June 3rd, 2020
Disclaimer: We wrote this guideline to help fellow travelers in the same situation. We set out the main steps and then describe all the steps again as we experienced them. Obviously, we will not be held accountable should you encounter problems throughout the process but hope this makes the process less arduous for you. Safe travels!
Our Experience Shipping RORO from Brazil to the USA
We are dual Canadian/American citizens which meant we received a 90 day tourist visa for Brazil that we could renew in country once. This tourist visa is linked to your temporary import permit for your vehicle and Customs advised that we did not have to renew this – as long as our tourist visa was renewed, all was good.
Our rig is a 2005 Tiger Provan; it’s 2.9m tall (9′ 6″), 8m long (26’3″) and 2.1m wide (6’11”). It weighs nearly 5 metric tons (11,000 lbs). Accordingly, it’s not going to fit into a container.
We arrived in Brazil for our third and final time in early January 2020 – COVID was only found in China at this point – it wasn’t going to affect us here in South America! By mid-March, as COVID began to ramp up in this country we were in Salvador, Brazil at a safe campground outside the city and were alone (most of our stay) except for the owners in their house but by mid-May, we felt that the borders would still take many, many months to open and the situation here was nowhere near peaking yet. We began to look at shipping options when we came across a fellow overlander’s extremely detailed blog post about this very thing.
Life Remotely: check out their post from 2013 here: http://liferemotely.com/trip-shenanigans/brazil/341-shipping-from-brazil-to-the-usa-roll-on-roll-off
We also reached out to a few Brazilians we’d befriended along the way whom we felt might be in a position to know a shipping agent.
NOTE: For the ports at least in Galveston and Houston, you need a TWIC escort to actually enter the port to pick up your vehicle. You can avoid this cost by applying online to be TWIC approved which takes about ten days. (We found this out too late but it could save you some money.)
Check this link: https://www.tsa.gov/for-industry/twic
Our shipping search resulted in three shipping agents/options from which we received quotes:
- Wallenius Wilhelmsen/NYK – (WW used by Life Remotely) out of Santos RORO
- Ramiro Colsani with B & M Log LLC (speaks English)
- Rua Joao Mello, 35 – Centro
- Itajia, SC Brazil 88302-004
- Tel: +55 47 2103 5518 WhatsApp: +55 47 98823 5884
- Email: email@example.com
- Cargo Line Desp. E Rep. Ltd. – out of Salvador flat rack
- Alberta Lopez (does not speak English – we used Google Translate to communicate)
- Salvador, Brasil
- Tel: 55 71 31830133
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Losada Import in Sao Paulo – out of Santos RORO
- Pablo Losada (speaks English)
- Rua Arquitelo Olavo Redig de Campos, 105
- 24º. Andar – Sala 2419 – Brooklin
- São Paulo – SP – Brasil – 04711-904
- Tel: 55 11 2657 7637
- Email: email@example.com
We were very hopeful with the shipping out of Santos flat rack even though it was more expensive (about $2000); but it had a shorter sailing time and we didn’t have to drive south the 2100 km to get to Santos. In the end, although Alberto could get us a quick ship date, due to COVID, customs was not working at full capacity and there was insufficient time to deal with paperwork and inspection. So we decided to ship with NYK out of Santos the port nearest to Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo. Losada’s price was slightly less expensive (about $250) than B&M’s but they were slow in responding and did not clarify that their price included all agent fees in Brazil or provide dates. We gave up waiting for their response in order to make the Santos shipping date from B&M.
Below we will set out the procedure and after that our experiences with those procedures. As you know things in America Latina don’t always go the way they are supposed!
- Pick your shipping route, measure your car, get a quote from an agent – you MUST use an agent in Brazil and believe us, you’ll be glad you did (maybe if you speak fluent Portuguese you might manage but the contacts they have, proved invaluable to us).
- Email copies of your Brazilian temporary vehicle import permit to your agent along with copies of the vehicle title/registration and your passport.
- Your agent will make the booking with the shipping company and will advise when to drop off of your vehicle.
- Prepare your vehicle for shipping. As our rig has a pass through from the cab to the coach, we put up a wall to prevent access. The coach key is different from the cab keys. We kept all electronics with us and put anything else of value into our storage bins on the back of the vehicle. If your vehicle has no ability to secure the back, consider emptying it of anything not bolted down – your call.
- Meet the agent or his representative in Santos on the agreed upon date (normally 10 days before shipping – during this pandemic time, we were told 15-20 was better).
- Have copies of all your documents notarized and take to the agent’s office.
- Now you can drop off the vehicle at the agent’s warehouse or keep it until they tell you to get to the port. You will be given an “appointment” for this. (Check Life Remotely’s post if you are dropping off the vehicle at the port yourself for the steps.)
- The agent will then file all the paperwork with Customs once the vehicle arrives at the port and await approval which can take up to two days.
- At this point it’s up to you whether to leave the country now or wait until inspection or departure.
- Once the paperwork is filed, you are given a “green channel” which means all good and only an electronic scan for inspection needed or a “red channel” which means a manual inspection. Your agent can attend at this inspection.
- Customs will clear your car to be loaded.
- Send the ISF you received from the agent’s US agent’s office to your agent in the USA – this MUST be done before the ship leaves the port. You can use the shipping company’s agent if you like. They will attend to filing it for you as required. They will also send you the other documents you need to complete and get to them at least five days before arrival of the ship.
- Pay the agent’s bill. You can pay via wire transfer or they can also provide a ACH code if you want to avoid wiring charges.
- Your vehicle will be loaded. When this ship has left port you’ll receive confirmation the cargo is onboard.
- You will receive a copy (sometimes the original) of the bill of lading.
- Now you can for sure leave the country with peace of mind.
- Wait for the ship to arrive in the U S of A.
Agents in USA:
B&M’s agent in the US: InterlogUSA
- Benjamin Schwengel
- Minneapolis, MN
- Tel: 651 294 5056 or 612 839 3500
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Agent we used in Houston: RW Smith
- Kathleen Bateman
- Tel: 281 590 5959 Fax: 281 590 2233
- Email: email@example.com
Our Brazilian experience
After making the decision to ship out of Santos, we made our way south from Salvador (2100 km) over three days spending nights in truck stops with as little contact with people as possible. (BTW the original quote we received was to ship to Veracruz, MX but we changed our minds when things COVID wise ramped up there too – the price to Houston was the same.)
Although Life Remotely used the same agent, our shipping line was not Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Turns out we were shipping on NYK; smaller vehicle shipping line but same agent.
Ramiro from B&M had his local rep, Luciano, meet us in Santos the day we arrived – 18 days before shipping (normally it’s ten days but due to COVID, things are running slower). The good thing about an agent is that your job consists of handing over lots of papers, (via email) and then sitting around waiting after notarization – they literally do everything else. He had prepared and printed our power of attorney, printed the copies needed and took us to a notary.
(COVID issue: Due to COVID Brazilian Immigration had frozen/suspended all tourist visas back in March which meant your TIP cannot be renewed as they are tied together. Our visa and TIP had expired in theory in early April and this caused a problem trying to get the POA notarized – they felt our presence in Brazil was not legal. After trying at two different offices, we went with Luciano to the Federal Police Headquarters nearby – they gave us a hard copy of the press release suspending tourist visas – which essentially means TIPS as well. We returned to the first office and were refused once again. Luckily, Luciano knows a lot of people in Santos and we tried a third office; after speaking to a supervisor, the gentleman got the job done!)
Luciano then gave us the location of their warehouse and we drove there, dropped off the rig and the paperwork they needed (copies of TIP, title and registration) and took an Uber to the AirBNB we had booked. They said that they would contact the shipping company and request a time for us to drop off the rig at the port and take care of that for us.
We had booked flights for three days after the ship’s departure for a few reasons: first we wanted to be at the customs inspection which obviously takes place before departure; secondly we hoped the ship would leave Brazil with our rig onboard before us; and thirdly, we got a great frequent flyer rewards deal for that particular date.)
The Customs Fiasco
On June 19th, (11 days later) we finally learned that our rig had an appointment and was taken to the port. Luciano began the customs paperwork filing. We were sent a photo of our rig at the port.
Luciano filed the paperwork and unfortunately our rig received the “red channel”. Our agent told us he’d not had a red channel in years – until us! Luciano received a date for the required additional customs inspection and got Doug authorization to attend at the port with their representative so as to open anything we did not leave keys for.
Our agent got this set up and Doug was given authorization to attend so he could grant access to the coach and any other locked storage outside of the cab of the truck and then lock everything back up and kept those keys. So if you don’t “have” to attend the agent’s representative can do this. The agent’s rep will provide a safety vest and goggles.
Luciano thought this “red channel” and the next hurdle were all due to a combination of the COVID pandemic and the fact that our TIP was expired. Hurdle Number 2: The Port Customs Officers said we’d overstayed our TIP and “we don’t care what immigration says, you have to pay a fine for overstaying: 10% of your vehicle’s value”. When you enter the country you must state a value on your TIP and we naively told the truth: approximately $50K. SO this meant a fine of $5000 – this was more than the entire shipping cost!
This is the other reason you pay the “big bucks” for an agent – they know “stuff” and people! Apparently there is a law in Brazil where you can ask for exemption from this penalty. Luciano began dealing with customs explaining the situation. And it’s now three days before sailing!
We decided to reach out to the Canadian Embassy to see if they could help in any way. Fran actually is acquainted with the Ambassador and we met a consular employee back the first entered Brazil to explore the Pantanal and we’ve kept in touch with her. They reached out to the Police, confirmed what we already knew, and then reached out to the Head of Customs in Brasilia and provided a publication that might help.
We also received a copy of the US Embassy’s statement on tourist visas and sent all this to both Ramiro and Luciano. Later we gave the CDN Embassy Ramiro’s contact info to get directly in touch with our agents.
Not sure who or what or how or which worked, but at 3:45 in the afternoon, the day before the ship was to depart (June 26th), we got the good news that the penalty was waived! Ramiro said he’d contact the ship’s captain as the ship was in dock and already unloaded and was currently almost finished loading the new shipments. He was hopeful we should make it as they usually only work until 4:30 pm. He later sent us a photo of the rig being driven to the ship.
At 4:40 pm (phew!) we received word that the rig had made it onboard and was set to sail the next day. They sent us photos of the rig on board.
The following day we received a copy our bill of lading and the invoice. We sent a wire transfer (we bank with Schwab and are allowed three wire transfers each quarter) to Ramiro’s logistics company bank account in the US and forwarded the Bill of Lading to our agent in Houston. We flew to Houston on the red eye on June 29th to wait once again.
Total costs in Brazil: (all USD)
Ocean Freight including agent fees: $ 3,280.00
Customs Clearance: 310.00
Terminal & BL Fees: $70 and $120 = 190.00
Gate in fees (parking at warehouse & port): 495 .00 (15 days parking; we actually had 18 but no additional charge)
Copies and notarizations: R44.50 8.84
Total: $4,283.84 USD
Naturally we had the costs of the AirBNB and living expenses for three weeks but that is different for everyone and based upon whether you stay as long as we did or fly back earlier so we will not include that here.
The ISF Form
All cargo arriving in the US is supposed to be declared on an ISF (Import Security Form) form. Ramiro’s US agent completed this form and sent it to us. We forwarded it to our Houston agent, Kathleen, together with a power of attorney. They charge $35 for this filing service. (More about fees in US later.)
(To quote Life Remotely: “The ISF form is supposed to be submitted before the ship departs the port where the cargo was loaded. Because of the mess that often occurs in shipping, the form often times can’t be filed until the ship has left port. This is not a big deal. As our agent explained, as long as it is submitted before the ship reaches the first US port of call, you will probably be fine.” This is $5000!)
One thing is for certain, if you don’t file this form, you vehicle will most likely be put on a customs hold and you will undergo a long and arduous waiting process to have everything cleared.
AND ON THE OTHER END
Customs and Timing
Our ship docked on July 15th in Houston at the City Docks. We had been in Houston for two and half weeks already. Keep in mind it takes at least a day to “discharge/unload” the ship so if you’re lucky you can pick up your vehicle two days after arrival.
BTW you can check the Wallenius Track & Trace website to find out the status of your vehicle. If your ship is travelling on a NYK ship, check Marine Traffic: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-34.6/centery:-6.6/zoom:9
- Your agent should have provided you with all the other necessary forms that need filing and they like to receive them back 5 days before the arrival of the ship. There’s a Department of Transportation declaration, an EPA form, a DHS form 3299 (Declaration for free entry of unaccompanied articles) and a supplemental declaration form. You will also need to provide a list of all contents of the vehicle.
- Complete the forms and email back to your agent.
- Submit payment for the port fee if applicable. (Zero in Houston but not in Galveston)
- Submit fee to agent for filing paperwork, via direct bank deposit, or wire transfer.
- Your agent will email you copies of final paperwork referred to above. The agent will also submit these files to customs.
- You will receive a Notice of Arrival from the Shipper’s agent. They will tell you which dock.
- Wait patiently for customs to clear your car. Your agent should be able to advise when this has happened.
- Contact the Port Authority handling your ship. (in Galveston (409-750-0204 / in Houston it will depend on the docks – the shipper’s agent will advise you). Explain that your cargo has cleared and you’d like to come pick it up. They’ll pull your file and make sure everything is in good order. They’ll give you a list of TWIC escorts to take you into the port.
- Arrange with an escort to meet you once you have a pick up time. (For Cooper/Ports America in Houston you must request a time online with 24 hours’ notice – they will provide the link in the email with the list of escorts).
- The escort will meet you at the gate and will stay with you the entire time you are in the port. They will provide a safety vest. You can drive behind him if you have a vehicle (or go with him if you don’t have a vehicle) to the Shipping Company Office.
- At Shipping Company Office, present them with your Notice of Arrival (should have been emailed from Shipping Company’s agent when the ship was enroute) and/or Delivery Order and Release which you should have received from local agent. If you don’t have this a copy of the bill of lading will suffice.
- The WW employee will enter some things in a computer, ask for the owners ID and then print and stamp a new paper.
- You will be told where your vehicle is, do a walk around, and receive more paper.
- Now you head to the gate where the official will come outside to look inside your vehicle.
- Follow the escort (in your car) back out to the main gate. Pay the escort his fee with a credit card or cash
- Welcome to ‘Murica. You are now free to roam.
Our rig was loaded June 25th in Santos. We received the copy of Bill of Lading on the 26th when the ship left. The ship was scheduled to dock in Houston on July 15th. We ourselves arrived in Houston on June 30th. We used marinetracking.com to track the vessel every few days. It stopped in Recife, Santa Marta, CO and Colon, Panama before making it to Houston.
We filled all the forms Kathleen had provided, printed and signed them, scanned them electronically and emailed them back to her.
Around the same time, the shipping company’s agent, Interlog, emailed us a Notice of Arrival. It showed that the ship “should” arrive July 12th (which was earlier than we thought) but, of course, that didn’t happen.
A few days later Kathleen Bateman, our agent in Houston, said the papers had been submitted and included her invoice. We made a wire transfer to the RW Smith Bank of America account for the amount of $225.
The next day Kathleen emailed us the final paperwork: a delivery order and a Customs Release. She said that we would need to take this to retrieve the vehicle. She advised which port the ship was coming into: Houston City Docks and the receiving company was Coopers/Ports America. She put us in touch with them via email. Coopers gave us a list of TWIC escorts to reach out to and choose one. Doug called a few and chose Aqua Marine as their price was the best so now we wait until ship arrives, unloads and the cargo is “released”.
The ship arrived in the late afternoon instead of the morning as scheduled and we were told by Coopers that it would take two days to unload! Then there was a issue with us not having the original bill of lading – turns out someone at Interlog did not tick the box that says: EXPRESS RELEASE! With the help of our Brazilian agent (thank goodness for WhatsApp!) that got corrected.
You cannot make an appointment to pick up your “cargo” until they have received a release from NYK and even then it’s on 24 hours’ notice which meant we couldn’t get our rig until Tuesday! We even reached out to Ramiro back in Brazil to assist in getting this release faster. We asked about putting in the request for an appointment for Monday afternoon anyway, but got no reply.
Friday, the 17th our agent found out and advised us that the ship was in fact unloaded and she attempted to get NYK to provide the release in the hope that we MIGHT be able to get the truck today. When she couldn’t get any one to answer her calls she suggested we call Interlog ourselves to get a number for the shipper. We did this, got through to a voice at NYK, left a message on that number and a second number referred to in the voice AND sent an email to the email address provided in that first voice mail. About 15 minutes we were called back, provided the NYK bill of lading number (which is different from the one we received in Brazil – we found it on the Notice of Arrival) and was advised that they had not been told the ship was unloaded yet!
So we emailed the Port here (Cooper/Ports America) and advised them of the situation. About a half hour later, we got word that they had received the “release” from the shipper and we could come get our vehicle any time before four as long as we had the Delivery Order and Release with us and of course, an escort. We would not have to make the 24 notice appointment.
We quickly called an escort, arranged to meet at the port entrance in 45 minutes, took an Uber to get there ourselves and met the escort when he arrived a few minutes late.
At the Main Truck Office he showed the woman behind the glass the Delivery Order and Release; she asked questions (including what his trucking company name was and she was confused that he was not with a trucking company). She then had him fax the forms from his side of the glass where there was a fax machine. She received the fax, stamped it and returned the form to him – all took about five minutes
Doug and the escort were told to go to building 35A but enroute me someone the escort knew and were told by another to go to 29A instead. Upon finding 29A Doug could see Tigger across in a parking lot. Doug went to Tigger to wait for the man who’d told them to go to 29A and while waiting Doug began to get Tigger ready; i.e. turn on solar panels and check inside to see if it was all still there – all good, phew! When the man arrived, they did a walk around and the man went to get the exit paperwork.
While he went to get paperwork, Doug paid the escort his $75 fee and when paperwork arrived a few minutes later, he headed out following escort. Tigger started up no problem. Doug showed paperwork to the lady at the gate, she got out and took a look inside of vehicle. He then followed escort to a gas station as we’d left Tigger in Brazil with only a quarter of a tank so it was nearly empty.
All in all it was pretty quick and painless once the steps that have to take place, actually take place.
Total Costs in Houston: (all USD)
Port Fee: $ zero
Agent in Houston: 225.00 (Breakdown: $145 for entry papers, $45 auto clearing & $35 ISF filing)
TWIC Escort Fee: 75.00
Total cost in Houston: $ 305.00
Total shipping costs (Brazil and USA): $4,583.84
(excludes flights, accommodation and other transportation)
This was definitely not cheap but in fact it was at least $500 cheaper than what we’d been quoted to ship out of Guyana if our trip had continued as planned. And that quote did not included the US side of things.