SHIPPING from EUROPE to CANADA (Rotterdam to Montreal)

We used the shipping company SCL in Rotterdam. They specialize in shipping cars. We had to deliver the car two days before in Rotterdam. We handed over the keys and they guys handles the loading of the car into the container (they sent us photos). In total the car was 11 days underways on the vessel.  In Montreal we used an agent recommended by SCL to get Frida out of the port.


SHIPPING from PANAMA to COLOMBIA (Colon to Cartagena)

Apologies for not writing down the full story of how to manage this special shipment/border crossing. We used a lot the web site for information. We used Evergreen as transporter and Everlogistics gave us the required support. The vessel was 10 days delayed arriving in Cartagena for a one day journey from Colon! The procedure in Panama is not very complicated (Marco speaks fluent Spanish). It is much more tricky upon arrival in Colombia but we still managed to get the car out in one (long) day without using an agent.


SHIPPING from CHILE to JAPAN (Valparaiso to Tokyo)

We shipped our car by container from Valparaiso in Chile to Tokyo in Japan through the same company that we used to ship from Europe to Canada. It is called SCL, from Rotterdam. They arranged the container through Panalpina. We paid around 3.500 USD for the freight and 1.800 USD for the expenses in Japan.

We met with Panalpina representatives in Santiago, Chile, to whom we gave the original of our Carnet de Passage and the copies of our passports. They fixed us an appointment some days later in order to load the car into the container, an operation that took place in the Panalpina hub in Santiago. The loaded container was transported by truck to Valparaiso port from where it was loaded into the vessel after custom inspection. We were not requested to be there for the custom inspection but this could happen. The container arrived in Tokyo around 30 days later, on schedule.

Important: the shipping line could ask you to load the car into the container with the cables of the battery disconnected and with the fuel tank almost empty. If you will not do it, they might ask you to sign a paper in which they are asking to take responsibility in case of accidents.

The process to export the car from Chile has been managed by Panalpina. The same day we loaded the car into the container, they gave us back the Carnet the Passage properly stamped by customs for export. One week later, Panalpina sent us by email an electronic copy of the Bill of Lading.


SHIPPING  from JAPAN to RUSSIA (Wakkanai, Hokkaido Island to Korsakov, Sakhalin Island)

We took a ferry from Japan to Russia with the Japanese company, Heart Land Ferry (HLF). The ferry runs from Wakkanai on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido to Korsakov on Sakhalin Island in Russia. The ferry takes about 6 hours to arrive in Korsakov. Check for the schedule etc.

We paid 25,000 Yen per person and 34,000 Yen for the car, in total 84,000 Yen. In addition we paid 5,000 Yen + 10,400 Russian Rubles to Nippon Express for customs assistance and Russian car insurance, see below.

Customs formalities took place in Wakkanai (Japan) and then on the ferry at the pier in Korsakov (Shakhalin – Russia). Note that HLF is using Nippon Express as customs agent. It is mandatory to pay Nippon Express for the customs assistance, both in Wakkanai and upon arrival in Korsakov. These are the rules. You cannot take the ferry without accepting these fees.

In order to reserve space on the ferry we contacted Mr. Tomoyuki Tamashima ( who asked us to send him scanned copies of a series of documents:

1. Passports
2. Russian visas (we got 3 months business visas through the Russian Embassy in Tokyo)
3. Registration certificates of the car (issued by Italian Automobile Federation)
4. International driving permits
5. Registration document (issued by Japanese Automobile Federation)
6. Carnet de Passage
7. The Japanese exportation voucher of the carnet
8. Filled out questionnaires for formal booking confirmation (provided by Mr. Tamashima)
9. Filled out document for temporary import and export for motor vehicle (provided by Mr. Tamashima)

In Wakkanai, the customs and immigration procedures went very smooth and took around 1 hour. Our customs agent from Nippon Express gave us an appointment 2 hours before departure in front of the HLF terminal. A Japanese customs representative quickly checked the plate and frame numbers against the car documents, had a rough look inside the vehicle and stamped our Carnet de Passage for exit. The Nippon Express agent was always with us in order to help. For Japanese customs formalities we had to pay to Nippon Express 5,000 Yen.

While HLF drove our car onto the ferry, we passed through immigration and then we boarded. We only had the keys of our car back after Russian customs formalities were finished in Korsakov. But no worries, everything is very safe and organized and the key is always with a Japanese HLF employee.

When we arrived in Korsakov, Russian customs agents boarded the ferry. They asked us the passport of the vehicle owner and the car documents. After a quick check they stamped the passport and filled up a Temporary Importation Act, which we had to sign. This document allows you to drive in Russia and to go out again from the country with the car.

From the ferry we were transported by bus to the immigration office where we had the entry stamp on our passports. An agent from Nippon Express met us just after the immigration counter. We paid her 7000 Rubles for the mandatory Russian car insurance and 3500 Rubles for customs fees. You have to have the Rubles ready when you arrive in Russia, i.e. get the rubles at a bank in Wakkanai, Japan.

The Russian car insurance, which is issued upon arrival to Russia is mandatory, even if you have another insurance, which supposedly covers Russia. The insurance was issued while we waited for immigration, all arranged by Nippon Express in advance.

Finally, the vehicle owner was transported back to the ferry where our car was ready (but locked) on the pier. An HLF employee gave us the keys of the car and a green paper. We drove from the pier to the exit gate of the port where a Russian lady asked for the green paper. Then she opened the gate and we were officially in Russia!

The entire operation in Korsakov took us around 2 hours and nobody checked what we were transporting! A very smooth border crossing thanks to Nippon Express.


There is another ferry option between Japan and Russia. The South Korean company DBS Cruise Ferry runs a ferry from Sakaiminato in Japan, over Donghae in South Korea to Vladivostok in Russia. Check



An old train ferry runs daily to Vanino on the Russian mainland from Kholmsk on Sakhalin Island. It is quite straightforward to take the ferry even if it might be a bit confusing.

We showed up the day before to buy the ticket at the Daltransservis office in Kholmsk on Katernaya Ulitsa, a small side street to the main Sovietskaya Ulitsa. At the end of Katernaya Ulitsa there is also the entry to the port where you have to enter to board ferry. The building of the ticket office (on the right hand side facing the port) has a blue sign outside. Enter the building, walk up the stairs and turn left to the counter of Daltransservis. The ladies are speaking very little English so a bit of Russian will help, but they were quite helpful so everything should work out ok eventually, even if you speak no Russian.

We bought the tickets for the ferry leaving the next day, total cost 17,388 Russian Rubles for two people and the car, including a very basic cabin and a very Russian dinner. We had to pass by a small office at the entrance to the port (just 20 m down the road) to have our passports registered and to pay the port fees (can’t remember the amount). The ladies did not know the departure time of the ferry so they asked us to phone them in the evening to get an update. Since we did not have a mobile phone, we agreed with them that we would instead show up at the office again at 9 am the next morning.

The next morning the ladies told us to be there at the entrance to the port (just outside the Daltransservice office) at 13.30 and then departure would be at 15.30. We were there at 13.00 and then we waited and waited and waited but nothing happened. But as with any kind of transport in Russia, don’t worry, things will happen in due time and somebody will make sure that you are in the right place at the right time because you have a ticket! Eventually we found out that the train carriages bound for the ferry were not ready and they had to board first. And finally, a couple of hours late, we boarded the ferry together with around 10 other cars and 10 trucks.

The ferry, Sakhalin-9, was quite large with a nice open deck upstairs and a small cafe. There were cabins upstairs and downstairs. Unfortunately we were downstairs. It was not a nice cabin! The attendant lady will hand out bed sheets but it is a good idea to bring something, like a light sleeping bag, to be a bit more isolated from the nasty mattress. The cabins upstairs seemed nicer so if your Russian is ok you can try to book one of those.

According to schedule it takes 18 hours to cross from Kholmsk to Vanino but we managed it in 16 hours. Departure from Kholmsk was at 18.00 and arrival in Vanino around 10 in the morning the next day. In Vanino, everybody has to reverse out from the ferry with the cars and trucks, a bit messy since nobody directs who is going when or where. And then very importantly, you have to go to a nearby building, up the stairs to a small window in the wall and pick up a green paper, which will allow you to leave the port! Watch where the other drivers are going and bring your ferry ticket. The road out winds a bit through the port area, then you arrive to a gate, hand over your green paper and you are free to go!



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