It's 2 weeks before our ship is shipped to Halifax and we've received an email from the forwarder: The boat is delayed… Well that's a good start, but we knew what we were getting into. “Fine”, we say to each other, “we have kept a wide margin, our flight to Canada will be in two weeks." In the following days, more e-mails from the forwarder follow with even more delay. The last message: The car will be on the boat on 20 February. Now it gets exciting, our flight leaves on 21 February. It would be nice to know if the car has left before we go that way ourselves.
Table of contents
The port in Antwerp
Bringing the car
We bring the car to the port of Antwerp, a home game, 20 minutes drive from our apartment. Twenty nerve-wracking minutes. Once at the port we have to report to terminal 1333. We are standing between the truck drivers who come to unload or load. It is our turn, but are immediately brushed off again. We first have to fill in a form, “it's there”, the woman behind the counter points out. Shit, we brought a pen, didn't we? Where's that pen? Still in the car? The woman behind the counter is not very friendly, she doesn't even want to lend us a pen. Fortunately, there is a truck driver who is kind enough to share his pen.
Leaving the car
Once outside again, with the correct documents, the next row follows. We line up behind the trucks to enter the port. Once at the barrier, it turns out that only one person is allowed to enter the harbor, so Roy is on his own. “You can park the car on that side and hang the keys on the rear view mirror.” What?! Key in the car? Just because? Okay… this feels really crazy. Roy parks the car next to a white camper van, leaves the keys in the car and walks away. We have a knot in our stomach when we drive home. We had read all about this online, but that doesn't prepare you for the feeling we have now. We've had other locks put on the back doors, so at least they're closed. But if someone wants to, he can just drive away with it.
Even more delay
In the meantime we have a new email from the forwarder about the shipment, the boat has a few extra days delay. Tomorrow we leave by plane, so that means that we have already left before the car leaves. Not ideal.
The Port of Halifax
Once arrived in Canada we see through the app MarineTraffic that the boat has left. Is our car on it? No idea… At the Wereldreizigers.nl camper from Chris and Malou it went completely wrong, there they were 'forgot' to load the camper which caused even more delay.
Then after a few days the redeeming message follows. A port employee writes via an Instagram message that he has put our car on the boat. He found us through the stickers on the car, so they've already done their job! What a relief it is to know that your car is on the boat!
Pick up the car in Halifax
After 1,5 weeks of waiting, the time has finally come. We drove around in a rental car for 3 weeks, but today comes Red Level finally arrived at Halifax harbour. The next morning we were invited by the agent to come to the customs counter.
At 9 sharp in the morning we are dropped off by the Uber taxi at the customs office in the port of Halifax. The agent isn't here yet. After ten minutes a car arrives and that turns out to be the agent. She gives us the necessary documents and advises us to go into the customs office and ask for our car.
We pay about 150 CAD to the agent and this is it? A few printed documents?
We enter the customs office and ask about our car. It turns out it hasn't been checked yet. Which is not surprising, since our car only arrived at the port the night before and customs work from 8 to 5 o'clock. After a few minutes we are outside again and we can go again. That feels a bit of a waste of our taxi ride. The agent is still in the parking lot waiting for someone else who has shipped his car. She promises to keep us informed and to call if she has news. She is sure we still have our car today. It's Friday, so that would be nice. Otherwise we have to wait all weekend until Monday.
Once back in the hotel we wait for the phone from the agent. At 12 o'clock we still haven't heard anything and call her ourselves. She hasn't heard anything yet and says she'll let us know as soon as possible. At 2 o'clock we still have not heard anything back and are fed up. If the car hasn't been inspected now, we'll have to wait until Monday. We take the plunge and call customs ourselves. As it turns out, the car has been inspected! We jump headlong into an Uber taxi to the customs counter. Strangely enough, on the way in the taxi we receive an e-mail from the agent that she has no news about the inspection and that unfortunately we will have to wait until Monday. Turns out you'd better go after your car yourself!
The right stamps and documents
After fifteen minutes at customs we are back outside with the correct stamp on our documents. The taxi driver was kind enough to wait for us at the customs counter and then take us to the port.
We haven't felt this excited and a little nervous in ages. Since we gave it a name, the car doesn't really feel like a car anymore, but like Red. At the harbor we see him with his striking red color immediately behind a fence. That feels nice! We receive a visitor's pass and are allowed to enter the harbor area. After a long wait, we can finally go to our car!
Check and departure
It turns out that someone in the back of the car tried to open all the boxes and the lashing straps were cut. It seems that customs did this as we only lost a few small things. However, we don't know for sure. If it was customs, it's shocking that they treat your stuff like that. Yet the enthusiasm prevails and we get in the car to leave.
Roy turns the key. Nothing… The battery is empty. We are very lucky, it is a quarter past four and the technical service normally stops working at four o'clock, but luckily there are still two men who can help us out. They give our battery a boost and we can leave.
The feeling of driving away in your own car after all those weeks, after all the stress that the shipping entails, is indescribable!
From now on our adventure really begins!
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Shipping your car, the facts at a glance
Now that we have experienced it ourselves, I would like to share with you a few facts about the shipping from Antwerp in Belgium to Halifax in Canada.
- Length of time: Normally the boat is on its way to Halifax for 11 days (15 days to Baltimore) and after arrival you have to count on a maximum of 3 working days before you can pick up the car due to port and customs controls.
- Price: The price fluctuates. It cost us EUR 1840 for the shipping and EUR 425 for the insurance. This is mainly based on volume. A bigger car = more costs.
- Options: You can join the boat. In that case you have less 'hassle' at customs, because you drive your car on and off the boat yourself. However, due to the pandemic, this is not allowed until at least the end of 2022.
If you are also going to ship your own car and if you have any questions, read the article below and let us know, we will be happy to help you!
Until the next,
Roy and Ellen