Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Santos: Shipping from hell to the darkest pit of hell

Everybody told us shipping from Brazil was hard, mostly due to corruption, bureaucracy and ill-willing custom officers. But how bad could it really be, to get in overland was so pleasant, non-corrupt and efficient.

I knew the sailing schedule for Eukor´s M/V Morning Champion, which suited well, from Santos in the middle of the October and reaching Durban, South Africa a couple of weeks later. Eukor, partly owned by the very serious and good shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen, responded quickly on emails, quoted fair prices and claimed they could handle the papers.

While in Curitiba I called up Gerson at Eukor, and then things wasn´t easy anymore. We needed a freight forwarder after all to obtain a “loading permit”. It took two days for Eukor to find out this after calling them, and several weeks since I asked them first time by mail.

The freight forwarder recommended by Eukor was full of goodwill, but that was all he was full of. And the goodwill really didn´t stick too deep. However, rescue was at bay and he´s name was Christopher Ulf, a Danish friend of the Madalossis. He was exporting meat and had a trustworthy freight forwarder up in Santos.

Andre, that was running the freight forwarding company with his brother was also full of goodwill, which stuck way deeper than the guy Eukor recommended. We headed up to Santos a rainy day and arrived in the city center.

The first street I walked in the search for a public telephone was full of ran down buildings, housing ran down bars with, of course, ran down customers. With the same frequency as the bars there were ran down hookers standing in ran down staircases and invited you to paradise, if paradise for you meant a roll in the hay with a toothless hooker that could suck a bowling ball through a garden hose. At least it meant we were in the right town, only a major port town can offer this spectacle.

Andre, he´s brother and some friends met us in their office when we finally found out where it was. Andre was straight out about his fee, and that the process was mayhem. I frowned a bit about the price, but seeing later how much work it was to get the stinking red tape in place it was a modest price.

Andre didn´t just take care of the shipping, unlikely all other agents I´ve dealt with (except our customs agent in Masan, Mr. Lee) he helped us find a cheap place to stay, and invited us for a football match, BBQ and beer the next day. It was never any no when it came to practical assistance either.

I´ll leave out the most of the process here. It´s not pleasant to either read or write about. It was pretty much a week of stress, a bureaucracy on par with India but with European prices and broken promises by our not so good friend Gerson in Eukor that raised the price with 66% after the bike was delivered on the terminal, and then making himself unreachable.

The heroes in the story of Santos became Andre and his brother Alexandre, which only did not sort the shipping, but made everything they could to help us out regardless of office hours. (for some practical hints on shipping from Brazil see text below pictures)


Arrival in Santos, gathered at our agent´s office. We knew it was going to be a bad process, but it was worse than expected. The only positive thing I can find is that our agent, Andre, his brother Alexandre and friends were very helpful and serious, and also helped us out with finding places to stay, entertaining us and transporting us

Andre, his brother and friends took us to their weekly soccer gathering. It was mostly an excuse for drinking and bbq’ing, so we caught some interest in football too. Here´s the bartender at the football match pouring the local speciality, which made the soccer great fun

Andre´s big brother, literally, and business partner. Performing a dance to celebrate a refill


Andre was more into bbq than soccer, like most of us

One of the kids, one day he´ll become a great beer drinker and soccer player

Santos were thrown on the beach beneath some mountains, so it was popular to go out from the mountains and to the beach by paragliders

The wall

Skaters with heavy duty skate boards

They were quite good, and jump around like kangaroos

Another skater

Poor man on scooter

Election time, so every corner in Brazil is polluted with pictures of corrupt people. Most likely, most of the posters should rather been wanted posters

Old classic Mercedes. Few diesels make this nice smoke

Containers, what more to say

One of the buildings in the coffee trading area, Santos could offer everything from beautiful architecture to run down favellas

The entrance to the coffee trading building

It was also a popular spot for wedding pictures, here´s some new weds arriving in a classic car

The beach in Santos by night

Andre poses on the bikes before we deliver it on the terminal, a process that took us about 4 hours due to a very developed bureaucracy

Celebrating delivery of the bike with mussels with rice in a small fishing village

Like you find kids playing cricket everywhere in Pakistan, you find kids playing soccer on every corner and beach in brazil

One of the container harbors in Santos

A lot of flour get exported from Santos, brazil has become one of the big exporters of grains in the world

Train on the harbor

At last beet together with Andre and his brother before leaving Santos

***Some practical information on shipping from Brazil***
First and foremost: I do NOT recommend to ship anything from Brazil. Argentina is said to be way easier, but it´s hard to find a ro-ro ship from Buenos Aires.
Second: If you do attempt to ship from Brazil, I strongly recommend to:

1. First get in touch with Andre and Alexandre, running Sansouth Shipping in Santos ( I got nothing negative to say about these boys, they treat a one off customer equally to a big customer and help you out with practical things while you´re in town. It´s very rare to find a freight forwarder as good as Andre in terms of price/service/honesty

2. Stay away from the shipping company Eukor and Mr. Gerson Furlaneto. He was easy to get in touch with all the way till you went down to business. After delivering the bike on the terminal with no chance to get it back he also raised the price by 66% and then disappeared.

3. Be aware of terminal charges. The ro-ro terminal charge per ten day periods, which means if you stay for one day you still pay for 10 days, if you keep your vehicle there for 11 days, you pay for twenty. Bottom line is that you can save a lot of money by timing it so you deliver it the same day as the ship loads. You´ll also reduce the risk of something going wrong with your bike during loading by driving it yourself.

4. Expect at least a week in advance for finishing the documents. The process includes getting a loading permit, and to get this requires certified copies of all your documents, including all pages of your passport, blank and stamped ones (go figure…), doing the chicken dance naked on the city square and God knows what bizarre things you have to do to get it. It´s here you need a capable guy like Andre to help you out

5. Carry a deep wallet and be mentally prepared to dig deep in it. Really deep, so deep that you tickle the devils horns at the bottom. Just to copy you passport, which is completely bullshit, cost you easily 50 USD. Do not be surprised if the process cost you 1500-2000 dollars, plus the ocean freight.

So, after reading this and you still feel for shipping your bike from Brazil, do contact Andre at He is a very good lad and freight forwarder, based on my experience. He will be able to assist you with both ro-ro and container freight and estimate a realistic cost for you. Based on what I saw he´s cut of the cake was modest compared to the rest of the involved. And better yet; he always kept his word. I do NOT have any financial interest in routing customers to Andre, but he did such a good job opposed to everybody else involved that I really recommend using him.


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