This is our experience/record of crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Uruguay to Belgium via cargo freighter including instructions for leaving Uruguay and entering Belgium via ship. Our traveling party consisted of two people and two motorcycles. For our experience aboard the ship see article (Five weeks on a cargo freighter across the Atlantic Ocean) and for more information about how to book travel on Grimaldi including commonly asked questions see article (Crossing the Atlantic by cargo freighter – how to and common questions).
Border Name: Port of Montevideo, Uruguay and Port of Antwerp, Belgium
Closest major cities: Montevideo, Uruguay and Antwerp, Belgium
Costs: US$483 (visa fees) and US$647.62 (insurance for both bikes for six months)
*Yellow fever vaccination certificate
*Travel medical insurance including medevac
*Grimaldi ticket for passenger and vehicle
*Uruguay temporary vehicle import permit
*European Union Green Card insurance ($323.81 each that was Euro 280 per motorcycle for 6 months)
*Brazil visa ($160 each)
*The Gambia transit visa ($81.50 each)
Note: we keep all originals in individual plastic sleeves. We labeled these sleeves clearly to avoid confusion as to what was what, to keep original documents clean, and to differentiate what is original and what is a copy. All border-crossing officials have respected the sleeve.
Traveling via Grimaldi cargo freighter: The Grimaldi office requires all passengers to carry medical insurance that covers medevac. When making our reservations and securing our tickets we were required to provide (via email): proof of medical insurance, yellow fever vaccination certificates, passports, Brazil visas, and vehicle titles.
We received an email from Grimaldi 24 hours in advance to boarding the ship and were instructed where to go and what time to meet the agent.
We met the Grimaldi shipping agent at Buquebus ferry Port at Port of Montevideo(-34.903283, -56.213203). There is a ferry port building. The agent accompanied us into the main building that has Aduana along with money exchange and other offices.
Step 1 – Uruguay Customs: We went into the main building with the Grimaldi shipping agent who called one of the Aduana customs agents who then met us in front of the Aduana office. We turned in our temporary vehicle import permits and were finished.
Step 2 – Immigration: On arrival at the ship we turned our passports over to the ship’s first mate. It is customary that the captain or designee keeps all passports. We also gave them our yellow fever vaccination certificates and a copy of our Grimaldi ticket. Immigration officers at each port of call come onto the ship and review and stamp all passports. Passengers are not required to meet with the customs officials.
Step 3 – Port of calls immigration: We had port calls in Brazil, Senegal, The Gambia, France, and Germany. As US-citizens we require a Brazilian visa (even if you do not exit the ship) and we had procured these prior to boarding the ship (required by Grimaldi; our tickets would not be issued without copies of our visas). In The Gambia the immigration officer required only the US-citizens on the ship to pay for a transit visa ($81.50 each). We believe this was a scam on the part of the Gambian official as we did not receive a receipt or proper notation in our passports and Grimaldi has never incurred this charge in the past. We were unable to argue the point with either Grimaldi or the customs official. There is no evidence on The Gambia website for any fees associated with a transit visa.
Step 1 – Immigration: After arrival at the Antwerp Port the passengers went by taxi to the immigration office within the port. The Antwerp port is enormous and the immigration office is not signed. You are not allowed to take your vehicle off the ship until you have been processed by immigration therefore you cannot drive there. Grimaldi arranged the port taxi but we were required to pay. The cost was 80 Euros and additional 20 Euros for any waiting time (we were taken to go purchase a SIM card). The immigration officer reviewed and stamped us into the European Union (EU) and we were reminded that although US-citizens do not require a physical visa we are required to follow the rules of the Schengen visa zone that allows ONLY 90-days in a 6-month period for tourists. It is difficult to extend. For more information about Schengen see: http://www.schengenvisainfo.com. The immigration officer stamped an additional paper from the Grimaldi ship that showed we had been stamped into the EU and we provided this to the captain or designee when we returned to the ship. We were then free to leave the ship with our motorcycles.
Step 2 – Customs: Nothing to do. A temporary vehicle import permit is not required for the EU or individual countries. Nor does the vehicle get stamped into your passport. Nothing happens. We drove off the ship, passed the security booth (needed to show our passports), and drove out of the port and into Antwerp.
Step 3 – Insurance: European Union Green Card Insurance is required for all vehicles. It is required to have the original documentation and not a photocopy. Therefore we arranged our insurance while still in South America; we had it mailed to our address in Seattle and a friend hand-delivered it to us in Argentina. We purchased our insurance through Motocamp in Bulgaria (http://motosapiens.org/motocamp/Info). We understand it is less expensive through ADAC in Germany but you must purchase in person with the bikes. Our cost was 560 Euros for two bikes for six months.