping and receiving areas. Keep your tools separate from dockworkers and shipping agents. It’s another good reason to tag all of your tools with colored tape.
*Inspect the receiving area closely before you ride away. In the excitement and hustle/bustle of opening the crate and assembling the bike it’s easy to leave tools, parts, gear, etc. behind.
*Make double sure you have your title and Carnet before you ride away from the foreign destination receiving dock.

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