In September of 2018, we shipped our van from the US to Europe to order to continue our traveling adventure on a new continent. Here is how we did it, step by step.
Contacting shipping agents for quotes is the first thing we did. You can not directly work with shipping company so an agent is necessary. Not everyone will reply to your quote request, probably because you are small beans compared to the thousands of cars they ship for companies daily. You will also want to get several quotes because pricing can vary. The quotes you receive will be based on the dimensions and weight of your vehicle and also your port destinations. We ended up going with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.
Regarding port destinations, we chose to drive across the US from the west coast to the east coast to ship our van to lessen the amount of the time our van would be on the ship and to limit the number of port stops. The reasons for that is to have less chance of delays due to increased stops and also to have minimal chance of theft at each port.
SELECT AN AGENT
Once you select a shipping agent, the agent will need a few things from you in order for them to reserve a spot on a ship for you. Our agent required us to fill out a shipping form and a power-of-attorney form. We also had to send copies of our passports and a copy of the title to our vehicle. In addition to those items, we had to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) via the IRS website. The agent had paperwork for me to follow and it was pretty straightforward.
*Please note: Whoever fills out the paperwork above will need to be the person who delivers the vehicle at the port. Only ONE person is allowed at the port with the vehicle. I did not know this ahead of time and was in charge of it all while Dan and the kids waited at a hotel lobby a couple miles away.
Once those required items were received, the agent gave me some shipping date options based on the date range I provided and on the ports I hoped to shipped from and to. Once I selected a shipping date, the agent told us to expect our ‘dock receipt’ for our selected ship in about a week via email. The dock receipt is the main document needed to secure your spot on the ship.
PORT DELIVERY DATE AND OPTIONS
Once we received our dock receipt, we also received an email stating when the latest date is to have our van at the port. Our date for delivery to the port was 7 days prior to our shipping date. The port is closed on weekends so plan accordingly.
In addition to a delivery date, our agent also gave us a few options to how to get our van to the port. We could:
- Hire a port escort to personally take us and van thru the port delivery process together.
- Drop off the van at port with a company who will go thru the entire process for you.
- Have a trucking company pick up your van from your location of choice and then will go thru the entire process for you.
We chose option #1 for two reasons. It was the cheapest and we wanted the piece of mind that our vehicle (which is our home) made to where it needed to be safely. Hiring a port escort cost us $100 and we scheduled ours a few days prior to delivery. The escort we chose was the recommended escort we got from our shipping agent.
The shipping agent will give you a list of rules to follow to help get your vehicle ready for its journey overseas. Here are some of the highlights:
- Quarter tank of fuel or less.
- Empty inside.
(Disclaimer: Ours was not empty. It was full of our stuff which we knew had a chance to disappear during shipping but there is no way we could empty out all of our belongings and carry it with us. We took a risk and it all worked out. We also had everything locked away and out of sight, except for our bedding and a few water jugs.
- No propane.
- Free from dirt (outside and inside).
Prior to delivery day, we had to have our documents in order. We had to make sure we had 5 copies of the title, 5 copies of the dock receipt, the original title and our passport.
ACTUAL DELIVERY OF VEHICLE TO PORT
We dropped off our van at the port 7 days prior to the ship’s sailing date. It was a requirement as the shipping company needs the time to prepare the loading order of all the vehicles. Below are the steps we took to deliver the van to the port. There might have been a few extra steps for us due to tighter security based on our shipping location’s close proximity to Washington, DC. The entire delivery process took an hour.
- We met our port escort outside of the port at a pre-determined location.
- I handed all of our paperwork to our port escort, in addition to $100 in cash for his services. This fee can vary based on who you use and what they do for you. But it should not be too excessive.
- He quickly inspected our vehicle and suggested we remove our surfboards from the roof rack and place them inside on the bed, which we did, in order for us to not raise any unnecessary customs red flags during delivery.
- I followed the port escort’s car into port with our vehicle.
- At port entrance, I handed my driver’s license to the port escort who then got me a port pass.
- The escort gave me my port pass and ID back.
- We drove to next booth where I got my port pass checked with my ID.
- We drove to the police inspection area where they did a visual check of interior of van.
- We drove to customs where our escort gets our paperwork sorted with them.
- We drove to the ship terminal to check in with shipper. The port escort handed me a safety vest that I was required to wear while inside the port.
- We then follow a worker from the shipping terminal to our vehicle’s parking spot inside the terminal.
- I removed both license plates and took them with me. This was recommended as to not risk having them stolen.
- I handed my key over to worker.
- I left my van unlocked as instructed.
- The worker handed me a stamped dock receipt (which you need at time of pick up).
- Left the port in the port escort’s car and returned my port pass at the port’s exit.
WHILE THE VEHICLE IS IN TRANSIT
After our van was loaded onto the ship, we made payment to our agent for their services. All of this was done online or over the phone. We never met the agent in person. A week prior to pick up, a forwarding company also contacted us to set up a pick up date and time. This forwarding company worked with our shipping agent so they made contact with us. The forwarding company required a few things from us. We needed to a written statement to inform customs that we shipped our vehicle to Europe for holiday purposes only. We also had to provide a copy of our title, copy of our passport and proof of liability insurance. (For liability, we used www.tourinsure.de)
Also while waiting for our van to get loaded onto the ship, our shipping agent gave us a link to follow ship’s route via a special website. In was pretty barebones so Dan found a marine ship tracker website (www.marinetraffic.com) that allowed us to follow via GPS coordinates to know its exact location during the entire journey.
PICKING UP THE VEHICLE
We scheduled a time to pick up our van via email with our forwarding company. Just like with the port escort, our forwarder picked me up at a pre-determined location right near the port and I paid him cash for his services and pick up fees. We drove straight into the port and directly to the shipping terminal this time with no special procedures or checks. Our van got cleared by customs the day before our scheduled pick-up date. That saved us a lot of time at pick up. Once at the shipping terminal, the forwarder requested my van and within minutes, a worker went to retrieve it from the yard. Once they brought our van out of the yard and into the parking lot, I personally inspected the van for damage. Luckily nothing was damaged and I signed paperwork releasing the van and stating that it had no damage. And that’s it. Then I drove away and began our European adventure. WOOHOO!!
Shipping agent = $1,739.00
Port Escort =$100.00
Forwarder = $750.00
TOTAL = $2,589.00
Everyone who ships their vehicle overseas says there are always delays. We chose departure and arrival ports that would only involve one extra stop and thus decreasing our chance of delays but delays still occurred for us.
Our ship was scheduled to leave the port of Baltimore, Maryland on 9/7/18 and it did leave as scheduled.
Our ship was scheduled to arrive to the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium on 9/18/18 but it arrived on 9/23/18. Due to customs clearance, our pick up date was actually 9/25/18. The delay was caused by a couple extra stops added to the shipping route after booking was made.
We chose the port of Baltimore, Maryland because it was supposed to the last port in the US before heading across the Atlantic.
We chose the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium because it was first port after a quick stop in Germany. It was easier for us to ship into Belgium rather than Germany because temporary import rules and fees. We were told that Germany requires a hefty deposit for any temporary imports in case the owner chooses to not ship the vehicle back.
800 S Conkling St
Baltimore, MD 21224
Phone: (410) 633-0550
Fax: (410) 633-0556
Baltimore Port Escort:
TWIC Baltimore Port Escort Service
Bentri Forwarding Bvba
+32 (0) 3 237 97 13
+32 (0) 472 88 29 77
Because our van had our blog displayed on its sides, the longshoremen who loaded our van sent us photos of our van secured in the ship days before our shipping agent confirmed it was on a ship at all. Haha.
THANKS FOR READING!
Let us know if you have any questions, Marlene.
We also recorded a podcast episode with our friends Jason and Angela from Bodeswell.com who also shipped their van to Europe. If you’d like to listen to more details, click here to give it a listen.