Uruguay and shipping pain..

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Wed, March 14, 2012 04:03:10

Hello again!

This post will basically be about the PAIN related to organizing shipping of a vehicle. Why the he## should this be so expensive, complicated, and time consuming??? The title of this post says “Uruguay”, and the reason is that my first plan was shipping in a container from Montevideo in Uruguay to Cape Town in South Africa. The reason for referring to this as “first” plan and not “the” plan will be explained in detail.

We arrived in Buenos Aires just in time for Malin’s flight home to Norway. I dropped her off at the airport around 4 in the afternoon, and drove into town to see if I could get on a ferry across to Uruguay. I knew there would be one at 5 pm, one at 7 pm, and then one at 9-something. Arrived too late for the 5 o’clock departure as I hit rush hours, and the next departures were fully booked. That meant I had to look for a place to camp, and that pretty quick as it was getting late. Buenos Aires is a huge city, and moving around takes a lot of time. I had found some coordinates for a camp called L’Hirondelle some 30 kilometers north of town close to Tigre. An hour later as I eventually got closer to my waypoint, I started to have my doubts. Where I was driving was definitely not the nicer parts of Buenos Aires, and I felt I got some pretty nasty looks from the local residents. I still kept driving, and suddenly the road was blocked by a big sign saying “private property”, not very far from where the coordinates would take me. F###!! I turned around and got the hell out of there. It was now dark, and I didn’t really know what to do. The only other place I knew about was a nice, expensive hotel in the city center, or 150 kilometers out of town the way I came in.

On my way out of the barrio where I was looking for the campground, I started to hear some disturbing metallic grinding noises from the left front wheel. This made me quite nervous. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in an earlier post, but a couple of days before we left for Antarctica I noticed an oil leak from my left front knuckle house. A seal in the front axle needs to be replaced, so differential oil is leaking out through the axle. The reason is worn bearings that are due for a change. The plan was to do this in South Africa as parts are more available and prices are better than in South America. I was debating with myself for a while if I would have to deal with this before Africa or if I should just give it a try and drive for Montevideo and shipping, and count on the bearings and seal to hold up for another couple of thousand kilometers. Well, we took off and hoped it would last until Montevideo, after all it IS a Patrol… :-)

So, to make a long, quite stressful evening, into a shorty story, I gave in and went for the nice hotel. Not a good day for my overlander-image, and I was quite worried that the oil from the diff had taken out the grease from the wheel bearings and ruined the bearing and hub. Next morning, in the hotel’s parking lot, I had a look at where the grinding noise came from. It wasn’t the bearing, but a worn out brake pad. The Patrol’s brakes have a small metal bar that will hit the disc when there is about a millimeter pad left, and this makes a terrible sound. Phew. I got on the ferry to Uruguay the same morning. Leaving a huge busy modern city…

…arriving in the small quiet town of Colonia in Uruguay. I needed a break after all the driving the last week (and that evening in Buenos Aires), so I checked into a guesthouse in the town center. I was also planning to finalize the last few details of the shipping to Africa, so a few days in a guesthouse with good internet was just what I needed. I thought…

So, back to this “first” plan. I had been in touch with a couple of shipping agents in Montevideo, and had a few date of vessel departures to choose from. The idea was to drive the car into a 20 foot container. If I remove the roof top tent, and strap this to the rear bumper or put it on the hood, I should just clear the 2,28 meter high door. However, after emailing back and forth with some shipping agents, I learned that containers leaving Montevideo for Cape Town had three transshipments, and an estimated shipping time of 46 days!! In addition you have a couple of days in each end loading, unloading, and paperwork, AND there is in most cases a few days of delays! We were suddenly looking at almost TWO MONTHS between South America and South Africa. I couldn’t really make sense of this as I repeatedly would find sailing schedules online with vessels supposedly corresponding that would take about 20 days to Cape Town?!?! Another thing that started to become an issue was the price. In the beginning we were told that we would be looking at about 3000 USD for shipping a container from MVD to Cape Town, but as we started digging into the matter, we learned that the total would be more like 4000 USD with all the port fees, custom fees, and container handling. Maybe even more. We decided to try to look for alternatives.

While figuring all this out, which takes a surprisingly large amount of time, I did some sightseeing around the coast of Uruguay.

I went to take a look at Montevideo, and even drove by the container port to see what it looked like. This could have been my final destination in South America.

The city of Montevideo.

Further east is Puente del Este, “the Ibiza of South America” and where the rich and famous go to play. Beautiful beaches, but crowded and touristy. Not a very unURBAN place…

Bridge in Puente del Este

Found a more quiet beach further west on my way back to Colonia where I stayed for a couple of nights. Just outside the smaller town of Piriapolis.

By the time I got back to Colonia, we had a new plan for shipping across the Atlantic. A ro-ro (roll on – roll off) vessel was leaving Zarate in Argentina, a small port up the river north of Buenos Aires a few days later. We were suddenly back in the shipping game, and at least a 1000 USD saved. And from where I was in Uruguay, it was only a couple of hundred kilometers away.

I was told to show up at least two days before to sort out the paperwork. Talking with customs I got a nice surprise. There was NO paperwork to take care of?!?!? I was told to hand in my temporary vehicle permit (that you get at the border when entering the country) when driving in to the port for loading, and that would be it! Excellent! Could it be this easy?

Not really. But it wasn't the customs fault. The ship was supposed to be here on 3rd of March, 10 days ago, and I was supposed to be on my way to Africa by now. Shipping just sucks sometimes. The vessel scheduled to arrive at Zarate sails under British flag, and it turned out that the union operating the port will not deal with British vessels, believe it or not… UK and Argentina do have a history (read about the Falkland War on wikipedia), but I hadn’t expected this. And I really expected that the people operating these vessels would know such things. The vessel was anchored up outside Montevideo for three days, and for a little while it looked like they could go to port in Montevideo, and that I would be able to load there. Fortunately (or I’m just starting to learn...), I didn’t abruptly drive to Montevideo when that option came up. The next day it turned out that the port did not have space for the cargo, and it ended up with the vessel sailing back north to Brazil and out of reach for me. To Rio Grande in Brazil it would be 1300 kilometers, two borders, new custom policies to deal with, and a new port with regulations and fees for loading. All to be sorted out in less than 36 hours. Wise men have said that you should choose your battles carefully, so I stayed in Zarate. In the time of writing, the next available ro-ro vessel leaves for South Africa on the 1st April. That is three weeks from now, and one hell of a delay! So, not really sure what to do at the moment, but will keep looking for alternatives. Mental note to self: remember to check the flag the next vessel is sailing under.....

Not giving up on Africa yet!

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