Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shipping a motorcycle to Canada

We were told Canada is easy. No quarantine, no hassles, quick and easy Customs release. It wasn't. Not for us anyway. As far as we could work out Canada has a rather complex Customs 'system' whereby everything is controlled centrally from Ottawa. Take a map from Canada and have a look where Ottawa is, it's almost 5000 km away from Vancouver (where we shipped to). 

We had booked a flight 2 days after the bikes would be released. We were told we had 7 days to pick them up so that gave us ample time. The first message we received from the shipping agent in Canada, Gillespie, was that there would be a Customs inspection. No further explanation was given. When I called the lady who send me the e-mail for an explanation, I couldn't understand a word she said. She's from Asia and her English is very hard to understand at best. All I could make out was that we had to wait a day or two and could incur extra charges of US$300,- Hmmm. After two days I called, no news. The day after, no news etc etc. After 5 days I started my own 'investigation' into what was happening. I found out, not through Gillespie, where the container was and what the closest Canadian Customs facility was. They were reluctant to take my call at first but when I explained what was happening, they became very helpful indeed. The information I received was somewhat alarming… Ottawa had ordered Vancouver to do a full inspection. Vancouver replied that there were more than 500 parcels in that container and that they simply didn't have the time to do it. Ottawa then ordered them to do a soil sample test on the bikes. Vancouver replied that they didn't have the equipment to do that, upon which Ottawa said the container had to be trucked to the nearest facility that did…! Gillespie was talking about extra charges in the order of US$6000,- dollars…!!! 

I called Customs again and explained the predicament we were in. They fully agreed that Ottawa's requests were absurd, after all the shipment came from New Zealand which is disease free. They called me back (!) and said they found a solution. They did a dockside inspection and all was ok, ready to be picked up. This was Friday 2pm. I called Gillespie and send them an e-mail that the container could be picked up. The reply from Gillespie was that they didn't believe me and wanted to do their own investigation… 'Fine' I said 'just call this number ask for mr such and so and he will confirm. Gillespie did… nothing. They left the container at the docks and went home. Monday morning I decided not to call but go to the office to sort this out, we were now almost 10 days in Vancouver and still had no bikes. It turned out the container was still at the docks…

Gillespie then had the nerve to want extra money… The shipping agent that had done absolutely nothing to avoid US$6000,- Customs charges now wanted extra money? For what? I asked. The container has been standing too long on the docks they said… 'Yes I know, it should have been trucked away on Friday but you didn't give the order to do it. Is that my fault?' Gillespies managing director just smiled. I made a calculation on what we were spending when disputing and waiting even longer and decided to pay the required US$300,-

At last we could pick the bikes up. All that remained to be done was take the Customs documents to the Canadian Customs office in downtown Vancouver. I asked Gillespie why I had to do that as I had paid already in New Zealand for all the paperwork,upon which Gillespie replied that the shipping agent in New Zealand had ordered them to use a certain warehouse which was costing them so much more than using their own… I send an e-mail to the shipping agent explaining what had happened. Oceanbridge, the New Zealand based shipping agent wasn't to blame for any of this. The shipping was well organised, the paperwork in order (even Gillespie said so). 

More problems arose. Customs in Vancouver asked for my soil sample test… which I didn't have. I explained the situation and gave the phone number of the person I had called at Canadian Customs. They didn't believe me. To top it off Gillespie hadn't done their part of the paperwork and according to Canadian Customs the actual container was still at the docks! In the end they did release it, the following way: The Customs Superintendent or whatever his function was said 'I don't believe there has been a dockside inspection, in fact I don't believe anything you told me. But at the same time you gave me the right telephone number and person who would have done it. I can't reach him though to ask for clarification. But you seem to be a nice guy and you ride an Indian motorcycle so I will use my authority to release the bikes.' I was stunned. Hadn't this guy read the paperwork at all? There is no Indian motorcycle in there, two Triumphs and a Yamaha! He gave me the paperwork and said all was good, upon which I asked if there were no more hurdles to take and that I could now go to the harbour and pick up my bikes. 'Yes' he said. Ok, can you now please tell me if I did anything wrong and what I should do to avoid all this if I want to come to Canada again with my motorcycle. His reply was stunning: 'Honestly, he said, ship it to Portland USA, no hassles there and then ride it across the border into Canada…' Canadian Customs advising me to ship it to the USA next time and then ride it into Canada… :-) Finally we had the bikes and could start our trip!