“We are sailing…”

Two very important points: 1) Africa changes quickly; 2) It isn’t about what you know, it is who you know…

We were in Tambacounda in Senegal when the French decided to intervene in Mali, and we were at the campsite in Palmarin when the five people were killed in Casamance. It really confirmed our decision to ship our vehicle from Dakar to Cape Town. Here is what we experienced:

Our initial contact with the shippers started Monday 28 Jan. After several broken promises of quotes, and two replies of “no, we cannot help you”, we realised we had to go into Dakar to knock some doors down.

We arrived at our hotel in Dakar, and met Dominic at reception. We decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ask for help, and so we asked if he knew someone in shipping. Turns out a close relative of his regularly ships from Dakar to the UK, and might be able to help. And even better, she was in Dakar at the moment and might be able to stop by the hotel to chat to us.

Malika arrived the next morning (Monday) and announced that she also needed to talk to her shippers, so we could join her if we wanted. We arrived at Delmas Shipping and met Pauline, who Malika has dealt with before. A quick request to Pauline and we had a quote in hand! The quote stated 50 days, but on further enquiry the schedule came down to 19 days (the rest was safety margin…). Pauline then introduced us to Ousseynou who would be our Freight Forwarder for the shipping, and he gave us a quote for his services. Having the shipper and the Freight Forwarder in the same company is definitely a plus! Ousseynou also indicated that we could load the container the following day.

Tuesday we drove down to the offices, armed with our Carnet and Passports. We had to get both stamped by customs, and followed an assistant to customs to have it all sorted. The customs officer was very understanding, and stamped the Carnet with an exit date corresponding with the vessel departure date. After lunch we jumped into the vehicle and followed Ousseynou to the container yard to load. It turned out to be a very long process with lots of waiting. At one stage it looked like we would have to leave the vehicle there over night, but we managed to look sufficiently irritated and we finally loaded after 3.5 hours. Carnet stamped, passport stamped, vehicle loaded, container locked and sealed. Looking good!

Wednesday we went back to the offices to pay, we thought. When we arrived we had to fill in another form, but no payment was taken. We asked, several times, if there was anything else we needed to do. “There is no problem” was the reply, so we left the offices for the day.

Thursday morning I wake up to an email saying they want an inventory for the vehicle. I send a list of 8 bullet points, but this is not enough – they need a detailed list (down to the number of socks and undies…). I suspect this has something to do with customs, but not sure where and how (I guess we’ll find out). Slightly tricky as said vehicle was already sealed in a container, but we did our best.  That sent off, we tried to relax the rest of the day.

Friday we decided to go back into the offices to ensure they had everything they needed and to maybe pay. As we sat waiting the big boss came to see us. He said he was concerned that we had been there so many times that week, and wanted to know if everything was OK. We said we were waiting for Ousseynou and he promptly went over and had a chat. When we spoke to Ousseynou again he was noticeably more stressed than ten minutes earlier. We said we only wanted to ensure he had all the information he needed, and after an affirmative answer we left the office for the weekend (we thought). Around lunchtime I received a slightly panicked phone call from Ousseynou asking me to “come to the container depot with the Carnet now now now”. Turns out the customs at the depot needed to see it again (although he had witnessed the loading himself) so that he could make some notes on the back of the Draft Bill of Lading. After that, one of the other Delmas Agents needed the Carnet to go to the Port Authorities to do some more paperwork. Ousseynou looked visibly shaken and stressed, and made several references to his boss calling him repeatedly.

Monday again (following week) and I wake up to an email saying that Ousseynou will contact me as soon as the ship has departed, so that we can come and pay and receive the original Bill of Lading (which we need to get the vehicle out of the container and start the Carnet process in South Africa). Looks like it has all been sorted, and that we can fly out in a few days.

Tuesday rolls around, and we still have not heard from Ousseynou. We call, and he again says he will call us when we can come to pick the paperwork up. We are starting to lose patience, so we decide to go down to the offices to see what’s going on. When we get there Pauline asks if we want to pay, and we say yes. The process of sorting out the Invoice and the original Bill of Lading then starts, and again nothing is straight forward… The original quote was in USD for the shipping and in EUR for the freight forwarding. Turns out I cannot pay in USD and EUR, only in CFA. Do I have CFA? No. So I need to go change. But the banks are closed at 1640, so we have to use a Bureau de Change. The cashiers at the shipping company close at 1630, but fortunately they had stayed open for me to pay. I was not impressed at this time, so it was a good thing I could pay. Payment done, I received the receipt, and could then go to collect the Original Bill of Lading. Finally we were done.

Thursday, and we are at the airport passport check. I go first, and the customs officer asks how I entered the country. I answer by car via Diama Dam, and he then wants to know about the car. Because we were adamant that the car exit should be stamped into African GirlChild’s passport we show him that stamp, and all is good and it is all smiles. Process is now finally completed on the Senegal side, and all three of us have safely and officially exited Senegal.

Here are some of the facts and points to remember:

  • Meet up at the offices in person. You will likely not get very far over the phone or via email.
  • Try to arrange for a Freight Forwarder (Transiteur) that works for the same company, as this avoids handover problems and issues around area of responsibility.
  • Have a detailed inventory ready.
  • The container depot will likely not have lashings and tie-downs or padlocks. In Dakar there are hardware stores on every street corner so rope and load straps are not difficult to get.
  • This is a very stressful process (at least we found it to be) and will be very frustrating at times.
  • The Freight Forwarder will probably not have done this before, so he will not understand the pressure you are putting on him. Only his boss can apply that pressure.
  • We had to run around a bit as we wanted to hang on to the Carnet and the Passport. If you are willing to leave the Carnet and the Passport with the Freight Forwarder it may be slightly easier.
  • Ensure you get the car stamped into your passport on arrival, and that it is stamped out in your passport on exit. It makes life so much easier.
  • Don’t wait for the Freight Forwarder to ring you after the departure of the vessel. Be impatient and go to their offices to pay and to retrieve all paperwork.
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20 Responses to “We are sailing…”

  1. Logistics nightmare….! However would you rather be back in the rat race sat behind a desk..!? 🙂
    Looking forward to see what your plans are next……. ! 😉

    Scott and the GA team.

    • African GirlChild says:

      Nope – not pining for the rat race at all 😉 We are looking forward to receiving the vehicle and then firming up the plans for the southern African exploration. Keep an eye out for our new itinerary! Hope all the GA gang are well!

  2. tuggy says:

    wow you move fast,so the trip has taken a different tact now,ok always safety first as you say things change fast,,,so you will be in SA this week then…sooner that expected…

    ok keep safe and keep well…..

    • African GirlChild says:

      Tugs – the one thing I have learned on this adventure is that … everything keeps changing!!!!! The upside is that we’ll have lots of time to explore southern Africa. Always a bright side 😉

  3. ghazi says:

    well done after suffering
    but this is africa
    wishing you all the best
    though i hoped to meet you in abuja

  4. Arno & Elize van der Merwe says:

    Enjoy Cape Town! Best time of the year to be here:-):-) Will see what your plans are and maybe we meet earlier than expected.

  5. Oddvar Olaussen says:

    wise decision to abort the journey and ship the car. There is simply too much unrest and when you cannot enjoy the trip due to security reasons there is no point in continuing. You are still young and will hopefully get more opportunities. There are not many countries in Africa that is considered safe now so you are heading for the safest area as I see it. Good luck to both of you and let us know if you embark on another trip in the future.n

    • African GirlChild says:

      Oddvar – it wasn’t an easy decision. And each traveller makes a decision based on their risk tolerance. We are looking forward to receiving the vehicle in Cape Town – and then we’ll set off to explore southern Africa! Starting with Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe … lots to see!!!

  6. Margaret (gemini) says:

    Hi Sheelagh, have you got your breath back yet???? I can only sympathise and say ‘been there, done that’. The shipping in this country has always been staight forward but in Africa !!!!!! A lot of the problems are the fact that they do not deal with these ‘situations’ on a regular basis and basically don’t know what to do – result confusion and stress for all concerned.
    Never mind car is now on its way when or have you flown yet.

    Enjoy your stay in Cape Town. Speak soon,

    Love Margaret & Mike

    • African GirlChild says:

      Margaret – still catching our breathe! The vehicle is on its way, but we still need to go through the procedure of receiving it into Cape Town! That is the next adventure ;). Then we can set off exploring southern Africa – can’t wait!

  7. Vic says:

    Wow, guys. Obviously a good decision, however difficult it was. You’ve made our decision-making easier. Looking very forward to seeing you real soon.

  8. Margaret (gemini) says:

    Have you got an agent in cape Town to do the necessary when the car arrives?


  9. Vibeke says:

    Smart – better safe than not, considering the alternative of driving through unstable areas.
    It’s like a book, really – you flip the page, and the story takes an unexpected turn… Looking forward to the next chapter 🙂
    Enjoy the south!

  10. Arno & Elize van der Merwe says:

    We would love to meet you guys. Please keep us updated about where you are when. We will send you a link to our blog later the week.

  11. Heather says:

    Goodness me – just catching up! Been half term here and little computer time for me 🙁 Hope all goes well. Safe flight to SA xxx

  12. Kirsty says:

    Wow…. It seems I’ve missed out on a lot, and still need to catch up as to why you are currently on a flight to SA! But very pleased you are – hole to see u soon. Are u in Jozi first, before CT? Hope we can catch up x x

  13. Toni Collins says:

    Wow, sorry you had to skip a chunk but it’ll be fun to see family and then head off again. I love how you guys are always up for the next thing and don’t get “stuck” being disappointed by the changes. Best wishes as you head north from Cape Town!

    • African GirlChild says:

      Toni – thanks for the kind words. We do our best to keep looking at the positive side of the changes – like spending time with friends and family while waiting for the vehicle!! Also, we will have time to see more of southern Africa – how special is that ?!

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