March 2017


Shipping from California to Australia

Seems We have to Learn Something New Every Time


Well, here we go again, entrusting our home to another shipping company.  

So, how to get a vehicle from the US to Australia.  As with any vehicle shipping it depends a lot on whether you are shipping via container or roll on roll off.  Everything from the choice of ports to the routes, the process and the time frames depend on this.  You can refer to our main shipping page for more information on these options.  As we’ve said before, our vehicle is too large to fit in a container, so we need to ship RO/RO.  Container shipping may or may not be less costly than RO/RO, though most people will say that it is.  The basic issue is simply the dimensions of your vehicle; they will determine your choice.

The Arrangements:

We had shipped via K-Line twice before with good results, then in October 2015 we ended up using Hoegh Lines to ship from England back to the US.  That experience ended up fine, but did not go as smoothly as we’d expected so this time I went directly to K-Line once again.  We contacted several shipping agents to request quotes, but I made sure that one of them was one of K-Lines west coast representatives so that I could ensure that K-Line would be in the mix.  In the end, the quote we got from the K-Line agent was the lowest of the five we received so the choice was easy.  The agent we used was Raymond Strohecker at CFR Rinkens in Paramount, California.  Contact information for all five of the shippers we got quotes from is listed below.

RO/RO shipping from the US west coast to any port in Australia is readily available from several shipping lines.  Ports in the US will generally include the Seattle area and the Los Angeles area and perhaps the San Francisco Bay Area as well.  The voyages tend to be fairly long, not only because of the distance involved, but due to the fact that the routing takes the ships from the US to Japan and then on a separate ship from Japan to Australia.  This seems to be true for all lines, we could not find any RO/RO shipping direct from the US to Australia.  Each of the agents quoted seven to eight weeks for the passage.  

Once in Australian waters, the same ship will stop at all the main ports, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth/Fremantle.  The difference in cost to any of the Australian ports is only a few hundred dollars so you are free to choose by other criteria.  The actual port for RO/RO shipping in the southern California area is Port Hueneme, near Oxnard which is between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.  For non-Californians that’s WHY-nee-mee for some reason - don’t ask.  I can still remember the slightly embarassing manner in which I learned that lesson while still a teenager growing up in the San Fernando Valley.

As always, shipping quotes need to be compared carefully because they never include all of the same things.  In this case they ranged from $5,115 US to $6,715 and some of that difference had to do with Australian Quarantine issues described in the next section.  You may note that two of the shippers we were in touch with are located in New Zealand.  This is because we were also exploring the possibility of shipping first to NZ and then later going on to Australia.  This is no doubt possible, but we quickly discovered that it would be much easier for container shipping than RO/RO.

When discussing shipping quotes it is always necessary to discuss the size of the vehicle being shipped.  With RO/RO shipping, the main component of the cost is based on the volume of the vehicle.  As refitted for Australia, with a new front bull bar and winch and new rear mounted spare tire and storage boxes, our tiger is now 6.7 meters long, 2.9 meters tall with the vent covers removed, and 2.2 meters wide with mirrors folded in.  Thus the volume is 42.75 cubic meters; weight of our loaded Tiger is about 4,600kgs or 10,000lbs.

Australian Quarantine Concerns:

If you have looked at all into shipping into either Australia or New Zealand you will have come across discussions of the Quarantine inspection.  This is because both countries are very particular about anything that might be brought into their country that could contaminate the environment in any way.  They may even check your shoes if you merely fly in, let alone bring a vehicle.  We were fully aware of these issues and had read several descriptions of how other overlanders had cleaned and prepared their vehicles prior to shipment and how things had worked out when they were picking up their vehicles.

We do NOT claim to be any sort of experts in this area, but can only report on our own personal experience.  As full time travelers, with no fixed abode and no garage or workshop, we didn’t see how we could even try the extensive, multi-day cleaning projects we knew others had taken on.  Where would we do the work?  Where would we live during the time we were doing the cleaning?  How much was really necessary?  So, instead, we talked in depth to each of the shipping agents with whom we were communicating.  What we heard from them were variations on the same points: 

  • Yes, the vehicle should be clean, BUT don’t stress over it.  For $100 to $150 we have a fellow who comes to our lot and will pressure wash the underside of the vehicle and that should be enough.
  • The quarantine inspectors will do their thing and either will or won’t ding you for something regardless of how spotless the vehicle is.  
  • The port you ship into does make a difference!  Apparently, the training acadamy for new inspectors is in Brisbane.  So guess where the trainees do their training… Brisbane.  We were told to not ship into Brisbane.
  • The receiving agent in the port can make a big difference in how your vehicle is treated, including how quickly inspections are scheduled.

We once again need to stress that these are the things we were told by multiple folks whose business it is to ship vehicles into Australia.  We do not claim to know these things to be true on our own, but are only reporting what we were told.  However, we followed the advice of our agent; we cleaned the interior of the coach and relied on his crew to do the exterior; we changed our destination port from Brisbane to Melbourne; we put ourselves completely in the hands of our receiving agent; and we drove our vehicle away from the port within 48 hours of the ship’s arrival with no re-cleaning fees or penalties of any sort.  

One of the major differences between the high and low quotes we got for shipping was a $900 fee for fumigation that one shipper included and the other did not.  Fumigation is mentioned as a possibility but should not be considered necessary until required by the inspectors.

The Shipping:

We elected to drop our Tiger off at our agent’s office in Paramount (Los Angeles) rather than at the port as we had always done before.  This is because we had turned the cleaning over to him and his crew and were not doing it ourselves.  The shipping quote above includes both the charge for cleaning and for then trucking our vehicle from Paramount to Port Hueneme.  The other thing our shipper would take care of for us was the now commonly required emptying and certifying of our LPG tank.  This charge is not included in the shipping quote, but ran an additional $525, making it the only thing about the entire process that we felt was overcharged.

Unfortunately, leaving the above items to our agent to do for us meant that we had to deliver the vehicle to him a full two weeks prior to the scheduled shipping date.  This created something of a hardship for us, but was still better than trying to do everything ourselves.  In the end leaving our Tiger with Raymond would turn out to be a blessing in disguise as you will see in the Delay section below.

CFR Rinkens’ lot in Paramount was a busy and crowded spot, but dropping off the Tiger could not have been easier.  It was immediately clear that they do a lot of shipping of classic US cars from the 50’s to the 70’s as the lot was filled with them.  They go to buyers or dealers in Europe, Australia, Japan, everywhere it seems.  Anyway, we met Raymond, got the last of our stuff out of the Tiger, handed over some paperwork and keys and were on our way; no money changed hands at this time at all, which we thought was pretty cool.

The Delay - How seven weeks became twelve:

Once again we had a shipping experience that turned out fine in the end but took longer than it was supposed to.  I rather think that this is the reality of vehicle shipping today and not just coincidence.  I think that just as airlines keep finding ways to fit more bodies into their available seats in order to maximize their profits, shipping companies are doing things differently in order to keep operating.  The combination of rising fuel costs, greater competitiveness, and perhaps simply the march of technology all contribute to what I assume is an emphasis on operating in the most efficient way possible rather than following an older business model that might have placed more importance on customer satisfaction.  I don’t know, I only know that we have now shipped our Tiger across the seas five times and the first three times - all between 2008 and 2010 the vehicle left and arrived as scheduled, while the last two times, in 2015 and 2017 it did not.

Back in 2015, between England and Florida, our vehicle got on the correct ship and began it’s journey on time but then lost it’s way somehow, sat in Tangier for an unknown time, was put on a different ship and finally arrived three weeks late.  This time, in 2017, the delay was on the departure end when a total of three different K-Line vessels were either diverted from Port Hueneme because they were over booked or were no longer going to stop at Yokohama, Japan because of a change in their route.  I’ll spare you the details because ultimately they don’t matter, the end result was that instead of leaving California on March 28th our vehicle did not leave until April 19th.  While this is only a delay of three weeks, the final arrival in Melbourne was five weeks later due to a longer holdover in Japan due to the shuffling of ships. 

It was during this delay period that our shipping agent worked wonders on our behalf, not only in keeping us apprised of what was happening but even more than that.  He got the notice of the first cancellation from K-line on the day the vehicle was due to be delivered at the port; this is called the cut-off day and he told us it is unheard of for a cancellation to be made this late.  Our truck was actually already on the flatbed truck, had left Rinkens lot and was halfway to the port when this happened but Raymond called the driver and got him to turn around and bring it back without any charge.  Had our vehicle been delivered, we would have been charged storage fees by the port, plus the vehicle would no longer have been where an agent who was working in our behalf could keep an eye on it for us.  This made a huge difference to our state of mind.  Later, when even more changes continued to come from K-Line, Raymond got the owner of CFR Rinkens involved in discussions with K-Line management in efforts to find us a vessel.  Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that Rinkens had other customers who were involved in these delays but still we felt fortunate to have people involved on our behalf in a situation over which we had zero control.

The Arrival:

Once our vehicle left the US, we were given a scheduled arrival date in Melbourne of June 14th, and that date did not change.  The ship arrived on time.  At this point we were once again lucky to have an excellent agent working for us.  Frank Todero at Dominion Freight in Melbourne simply walks on water in our opinion.  How he managed it we don’t know, but as summarized above he had the customs inspection taken care of before the ship even docked and had the quarantine inspection scheduled for 8:30 the next morning - an appointment he made before our Tiger was even unloaded.   The ship docked some time on Wednesday the 14th and as it was already mid-week we were convinced we’d be in a motel room and wandering around Melbourne through the weekend at least.  But no!  by 10:00 am on Friday Frank told us to get in a taxi and come get the Tiger.  An amazing performance and one we will not forget.

Costs: (USD)

$4,645      Shipping including all port and agent fees in Los Angeles

$1,035      Cleaning, LPG tank certification, transport to port

   $890     Receiving including port costs, customs and quarantine clearance, agent fees in Melbourne

$6,570     Total

Lastly - The Carnet:

Carnet is short for Carnet de Passage, which is basically a bond that must be posted when shipping a vehicle into a country that guarantees that you will remove the vehicle from the country within the specified time or forfeit the bond.  Not very many countries still require them so this is the first time we have needed to get one.   We believe that Australia, New Zealand and some African countries may be the last holdouts.  No countries in the Americas require one, nor does any country in Europe.  Having said this please note that Germany does require a bond to be paid to German customs if you ship a vehicle into a German port (as opposed to driving into Germany from another country).  You can read more about this on our main shipping page in the Choice of Port section.  

The Carnet is mentioned here with our shipping information because the shipper will require the carnet before he will deliver your vehicle to the port for shipping.  The carnet becomes the vehicle’s passport for purposes of shipping and is actually quite handy in that regard.  Where you will get your carnet will depend on your vehicle’s country of registration.  For US vehicles, the only approved provider at this time is cpdcarnet.com.  Older information you may come across in your research will say to contact the Canadian Automobile Association, but within the past couple of years they have discontinued this service.


Contact Information:

Shipping Agent in California:

Raymond Strohecker, CFR Rinkens
     rstrohecker@cfrrinkens.com

Receiving Agent in Melbourne:

Frank Todero at Dominion Freight in Melbourne.  We can’t say enough about Frank and also his office staff in the person of Julie Innes.  They were both terrific to work with and excellent at communicating with us.  Best to contact them through the office at admin@dominiomfreight.com, web address is www.dominionfreightlogistics.com.au.

Other Shipping Agents Contacted:

Steven Van Buynderen, Belgaco Shipping
     
Shipping@Belgaco.be

Craig Robb, Kiwi Shipping
     Craig.Robb@kiwishipping.co.nz

Matt Ching, Freight Operations
     
freightops@customs-services.co.nz

Mike Morris, Aussie Spec US Caravans
     
www.aussiespecuscaravans.com

Shipping Lines:

K-Line has a useful website at www.kline.com.  I find their Route Maps helpful in initial planning.  One of thier sales agents is daniel.happoldt@us.kline.com, and he later put us directly in touch with Raymond Strohecker who became our shipping agent.

Another major shipping line often used by travelers is Wallenius Wilhelmsen and their website is www.2wglobal.com.


© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2017