Shipping the Volvo
Most of you have had the experience of selling a house, but you may never have shipped a car to Sweden. This is a good thing. It must seem odd for us to be shipping a Volvo to Sweden, but for some reason Volvos are more expensive there than they are here. Go figure.
This was my first and hopefully my last experience with overseas shipping. Port of Seattle is a labyrinth, an endless sprawling grid of containers, warehouses, box cars, railroad tracks, ships and cranes, bisected with a grid of bad roads in constant use by trucks bigger than Brazil. I’m following Lou who’s driving her car which we plan to sell before we leave.
We stop to ask for information twice and finally find the entrance to port offices. We park the cars next to the humongous ship at dock. My car will be on one like this.
We go inside. The offices are very nice. Good furniture and sculptures, photos . . . paintings—all first class. A receptionist asks for identification and we are given name tags that give us access the interior offices of the place. A customs lady greats us and asks us for our paperwork. We are drowning in paperwork but happily have brought what she needs.
“You’ll need an escort,” we are told. “You can’t go in alone, and only one of you will be permitted.”
“Do we have to pay for the escort?” I ask her.
“Yes. They charge $50 or $75 dollars and hour,” she says. “You have to pay in cash.”
The cash thing seems odd, but I don’t ask about it. I just want to get this done. “How long will it take for an escort to get here?” I esquire.
“Not long. I’ll make some calls.”
She brings us coffee to as we wait, but we do not have time to drink it. Escort has arrives in less than fifteen minutes. Seems like a nice enough guy, a good old boy in his work clothes and his sixties. We follow him out and form a short parade behind his huge pickup. Nothing here is small. Less then 2 minutes later we are stopped at a crossing by a passing train. A very long, very slow train.—all containers.
It goes forward for a little way, then backs up for about the same distance, waits and then goes forward again, and again, and again. Ten minutes pass—then twenty. Half an hour and I begin to imagine a $100 or more escort bill. More money than we have with us, but at last our escort comes back to my car.
“I think I know another way,” he says. “Follow me.” Lou is told to go on to the final customs office to wait for us and more paper work. In less than five minutes we are at the warehouse where I am to drop off the car. A Spartan office is occupied by three more good old boys in work clothes. One has his feet up on a metal desk. They all know each other by name and my escort complains about the train.
“Hey, that train’s making me money,” a man behind the counter tells him. “Had a ship roll over yesterday, he tells my escort. Forty-five degrees. Wheelhouse touched water but it righted itself. Destroyed everything inside . . . thirty million dollars damage— bulldozers and tractors . . . cars. They all came loose and smashed against the bulkhead.
The man with his feet up stands and goes out to check my car. “You’ll have to remove the license plates,” he says. Did you bring tools?”
Unfortunately I don’t have a crescent wrench in my pocket today, but they find a pair of pliers for me and I get the plates off. More papers get stamped and I ride back with the escort. We find Lou and go into the final customs office where my stamped papers are stamped again after my driver’s license has been copied. Then they are faxed to some other customs office and we are done . . . at last. Almost four hours have passed.
I’m thinking of the 120 foot wave as we drive back home. “Is our car insured for damage?” I ask Lou. “Are the shippers responsible?”
“I don’t think so,” she says.
Port of Tacoma
God, how I want this to be over!