Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shipping a motorcycle to New Zealand

Thankfully this didn't happen to us... 
Shipping can be a nasty business. There always seem to be extra costs involved, extra bits of paper needed and of course the shipments never actually arrive on time. When shipping to an island like New Zealand or Australia there is also quarantine to deal with. New Zealand is an island, and relatively disease free, and they like to keep it that way. Fair enough. The problem lies in how they go about it. A sales and marketing manager from Yamaha wrote to me that he doesn't want to read negative comments and that I should only write positively. If you agree with that, then you'll probably want to skip this post. I simply write it as it is, warts and all. Just as we experienced it and I don't skip something simply because someone doesn't want me to write about it.

Shipping a bike to New Zealand
You have basically 4 options. Fly them over, ship them in a container, ship them via a tour operator (even if you don't do the tour bit, you may find they can get you a better deal) or simply send them via FedEx. Yes, FedEx does transport complete motorcycles, at a cost. We have learned over the years to use local shipping agents to handle the shipment. So when shipping to New Zealand, I'd use a shipping agent based in New Zealand as they should be up to scratch with what is required in terms of paperwork. It's not foolproof, as you can read further on, but simply assuming the agent in your home country knows how to do it can be very costly. Very costly! Be aware that shipping to an island like New Zealand or Australia, you will also run into quarantine regulations which will, for instance, dictate steam treated and certified wood. You could try to avoid that by using steel 'ex-factory' crates but I'm glad we didn't do that (read our post on Canada). Had we not had a properly made wooden crate, my beloved Triumph Bonneville would have been destroyed by a forklift. I would suggest getting in contact with people like Pope Packaging in Auckland. They are very helpful, experienced and do a superb job. They might also know who to use overseas from experience.

Quarantine hassles
Being Australian, we knew what to expect and do, to get the bikes through quarantine inspection. We made sure the bikes were spotlessly clean, including under the tank, the tyres, under the mudguards etc and that any wood used in the packaging was of the correct treated and certified sort. The bikes were then covered in a protective coating to combat rust and mould. We also shrink-wrapped them in foil, with moisture 'eaters' thrown in, to avoid any entry of dust or dirt while in transit. Normally that would be more than enough. Not when you encounter a quarantine officer with a grudge against Australians… The company we chose to handle the transport was Taurus in Christchurch. A big mistake. We definitely will never use them again. The paperwork they did was done incorrectly, the Customs declaration a mess and when quarantine came with ridiculous demands and delays they did absolutely nothing. The result of all that was that the bikes were standing in a trailer on the docks of Christchurch for 10 days, with the shrink-wrap removed, before quarantine finally had a look at them. They then found evidence of a spider and therefore ordered total fumigation… which is horrendously expensive. Quarantine even agreed that it was a spider commonly found in New Zealand, but the bikes still needed fumigation… One of the people working at the docks told us we were just unlucky, as we had struck the wrong quarantine inspector. During all this Taurus didn't help at all. The trailer with the bikes had been standing next to a log loading ship, very dusty and plenty of spiders about… All in all, it costed us a fortune and we had to wait for 3 weeks before the bikes were finally released.

New Zealand safety inspection
The motorcycles then had to go through a safety inspection before being allowed on the road. The safety inspection itself is a basic safety test and not too complicated… but there are a few little details you have to think about before sending your bike over. Firstly; you are not allowed to ride your bike on New Zealand roads without that inspection. The inspection places are in town, the harbour is out of town… In theory you should have the bikes transported to the testing facility, which can be very costly. We chose to play dumb and rode them there… There are also a couple of very dodgy companies doing the safety test. We asked round quite a bit and visited a few, before we chose the one we wanted to deal with. The problem lies with testing officers interpreting the rules as they see fit, which in a few cases should be translated into 'interpreted into their best financial interest' as they also run a bikeshop. Also be 100% sure the bike is in perfect order. If anything does not pass the test, it will have to be fixed by an approved and certified repairer, who in some cases will be inspected by a certifier. If that happens; bring your wallet and make sure it's full...
My advise is to go to the VINZ at the Christchurch airport, they are independent and very good to deal with. They have experienced mechanics who's aim is to get you on the road, not to rob you blind. Having passed the tests there are some fees to pay, aren't there always, and insurance to deal with and then you're on the road!

A few things to consider before you ship your bike: 
Fit new tyres, chains and sprockets, have it serviced and new brake pads and/or shoes fitted before you leave. Not just for the test, but also because motorcycle parts and tyres are very expensive in New Zealand. I'd suggest to fit dual sport tyres like Distanzias, simply because even if you want to stay on the asphalt, you'll still find plenty of gravel on parking lots, little side-tracks to the beaches and campgrounds. Realise that loud motorcycles can fail a test because of excessive noise, we saw a Triumph 750 fail because of it. Have a clearly visible VIN number and make double sure the VIN on your bike matches the VIN on the paperwork. A mistake that can be easily rectified in your home country, but will get you stuck in New Zealand! 

Who can we recommend for shipping to New Zealand
Obviously not the company we used! However, shipping out of New Zealand, we used OceanBridge in Auckland and they were very good to deal with. A friend of ours used them to ship his motorcycle from Argentina and was happy with them. He recommended them to us and we can honestly recommend them too.