Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Final shipping information

Now that I have the bike, and all the costs have been tabulated, I have made the final update to the shipping document, in case anyone is interested, check out:Shipping a Motorcycle from Kathmandu to Brazil

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A happy end, Brazil here I come...

[Coming into Santos]

Well, Friday was a pretty hectic day. Starting off with Eliana and Bravo Customs Brokers, who had the necessary paperwork prepared, first for the bank and then for Marihna Mercante. With the usual burocratic delays, Marihna Mercante was presented with a document they liked, I signed, she stamped it and entered the data in her computer and that was that. Not too hard ( of course it helped that Eliana from Bravo knew exactly what to prepare and how!!)

Next, the payment to the bank, and once that was done, the payment was registered electronically with Marihna Mercante, and the receipt printed out and I was ready for Nivio and customs again!

So after lunch that was where I headed. Again, with the correct document, things went smoothly. He signed everything off, and the papers were off to the inspections department.

Here the papers made the rounds and around 17:00 I was taken to the warehouse where the extremely nice Claudia worked overtime to get my paperwork processed on the spot, and together with the inspector we went and opened my box.

[Someone broke open the tank and stole my air pump and some odds & ends!!]

Yes, it was here, and I finally got to see my bike, for the first time in nearly 3 months! First off, it had been opened. Where, I have no idea. But when I looked inside, there was oil everywhere. The tank had been forced open, and the instrument console had also been pried open. So, I wasn't exactly in a good mood after seeing that.

[and, someone pried open the instrument console!]

The inspector got the frame number and looked in one of the boxes and he was satisfied. With that the customs was finished. The bike was now cleared by them. The next hurdle loomed.

[Claudio gets his hands dirty]

Ok, Claudia informs me that it will not be possible for me to unpack the bike and just ride out of the warehouse. Silly me for thinking that since everything had been cleared it would be that easy.
Turns out that in order for the warehouse to clear the bike (cargo), it had to be registered in their system as having left the premises. This was not possible since their system could not handle the registration information for my bike.

[Unpacking Strider]

So, I had to either truck the crate out, or find someone with a car who could help me out. With this information I returned to Allink, where Claudio was waiting for me to find out what happened. I informed him, and gave him the contact information for Claudia, whom he then called. He confirmed what I had said, and then started looking around for a truck. Turns out that hauling it out of there would cost me another 250$.. When will this end?
So Claudio then volunteered to accompany me to the warehouse in the morning, and provide me with the required alibi. Hey great. Maybe we can pull this off after all. I went back to Sao Paulo and crashed, it had been a long day, but in the end Claudio felt that we should be able to get the bike out on Saturday.

[After 3 1/2 hours, and help from practically everyone it is back together and packed..]

At 8:30 Claudio picked me up at the bus station and after having dropped his wife with the promise that he would pick her up at 12:00, we headed off to the warehouse.
With the papers which were processed the previous day, my passport, my vehicle registration papers, my CPF number, Claudio's car registration, Claudio's drivers license, and a release form, dictated by the person in charge, and written down by Claudio, and signed by me, they had all they needed to start entering the data into their system. One and a half hour later (as the office closed), we were done, and were allowed to enter the premises to start unpacking the bike. Of course, this sounds simple, but let me tell, you Claudio had animated discussions with practically every employee there, including the warehouse manager. Incredible, but somehow he managed to sort it all out. There were naturally some conditions, mainly, I was not allowed to ride out of the compound. The bike had to be pushed to the gate, and I had to exit via another gate, and then return to this gate where I could finally push the bike outside. Hey at this point, nothing surprised me.
We entered the warehouse and got started. The crew there were extremely helpful and curious. At one point, they even came over with a fork lift to lift the bike off the pallet instead of trying to roll it off without a front wheel, which is pretty difficult. (I need to put it on the center stand to put the wheel on, and I couldn't do that while it was on the pallet.).
Slowly I got everything unpacked, and mounted. The battery connected, and cranked the sucker up. Sure enough, it started, but the oil light was on and it sounded a bit funny. So I shut it down and checked. All the oil was gone! I assumed that the oil inside the crate was from the front fork seals, but on closer inspection it looked like engine oil. But there was no leak anywhere!! Where did the oil go?
I am assuming that they opened the crate either in Kolkatta or Singapore and removed the oil by pumping it out. The oil inside the crate being oil which spilled while doing this. The reason they did this was more than likely because of security against fire. I was aware of the fuel issue, but not engine oil. The didn't get the gear oil though.
First pump up the tires, both of which were flat, and since someone stole my air compressor I had to do it with my hand pump, which took a while.

Besides the air compressor, they also stole a set of mini sockets, an elbow connector used to put air in the back tire, and a can with a spare clutch cable. They had also taken a bag with charging cables out, and thrown it in the corner of the crate. What I am going to miss the most is the compressor, we have been together for the last 17 years or so, and they simply don't make anything like that anymore, this was a solid, heavy duty air compressor in a very small package. Everything today is just plastic and falls apart after a short while. Not to mention how difficult it is to fill and seat a flat tire with just a hand pump. But I will manage...

After the tire was pumped up we head off to the nearest gas station and bought some oil.
Once the oil was in, I started it up and let the bike run a while, everything seemed fine.
Was this really it?
Yes, it was. We rolled the bike to the gate, and the guys at the gate, threw caution to the wind and let me ride out into Brazil without making me exit and come around the whole building. Not bad. Met up with Claudio at the gas station where I had just filled out, and we were both smiling ear to ear. I am not sure which one of us was the happiest to finally be finished with this ordeal, you judge... (of course it was now 14:00, and his wife was still waiting!!)

[Claudio and I, finally outside the bonded warehouse and in Brazil proper..]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Marinha Mercante Catch 22

Anyone still out there. Hey if you think it is boring to read all this, try having to do it...
Another day another adventure. The morning today was spent trying to pay Marihna Mercante the duties they levied on my bike. And yes, you guessed it, it wasn't the 5% we thought last night. Rather, 25%, I hate it when I am right. At this point, it doesn't really matter anymore, there is simply no way around it so I have to pay it. But how? Allink spent the morning trying, but had some technical problems (computers/accounts) so they tried paying over some associates at another company. No luck. So close to lunchtime, we headed over to Marihana Mercante to discuss the this. Mr. Anderson Silva (Allink) spoke to the manager there, and it turns out that payment is only possible from an account at Banco Do Brasil, to their account at Banco Do Brasil. Say what?
Unfortunately, Allink has no account at Banco Do Brasil, as they do not do any business over it or with Marihna Mercante directly. So I accompanied Anderson over to Banco Do Brasil where we spoke to someone who seemed like he knew what he was talking about (he had a suit on!). It turns out that you cannot just show up with cash and have them pay it into the Mahrina Mercante account. As noted above, payment is only accepted from an account at Banco Do Brasil! Ok, so lets create an account for me. Not so fast grasshopper! According to this person, it is not possible for me to have an account as I am not a resident of Brasil! Everyone got that. I have to pay, but I can't!
Great, now we have to find someone who has an account at Banco Do Brasil and try and pay this over them. After some more conversations back and forth, and contacting some more associates we got the contact information for a Customs Broker. So later in the afternoon I head over there with Claudio who by now must be wondering if it simpler to shoot me or himself to get rid of this problem.
The customs broker was very friendly and helpful, and the story will continue tomorrow with them trying to sort this out. As they have more experience with issues of this type, both Claudio and I think that this will be the best solution. It will of course cost a little, but as the only thing they need to help with is getting Marihna Mercante off my back, it shouldn't be too bad.
One thing that really helped was the fact that they had helped a couple of British bikers who came through last year, so they seem to have experience with exactly my type of case. Can't wait to find out how the story turns out, how about you?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Not on my X-mas card list: Marinha Mercante

Ok troopers, another couple of days have come and gone, and it is official. I am not going to put the DMM (Department Marinha Mercante) on my christmas card list. These guys keep coming up with ways to rain on my parade. By the way these guys are the people who collect the taxes and duties on imports (probably exports also).
Yesterday was a pretty successful day. I got my passport translated, and with this document got my Brazilian Tax number, even though there was an error in the translation. Apparently, the expiry date of 2013, translated to 3013 in Portuguese. Go figure.
So today, the wonderful people at Allink went to Marinha Mercante and tried getting my shipment taken care of. No dice. They insist that I have to pay duty on my vehicle.
Hey guys, I am a tourist, just traveling through. How about, it is used for professional purposes? I am not importing anything, everything will be leaving... No dice. Everything was tried. The problem is that they do not have a procedure for handling a case such as mine. Therefore, no amount of argument is going to help. Not to mention that up to now these are the only people who have no interested in even trying to be helpful.
There is a way to get around this duty issue, and that would be by find a Brazilian sponsor, someone who guarantees that I leave the country with my bike. Hey come on guys, even a customs basket case like, Egypt, Syria, or Turkmenistan had no problem with me coming and going, and Brazil is supposed to be a rising star around here.
To be honest I just find the whole thing funny. If I were to come overland, none of these things would be an issue, same action, same result, but a totally different case, so the ladies at Marinha Mercante hide behind their "rules".
Ok, we carry on. At the moment, I am being told that the duty will be 5% of the shipping cost. A figure that is palatable. The problem is that I doubt that will be the end of it. It is too simple, and way, way too low for a duty. Normally these countries levy charges anywhere from 30% to 200% of the value the item in question as import duties. The reason is a protectionist governmental policy. I am not complaining, if it really is only 5%, I will accept it and carry on. I am not happy about it, but I can (have to) accept it. But is that really all??
Not to say I told you so, but I told you so. As soon as I got my tax number, someone wants to load it with debt...
Want some more good news. They don't take cash! It has to be by bank transfer, and I don't even want to know what that will cost or how much trouble that will be for me. So Allink to the rescue again (I hope). If I am lucky, they will take care of the payment, and I will pay them in cash. Tomorrow I will find out if this will work, so stay tuned. This is Brazil, who knows what can happen next. All I am waiting for now, is being told, that since I have imported my bike, I have to get it registered here... Who knows, it could happen!!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Wheels of Burocracy continue to roll, slowly

[Sao Paulo, Luz Railway station]

Well, a couple of words to the happenings of today, and a few pictures.
First to the CPF number. Together with a thoroughly overworked Claudio (who had to take time off from his busy schedule to help me) we went to the office which issues CPF numbers (Delegacia Da Receita Federal). After a quick explanation it became clear that my case was not a normal case, no surprises there. After a while we got to speak to someone, who after a additional round of explanations and consultation with some colleagues, came back with the following: Yes, I can get the CPF number, and would not have to pay the 5B$ fee. Also, I would get the number immediately, instead of having to waiting 2 days. But, I would have to bring them a translated copy of the passport! So off to the translator, where, surprise, surprise the cost of the copy will be 43B$ and it will take a day and a half!
So that is the story for the moment. The way it looks now, I should be able to get the translation tomorrow afternoon, and then immediately run over to the other office to get the CPF number.
Then, the following day I go to Marinha Mercante department, who is the one who needs the number in the first place; and clear the cargo with them. Once all that is done, then everything goes back to the customs, who should be able to finish my paperwork. The last step then is that a customs officer at the warehouse has a look at the crate and clears it, and I should be able to get on the road again!! Any one want to wager that this will actually work this way? I certainly don't...

[Sao Paulo, Parque da Luz]

Ok, enough of the bike already, but a couple of words on customs and port. This weekend I purchased the magazine Veja (Look in Portuguese). The title (as far as my Portuguese can make out) says, "Anchors which secure our growth", but the context is more likely, "Base" as in "the basis which secure our growth". Guess what, according to the magazine (see a copy of the article below, and practice your Portuguese), Santos, is the most expensive, slowest (only after Ethiopia), least efficient, and most obsolete port practically anywhere! Great, just what I wanted to know. The article on the port is a part of a series of articles on the general infrastructure of Brazil, which apparently is not in very good shape. Roads, ports, trains, airports, apparently are all in very bad shape as far as international comparisons are concerned. The magazine is apparently a very important weekly in Brazil, something like Time or Newsweek, and I bought it to try and learn a little bit of the language. But this wasn't exactly what I had wanted to read.

[Sao Paulo, Veja article about ports]

[Sao Paulo, Bela Vista streetfestival]

Now for something completely different, here are a couple of pictures from an Italien street festival going on down the road from my hotel. Apparently the 81st edition of the festival to Nossa Senora de Achiropita??
The festival consists of a number of food booths around the neighborhood block, and people just come to eat and drink. There is some speakers set up for music, but not a lot, and in a corner a few booths for games for the kids, that is it. Food, food, food.

[Sao Paulo, Bela Vista street festival]

At some of the stalls the locals line up around the block for a taste of the food. In particula the Fogazza stand is always really busy. Fogazza apparently is your basic Italina Foccacia bread with a slight Brazilian twist (they stuff more things in it), I haven't tried it yet, but I will see if I can get some soon, I will let you know how it turns out. What I have tried is the steak sandwich covered with diced tomatoes/onions, which was very good.

[Sao Paulo, Bela Vista street festival]

So everyone cross your fingers, this week could turn out to be my lucky week...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Another Week, and still no bike...

[Santos, Port]

Yes, we are back, but the news is the same. I still haven't gotten the bike, although I have managed to get rid of a whole lot of money. Last weekend actually started great, the boat had left, the bike was now on land, customs had cleared the bike, now the only thing I was waiting for was a notice that I could come and get the bike. Call me an optimist, but I thought we were almost there. Well, as you have gathered by now it was not to be.

The fun started on Sunday afternoon, I received a mail requesting my CPF number in order to be able to continue processing my bike. I answered that I did not have one, and that customs had processed my paperwork without one. (A CPF number is the Brazilian Tax number which everyone has and is needed for practically anything which has anything to do with the government). Anyway after a few mails back and forth it was decided that they (Allink) would try and find a way around this with the officials in questions. Then on Tuesday I got a great mail, where I was told that the "operation with the container" was over. I took it to mean that my bike was ready, great. So I told Claudio I would come early in the following morning (Wednesday).

So bright and early the following morning I was there, and then the first bombshell. First I had to go and get some copies of the "new" bill of lading notarized. Huh? What "new" bill of lading? Well it turns out that the paperwork I had gotten done the two weeks ago was wrong, as it was based on the "wrong" bill of lading. The bill of lading which had been used to process my bike was the one for the shipment from Kolkata to Singapore. The bill of lading for the shipment from Singapore to Santos was never given to me.

[Santos, Port]

Ok, no problem, off to the notary public, and then together with Claudio we went to Customs, and deposited the documents. I was told to come back at 11 the following day. In the afternoon we then went to the "Bracenter Centro Brasileiro de Armazenagem E DistribuiĆ§Ć£o LTDA", where some very nice ladies, after a long and protracted explanation by Claudio, found ways around the bureaucracy to process my paperwork. Thereby allowing me to pay the "Warehouse fees". They ran into the CPF number problem also, but with a little imaginative bookkeeping they made it work, and in the end relieved me of an additional 687.93R$ This is a "minimum charge" for storage and handling of my crate in the warehouse for 15 days. I don't even want to think about what happens if I haven't managed to get the bike out by then..

[Santos, Port]

Ok, the following day, Thursday, 11:00 sharp I was ready for my date with customs to re-do the clearance papers. When, even before getting into the building I met the customs officer Nivio, who told me I required the clearance from Marinha Mercante before we could proceed. Ok, so back to Allink, where Claudio arranged for Anderson to take me to this office and try to get the clearance paper required. So off we went, and of course it is the only office which closes at 11:30 instead of 12:00 for lunch. So back in the afternoon for another try. This time we go in and after a fairly short discussion, which even I figured was a bad sign. The answer was no, I required a CPF number to clear the paperwork with this office. I was still not sure who these guys are!

Anyway, we went back to Customs and informed them of the setback, and we agreed to go ahead and start getting the papers ready the following day (at 11:00 again), and in the meanwhile, Claudio and Allink would try and figure out if there was a way around this issue (again, but different department). It was decided that we would go and see the section chief of this department, and try and explain our case to her.

Friday, 11:00, customs office; I am told to come back in 30 minutes, which I do, and when I return, I then sign 4 pieces of paper, and am asked to return after lunch to do the rounds with the secretary of the additional registration offices as I had done last time with her. After lunch and together with the secretary we fulfill this in short order and then I sit with another customs officer while he fills out the forms I signed before lunch, and gets all the copies in order and sorts everything out. In the end, everything is done but the release from Marinha Mercante, without which customs can't finish.

So I go back to Allink to meet Claudio and Anderson for our appointment with the section chief, but as customs had taken so long, Claudio and Anderson, had gone ahead and had the meeting without me. Unfortunately the result, after much back and forth, was that I am indeed required to get this CPF number before they will clear the cargo. It is now after 17:00 on Friday, so there is not much more to be done. But we agree to meet on Monday and go through the process, which according to them should take 2 days, after which I should have my brand new CPF number.

If you, gentle reader haven't fallen asleep by now, here is some more info. I had actually heard about the CPF number, and was aware that it might be necessary. But I figure that having come this far (the first two weeks) without one, I might just sneak by without it. Another reason that I wasn't anxious to get this number is that, if they have such a number for me they might get it into their heads to actually charge me customs duties on my motorcycle and possessions! Something which is not, and will not be acceptable. So we will see what happens now.

Also, if you think I am loosing my cool or getting impatient, you would be dead wrong. I am having a great time as always. One of the reasons is that I feel that everyone has gone way, way out of their way to try and help me with this issue. With the minor exception of the lady at Marinha Mercante, which took the usual bureaucratic approach to anything unknown, or new, basically deny that it is happening!. But, it's ok, I actually understand, and am not bothered by it, she is just doing her job.

On Friday at customs again, I was force feed from a great buffet; as was the case the previous week, someone had a birthday and they really laid out the goodies. I really get the VIP treament there. People would be standing outside waiting for their turn, and I would be enjoying my food, and drink inside, with everyone wondering who the hell is that guy? They (customers), would never have been invited. Not only that but when I asked where the toilet was, they gave me the key to their facilities, rather than send me downstairs to the public ones.

Also, I have to say that everyone at Allink, have really done a unbelievable job of helping me at the cost of their own work load, which is not a little. Hopefully they won't have had enough of me quite yet, as the bike is still sitting in a warehouse somewhere...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,