Shipping a Vehicle to South America – Guayaquil, Ecuador October 17th, 2008
Note: This post is primarily intended for individuals using this website as a reference if they are researching shipping a vehicle to the Port of Guayaquil, Ecuador via container.
If you are thinking about economically shipping a vehicle to
Guayaquil – Don’t! You will find it to
be one of the most expensive, frustrating, and time consuming experiences of
your trip. There are other ports in
What it cost to get the vehicle and ourselves to Guayaquil, Ecuador
$246.55 Lodging and living expenses for 7 days in Panama City
$ 0.00 Customs/Exportation fees in Panama
$117.00 Balboa, Panama, Port fees
$800.00 20 foot Container and boat to Guayaquil through shipping company APL
$908.00 Airplane tickets x2 from
What it cost to get our car out of customs once we were in Guayaquil
$488.08 Lodging and living expenses for 11 days while waiting for vehicle release in Guayaquil
$808.82 Guayaquil Consignee fees (Alianza Cargo)
$168.80 Guayaquil Consignee services fees
$100.02 Destination Shipping Company (APL) Fees
$26.79 Printing/handling final Bill of Lading (Servicio de Procesamiento de BL)
$26.79 Freight Certification (Emision Nuevos Documentos Importacion)
$17.86 Handling? (Handling in de Importaciones)
$17.86 Container unloading at APL warehouse (Moviemento de Contenedor)
$10.72 Tax on the above items
$ 10.00 Notarizing a document
$300.00 Mandatory Agente Aduana (Customs broker), required at Guayaquil
$150.00 Truck & driver to move container outside port to unloading area & warehouse
$ 80.00 Forklift fee to unload/reload the container from truck (3 small forklifts used)
$208.21 Port & customs inspection fees at Guayaquil Port
$50.00 Crane fee (Despacho de Importacion)
$10.00 Importation Stamp (Sellos Importacion)
$35.00 Weighing the container (Pesaje Contenedor)
$90.90 Customs Inspection fee, if nothing is removed from the vehicle (Aforo Simple)
$22.31 12% Tax on the above items
$ 25.20 Container
storage for 9 days! in
$ 30.00 Notarizing a document at the US Consulate which Alianza Cargo said was needed
hat & vest rental at
$ 6.00 Tip to our Tramite who had to put up with this whole process
Total is $2071.55 and 7 days to get yourself and your vehicle to Guayaquil, and then $1572.31 and 11 days to get your vehicle out of customs once in Guayaquil.
Port Comparison – Balboa Port, Panama
$117.00 Port and customs fees in Balboa, Panama
$89.90 Lodging and living expenses
during the 4 days from when we arrived in
$206.90 and 4 days = Total amount/time it took us to get our vehicle through customs and into a container in Balboa, Panama
Port Comparison –
$1084.23 Port and customs fees in Guayaquil, Ecuador
$488.08 Lodging and living expenses for 11 days while waiting for vehicle
$1572.31 and 11 days = Total amount/time for the same result in Guayaquil, Ecuador
We have heard that the smaller Ecuadorian port at Mantas does not charge as much or take nearly as long to get your vehicle back. In addition, we’ve also heard from several travelers that the Colombian port of Cartagena will take you roughly 2-3 days and $300-$400 to get your car out of customs if shipping via container. Supposedly Colombia is fairly safe now for travelers sticking to the Panamerican Highway. Colombian cities are supposed to be some of the most beautiful colonial cities in all of South America. Other cities to ship to are the port towns around Lima, Peru; and Santiago, Chile. I don’t have any references for any of this other than what we’ve heard through travelers’ networks, so make sure to do some more research before you commit to a shipping location. One reason I’m writing this post is to provide some solid information on costs at the port of Guayaquil. I’m pretty sure that if you end up going there, you’ll spend at least as much as we did.
When you call a shipping company and book a container and ship, the price you’ll be quoted is one of two options.
The shipping company’s area of knowledge is providing you with a container and having that container placed on a ship that is going to arrive at a port on a specific date/time. Outside of this area of knowledge, they will probably know very little. The salesperson on the other end of the phone may try to paint a rosy picture of how easy and cheap it is going to be to get your car out of customs at the destination port, but chances are they just don’t know. In all fairness, unless your shipping salesperson has a program set up for shipping vehicles to your specific destination port, they will not even know what any of the destination port costs/procedures are. They are used to dealing with established companies that already have procedures in place at the destination to handle everything that happens after the container comes off the ship and onto the dock. You are probably an anomaly for them.
If a company does say that they offer an all-inclusive package, you will need to ask them exactly what they will be paying for. Get their promises in writing. In shipping to Guayaquil, someone is going to pay for all of the items listed above. If your company doesn’t agree to pay for them beforehand, you will end up paying the bill. We called and emailed about 20 different agencies/people in Guayaquil prior to arriving, and no one was able to give us a detailed breakdown of what exactly the costs would be for clearing customs. We are writing this post to try and make your experience less frustrating and expensive if you do decide to ship to Guayaquil. Better yet, just ship your car somewhere else where you don’t have to pay and wait for such a time-consuming and expensive customs process to painfully unfold.
Some of the other charges you are going to end up paying if shipping a car to Guayaquil are:
- Driving the vehicle down a ramp hooked onto the back of the truck (no one we spoke with seemed to know where to find a ramp)
- Having one or several forklifts lift your container off the truck while the truck drives away from underneath. Once the truck is clear of the container, the container is lowered to the ground and you can drive your vehicle out. The process is reversed to get the container back on the truck so it can be taken to your shipping company’s warehouse. Using 3 small forklifts and this method was how our consignee scheduled and did get our container off the truck
- Having the truck back up to a warehouse loading dock where you can drive your vehicle directly out.
- Having a tow truck back up to your truck. The tow truck raises its ramp supported by a forklift under the ramp. You drive your car onto the tow truck ramp. The tow truck operator secures your vehicle by cable to the tow truck winch. The forklift departs. The tow truck lowers its ramp and winches you slowly onto the ground. This sounds crazy but it’s exactly what was set up for our friends Denise and John.
8. Deposit on the container. Since it is your responsibility to get the container back to the company warehouse, you may have to put a deposit down on the container (APL wanted $400 for our deposit, which we negotiated with our consignee to cover).
9. Taxi fees around town for letters/signatures, plus taxis to the port and possibly within the port if it’s big like Guayaquil. We spent $43.00 on taxis in Panama City once our car was in the container, plus an additional $49.50 on taxis in Guayaquil. All taxis but one in Panama City and 1 in Guayaquil were used when conducting business for the shipping procedure. In Guayaquil, we needed to take cabs 3 times to our consignee, Alianz Cargo, as well as 3 times to the port to include 2 cab rides within the port. The cost of a cab each way from the centro area of Guayaquil to the port costs $4-$5 each way. You may be able to use buses to save on costs, but both cities are big and navigating the city by bus will require transfers and additional time.
10. All the money you’re going to spend waiting for a ship and container loading date, plus all your expenses while living in a hotel room in Guayaquil waiting for your container to clear customs. We called ahead to Panama City shipping companies about 2 weeks before we arrived. By doing this we were able to time our arrival so we weren’t sitting around in Panama City waiting weeks for a ship to sail. As it was we spent 7 days and $246.55 living in Panama City, and an additional $488.08 and 11 days waiting to get our vehicle back in Guayaquil (see attached spreadsheet). There are a lot of boats heading to South America from Panama City, but depending on what shipping company you use, the wait could be from one week to a month. Call ahead, as each day you spend waiting to line up a shipping date will add to your cost. Once you know a ship and date, you’ll need at least 3 days to get everything done in Panama City prior to your container loading date. I believe you can load your car in a container at Balboa Port (west side of Panama City, same port where we loaded) and have it sit for 5 business days prior to loading it on the ship with no additional storage cost. It would probably benefit you to load the vehicle as soon as possible, and then get yourself to Guayaquil early – you’ll need the extra time there to deal with everything. Once the ship leaves Balboa the transit time to Guayaquil is 3-4 days.
There are a number of reasons why the Port of Guayaquil ends up costing so much.
If you do decide to ship your vehicle to Guayaquil, Ecuador, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to get your car out of customs.
1. Before you leave Panama, type your information into these 2 documents (Cooperacion Aduanera Ecuatoriana letter, Gerente del I Distrito Guayaquil letter) and print out 10 copies of each
2. Make numerous photocopies of every document you have, and at least 2 color photocopies of any document that is in color. Items to photocopy include:
- Vehicle Title (10 copies, 2 in full color)
- Vehicle Registration (10)
- Passports (10, 2 in full color)
- Drivers Licenses front and back (5, 2 in full color)
- Final Bill of Lading (10, 2 in full color)
- Customs outprocessing letter from Panama (5, 2 in full color)
- Cooperacion Aduanera Ecuatoriana letter (10, 4 with original signatures)
- Gerente del I Distrito Guayaquil letter (10, 4 with original signatures)
- Other letters
3. Call your Guayaquil shipping company office and set up a date/time to meet a representative. Tell them that at your meeting you’d like to pick up your final BOL, pay all charges, and have a receipt ready on that day. Make the appointment for as soon as possible after you arrive in Guayaquil.
4. Once you get to Guayaquil, go to your shipping company office, pay any fees ($100), and pick up your final Bill of Lading. Obtain an itemized receipt for what you just paid for. Get the address and business hours of where your container needs to go once you have removed your vehicle from the container. Be prepared to pay a container deposit fee of around $400 (don’t bring this up, let them if they want to). You’ll be using cash or cashiers check for almost all financial transactions. Neither our shipping company, consignee, or the port accepted credit cards. You can also ask your shipping company if they recommend any trucking companies for moving your container, and if they offer a discount.
5. If you have a consignee, go to their office with all your documents and photocopies. If you are trying to get your car out of the port without a consignee (it’s worth a try), go to the Guayaquil Port as early in the day as you can. The Guayaquil cab drivers called the Port “Puerto Maritimo” and we paid $4-5 for a cab one way from downtown to the port. Bring all your documents with you and get in line at the aduana (customs) office located just inside the main gate (which is past the row of banks) on the left side. The procedure in this building was a bit sketchy. There was no secretary, just a security guard and a bunch of tramites waiting their turn to go into the back to meet with a customs official. You’ll have to make it known that you too want to meet with a customs official. They are located in the rooms behind the guard so just keep being persistent. You will see a lot of well-dressed customs officials walking back into their offices. Nobody was smiling and we got a very strange vibe from this office. Even with our costly tramite we waited about 2 hours in this room with no chairs to get our 15 minutes with the customs official. When you meet with the customs official, they will want 1 copy of all of your documents including color copies of whatever is in color. The item you need that this office will issue is the “Declaration para ingress de vehiculo particular de turismo” (DIVT). If you get this piece of paper, congratulations, the hardest part is probably over and you just saved yourself the $300 agente aduana fee and $168.80 consignee fee. The rest of the process will be difficult but you can definitely do it on your own. When you get the DIVT, the customs official should also put a stamp in the driver’s passport with the vehicle information. Make about 5 photocopies of the DIVT for later, and don’t give away the original until you leave the country. When working with this office, make sure to emphasize that you are only temporarily bringing your car in for tourism and that you will be leaving the country with it in 60 days. We didn’t have a carnet de passage. However, we still didn’t have to pay any deposit on the vehicle. This may be because they accepted the notarized letter we had from the US consulate in Guayaquil on our “Cooperacion Aduanera Ecuatoriana” letter in place of a carnet de passage. If I had this process to do over again, I would go to this office myself without a consignee or agente aduana but with all my photocopies and letters in hand. I would also probably try this process first without the consulate stamp and see if they would process my paperwork anyway. Later, if the customs officer says they can’t help you because your documents aren’t official enough, ask them if a stamp from an Ecuadorian notary OR the US Consulate would be sufficient. Also, be prepared to give a lowball cost of your vehicle. The customs officer is going to annotate the cost of your vehicle on the back of the DIVT form it says the Ecuadorian government can charge you 10% of the vehicle price if you don’t leave the country by the date on this form. Hopefully you can prove your vehicle cost by some kind of documentation such as the price of purchase on your vehicle registration. Also, if you have a website, you might consider letting the customs official know about it if they want greater proof that you’re going to leave the country with your car. It might provide evidence that you are indeed just passing through, and they also might give you less hassle as they would like to avoid negative publicity. I’m really not sure if it will help but it might be worth mentioning if you’re getting resistance.
6. The day you get the DIVT and stamp from customs, schedule a container/vehicle inspection with customs. Try to schedule it for early in the morning, as it may take several hours. The inspection itself will probably only last about 15 minutes, it’s all the waiting around, getting dock passes, and paperwork the customs official might generate that tends to take awhile. Realize also that your container may be at a holding facility a few miles away from the main port. Our container came off the ship and was in the Fertisa Terminal which was about 2 miles from the main port.
7. Set up a truck to be at the port about 4 hours after the time you set up your container inspection. At the same time, set up a ramp/forklift to be ready about 2 hours after the time the truck arrives at the port. Ask around at the port for a truck, there are a lot of trucks waiting on the side streets outside the entrance. It should cost about $75-150 for the truck, and see if you can work the issue early on how you are going to get your car out of the container once it is on top of the truck.
8. Try to borrow a hard hat and reflective vest for a few days, it may help you move around the port easier on the day you do your inspection and hopefully pick up your vehicle. If you don’t have the hard hat and reflective vest when you show up for your inspection, you might not be allowed into the port. Ask around outside the customs building for someone who rents these items. We found someone to rent some in a little building just around to the right and the back of the main customs building. It should cost you about $2 per day to rent the vest/hat. We also saw some for sale in downtown Guayaquil if you want your own pair for your next Halloween party.
9. Show up on inspection day at your terminal early with your hard hat, vest, and enough cash to pay for everything: $208.21 for the port/customs inspection fees, around $25 for container storage fees, $75-$150 to pay your truck driver, $80 for the forklift(s). Expect this process to take all day, and keep being politely persistent to get what you want. Plan to show up 30-60 minutes before your scheduled time to process through security, get your gate passes, and actually go into the port. Next, go to your terminal office where you should meet with a customs official. Once they know you’re there they will hopefully arrange to have your container removed from the stack and placed somewhere on the ground where it can be inspected. During the inspection, if anything is taken out of the container, you are liable to have to pay the “Aforo Cuadrilla” ($115.90) price of inspection. We didn’t know this, and when we went to pay the cashier we had to argue that the 5 items that were removed from our container for 1 minute shouldn’t constitute a $25 increase in price. If your customs official removes a few items from the container, you might want to ask him if he can still charge you the “Aforo Simple” price of “$90.90” Whenever you’re at the port, keep asking questions to try and keep the process moving along. Also, be polite but give the impression that you know what you’re doing. We got the impression that not everyone knew what was needed for getting your car out. Sometimes your idea will be good enough to keep the process moving along.
10. Once your inspection is done, the customs agent will generate some paperwork. You should then go and pay the 2 cashiers and then hopefully your truck will be allowed in the port and your container placed on the truck. The truck is weighed both before the container is placed on it and after the container is placed on it to get an accurate weight of what’s inside the container. By doing this, the port is trying to see if the weight changed between your shipping departure point and your shipping arrival point (ie: something was removed/added to the container). If you are lucky enough and you found a shipping company weeks ago that doesn’t need their container removed from the port, AND customs will let you drive your car out of the container, then this is where you’d do that. However, probably all of you will need to remove your container from the port before you can drive your car out.
11. If you’ve made it this far, the last thing you want is the truck driver to take, never to be seen again with your car and your container with its deposit which you won’t be collecting. I’d ride with the truck driver in the cab. Hopefully you already have a place to offload the car, and can make sure that the container gets safely back to its storage facility. Chances are your truck driver is legitimate, but just make sure he’s not taking you down any back roads. Our offload location, as well as our friends’, was right off a major street. You may need a bolt cutter to remove the seal the port has put on your container after it was inspected. Also, make sure the forklift operators don’t overzealously try to cut through your personal lock on the container if you have one (my wife had to stop this from happening on our container). Expect that there may be a lot of people around watching the process of your vehicle being removed from the container. It’s kind of an entertaining process and people have a tendency to stop and watch what is going on. Try not to have any extra items laying around as they may walk off. We had some extra rope inside our container that wandered into one of the back storage rooms at our forklift location. Basically, be nice but keep your eyes open and don’t leave anything laying around.
12. Your vehicle is out, congratulations! Don’t forget about any deposits you need to collect. Go park your vehicle somewhere secure and toss back a few cold ones! Also, if your windows are tinted, you’re now driving an illegal vehicle in Ecuador. We were stopped by the police for our window tint a few weeks later. However, we told them that the customs official said it was okay since we are a tourist vehicle and will be leaving the country in a few weeks. They let us on our way without further hassle.
1. On our Notarized “Cooperacion Aduanera Ecuatoriana” letter, our consignee told us on Day 1 to get this notarized at the US consulate so we went there the next day. However, I’m not convinced this is required by the customs officials at the port. I’m also not sure if the US Consulate in Guayaquil can notarize another letter like this. We explained our situation and they were nice enough to help us. However, the consulate person stated that they hadn’t done this before and normally only notarize documents that are for business in the US. When it comes to going to the consulate for a notary stamp, on the one hand, the more official you can make your documents look, the better the chance you have of getting your car out. However, if you can go to the port in the morning without a notarized letter, I would try that first. Later, if you still need a notarized letter, you may try the US Consulate or go to an Ecuadorian notario or abogado. The US consulate in Guayaquil is located downtown, 4 blocks west of the main plaza (Parque del Centenario) on Avenida 9 de Octubre between streets Garcia Moreno and Jose de Antepara. They are open for walk-ins after 1:30 PM M-F (show up around 1:10 to avoid waiting). Make sure to ask for the notary stamp as well as the pressed seal. The cost of the notary stamp/seal is $30 per page so make sure your letter fits on one page. Make about 10 copies of this letter if you get it notarized, it may help open doors later.
2. We didn’t need a cell phone the last 8 months we’ve been travelling, but this was the one time when it actually would have been handy. If you can pick a pay-as-you go phone up at a reasonable price, it may make it easier for arranging the customs and truck process, plus being able to provide a call-back number to some of the agencies you’ll be dealing with.
3. Our ship and container were unloaded at the Fertisa Terminal, which is one of the many terminals within the Port of Guayaquil. Towards the end of our shipping odyssey, we met with the Fertisa Port Superintendent. His name is Capt. Galo Andrade and his cell phone number is 593-97-775739. He speaks English fluently and he said we could post his name and number on our web site for other travelers if they need to talk to someone in a position of authority within the port. He was friendly, seemed willing to help, and I wish we met him at some point other than the end of this long process.
If you were able to use this information and found it helpful, or have any changes or additions, please let me know. I’ll try to include your information for other travelers who might view this post.
Go-Panamerican.com: useful information from a May 2006 Guayaquil shipping experience
Items I should be adding to this post in the near future are:
Links to the 2 letters you should show up with in Guayaquil
Spreadsheet with a list of shipping companies and current prices