The Beaurocracy of Shipping

Belém, Brasil to Buenos Aires, Argentina

Thanks to Alex, Andre and the folks at Variglog in Belém in Brazil, I’ve got a plan to get my motorcycle to Buenos Aires – perhaps my other home in South America.

The cost is modest to get my motorcycle to Buenos Aires, given the time, gas, wear and tear on the bike and tires it would take to ride the more than 10,000 km (6,000 miles). But even this international airport is small and the Aduana (customs) and shipping company (Variglog) aren’t entirely clear as to the process for properly clearing my motorcycle for shipment outside the country. If not handled properly the authorities would think the bike would still be in Brazil and the consequences are unknown. After three trips to the airport and speaking with Aduana, Variglog and a customs broker I was finally clear and comfortable of the process:

1) My bike, “Doc”, would need to be drained of gasoline, battery disconnected and crated.

Doc Pre Crating

We take care of the details and get Doc suited for traveling by air – the second time during this journey it would fly.

Friends of Alex who own a motorcycle repair facility near his home began work on building my crate, using the framework and cardboard wrapping from a Yamaha motorcycle. Modifications were made to secure the handle bars to the frame while wells were built out of thin sheet metal for the wheels.

Mirrors, Jesse Bags, top case and windscreen were removed to consolidate size. These items were repositioned elsewhere in the crate so they would be shipped together.

Doc Precrated2

Just a bit wide in the handlebars, but workable.

2) I would need to use a customs broker who would ensure all details for the customs and hazardous cargo regulations were followed.

Documents were copied and presented to Aduana for verification of ownership, country of origin and vehicle identification (chassis) number.

3) The bike would be transported in the crate from the motorcycle shop to the airport.

Loading Doc

Loading Doc onto the truck at the bike shop.

Unloading Doc

Unloading the beast at the airport.

At the airport there was some confusion as to storing international cargo in holding warehouse used for domestic cargo. Security at first refused the bike, but several phone calls, albeit at 9pm that night), straightened out this problem.

Doc Crated Early

Waiting for the okay for customs.

4) Customs would need to inspect the motorcycle

They need to verify that the VIN# is the same that is on the title and my temporary import permit that was issued to me at the Uruguay border in May and which was extended in Rio de Janeiro in August.

When customs opened the crate of the motorcycle they noticed the Jesse bags, top case and other items inside the crate. At this point the customs guy had a meltdown and made me remove everything off the motorcycle and open each of the Jesse bags, top case and tank panniers. I did this somewhat patiently in the sweltering heat and humidity of the equatorial Amazon climate.

Doc Uncrated

Well, customs wanted to see EVERYTHING!

5) Customs would stamp my temporary import permit and then authorize the bike to be shipped out of Belém.

Doc Crated Belem

Finally re-crated and authorized to go to Buenos Aires.

6) The bike would take a week to get to Buenos Aires. It would need to sit in transit in São Paulo and meet me in Buenos Aires later next week.

The whole process of coordinating the above took the better part of three full days. Fortunately, the Belém International Airport is a ten minute ride form the city center and Andre and Alex were able to accompany me to provide additional support and assistance.

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