Egyptian Port Clearance & Shipping via RoRo from Europe (Greece)
Here’s a lengthy (and boring for at least 90% of you) summary of our experience shipping from Greece to Egypt last month. If you’d like any advice about planning such a trip, please get in touch with us - we would love to help :)
Sorry for the lack of updates on here recently! Sudanese 3G (or lack of) struck and we have been out of it for a while! We managed to draft a few blogs in our iPhone notes though, so will be publishing those soon 💚
Back to shipping! For those who would like a summary, the TL;DR is:
1. Plan for delays with shipping and include some admin days either side (before you even begin port clearance in Egypt). It took 7 days from leaving our car in Greece to it arriving in Egypt
2. Neptune are *safer* (less theft in Alex due to where cars are stored in port) and *cheaper* than Grimaldi and now *accept your personal stuff* (see emails at end of blog post for details)
3. Egyptians are friendly, helpful and warm. Don’t be worried about culture at all, it has absolutely been our highlight!
4. Locking stuff up worked (nothing was broken into) but anything not attached WILL be stolen
5. With 37 steps, the Alexandria port clearance process is insanely lengthy, complex & opaque - we wouldn’t suggest attempting it without an expert or Churchillian levels of resolve
Here’s Ross’ delightful process map/infographic of the experience (more detail on this later!). You can take the Strategy Consultant out of London....
6. Our chosen fixers (Consolidated Freight Services; CFS) in Egypt were excellent but not perfect - we incurred some extra costs and small delays that we weren’t expecting. Expect to pay top end prices with no possibility for negotiation.
Pick your shipping line (1 month before)
- We used Grimaldi Lines (via Minoan Shipping Agency) to ship from Piraeus, Greece because their sailing dates worked best for us
- We also researched Neptune (the only other shipping line at the moment on that route) and found them to be:
a) Marginally cheaper than Grimaldi by about €50
b) Willing to accept locked personal belongings at our own risk after a couple of emails back and forth (see screen shot of correspondence below - we are aware that several overlanders have struggled to get Neptune to accept their personal stuff but we had no issues with this)
- Both companies weren’t that easy to get hold of and a bit rubbish with emails. Persevere and use the contact details we’ve included below or in Bas’ shipping document to get hold of the right people
Confirm your quote...
- Cost of shipping is based on the weight of your car. 3000kg is a tipping point. If your vehicle is even 3001kg, the cost of shipping almost triples. Both companies go off what’s on your Carnet. We were stung as our Carnet lists our gross weight (3020kg) even though our car weighs nowhere near that
- Your quote will include sailing cost, admin fee, loading fee, customs fees (about €80 and rolled into your total), parking costs in the case of a delay and ISPS (security arrangements)
- Liability: note that unless your car is certified as new, the shipping line take no responsibility for any damage. They don’t undertake an inspection prior to sailing so therefore won’t accept that any damage happened on their watch. Even if you have a roof tent/rack etc. like us, it won’t be included on your bill of lading as even existing. If you’re worried about damage, put your stuff in a container.
Confirm your sailing date...
- We were told that timetables typically aren’t confirmed until 1-2 weeks before, and found the same with both companies
- Sailings are likely to change/be cancelled for various reasons e.g. weather, low demand, just because...
Work out your plan for security...
- If you plan to ship personal items, which most overlanders do, make sure you’ve thought carefully about how you’ll secure your belongings. There are many many stories of people having things stolen and there’ll be very little, if anything, you can do about it
- We had a separate key for our tailgate and separate keys for our canopy which we didn’t hand over. Inside, we had plastic boxes we locked with a padlock. We used some cables from bike locks to secure the boxes to our car. We also used a ratchet strap to secure the canopy doors to each other so that they couldn’t easily be forced open
- We left nothing in the car apart from one broken padlock. The only thing that was unsecured on the outside of our car were our windscreen wipers. You can guess the two things that were stolen from us...
- Make sure you remove mats, phone holders, number plates if they aren’t screwed down. Literally everything that could be removed
- It took us AGES to get everything locked down exactly how we wanted it. Make sure you leave lots of time for this!
Hand over your car - 1-2 days before estimated departure date...
- We spent one day clearing customs in Europe. The process is really simple: a quick stamp in the Carnet (you don’t need a stamp on entry to Greece), cursory glance at the car, locate the VIN and that’s about it
- Minoan don’t accept card so make sure you have your cash ready. There are ATMs near their office
- You’ll leave your vehicle in the port with the key in the engine. We found this a bit uncomfortable as we’d been so careful to lock up our car in the month prior!
- Piraeus is actually really lovely. We had a great coffee in Bridge Coffee Roastery and a lovely meal in Pantos Kairou Taverna
- We gave our car to Minoan on 3rd Dec, it was due to sail on 4th Dec and left on 5th. It arrived in Alexandria on morning of Sun 9th so in total this took: 1 day admin/customs, 1 day delay + 5 days sailing
- We used vesseltracker.net to track the location of the ship. It wasn’t completely accurate and ping frequency was inconsistent but it gave us some idea!
- The ship will likely call at other ports before it reaches yours. This increases the likelihood of theft and damage and reduces the likelihood of anyone taking responsibility for anything that goes wrong!
- Decide on your fixer for Egypt - 1 week before arrival (but lots do it much later than this)
- We deliberated this one for some time as it’s such a huge cost and doesn’t seem to be for anything particularly tangible. We have heard of people clearing customs with their couch surfing host or a very low cost option they find at the last minute. After experiencing the process this seems like it must be the exception rather than the rule. If you want to get out in less than 3 days, CFS are really your only option. If you’re more flexible with time and willing to risk additional costs then you might be inclined to attempt it with someone less reputable
- Bas’ file on Egypt (a pinned post on Overlanding Africa Facebook page) lists all the main fixers. We chose CFS (Nermien) due to their reputation and recommendations from recent overlanders
- Despite there being two couples clearing vehicles via CFS from the same ship, we couldn’t get any discount on the fees. The standard €870 held true
Arrive in Cairo - 2 days before estimated arrival date...
- We stayed at the Dahab hostel in Cairo Downtown. It was a cool rooftop complex with lots of character. The owner has had lots of overlanders come through in the last few years and can arrange parking if you’re planning to bring the car back into the city
Travel to Alexandria - day before arrival...
- You want to limit the amount of time your car sits in the port in Alex, so make sure you’re there in time to start the clearance process as soon as your car arrives (if not a bit before)
- We travelled to Alex by train from Cairo. It’s a lovely experience and really easy, you can just hop on a train or buy a ticket in advance. Note that if you do the former you might not have a reserved seat and could end up standing on busier trains
- The trains should take about 3 hours, but in reality could take a lot longer. Ours did! Leave yourself plenty of time to get there
- We stayed at the Alex Hotel in Alexandria which was excellent. The team there helped us to arrange parking outside of the hotel on our return and were generally really accommodating
- In Alex, we’d recommend Spitfire (bar), Mugs (coffee shop), roof terrace of the Windsor Hotel (for the view and not the service), Papa Johns Pizza ordered to the hotel & The Greek Club down on the corniche
Clear customs - 1 day prior to arrival or day of arrival...
- We tried to work out exactly what was happening at each of the windows we waited at inside the port, what each stamp or slip of paper might mean and why things might be taking ‘so long’. We quickly gave up with a shrug of the shoulders and surrendered to the process!
One of the many bits of hustlin’ that occurred over the 3 days:
- We learned that there are 38 steps in the clearance process. Some of the steps we were aware of were: port access, residency permit, customs checks, vehicle discharge, vehicle check (VIN/engine number), fire extinguishers (you must by theirs at the port - regardless of whether you already have your own) and getting your Egyptian plates & license (which includes insurance). We only received a single licence for the named owner of the car. We’ve been assured this won‘t be an issue but something that is worth checking.
Ross with his port access permit:
Ross’ high quality sketch below is an attempt to illustrate what we think, possibly, maybe could happen 😂
- CFS were really supportive throughout the process and we had a phenomenal fixer called Salah with us throughout the 3 days. Salah was organised, diligent, driven and did what it took to get the job done as quickly as he could. He had a lovely sense of humour and protected us from the difficult conversations he had to have at various stages of the process. We had total faith in him and he allowed us to enjoy the process as we went along, too
- The only real issue we had was that Marina (the company who runs the Grimaldi section of Alex port) charged us almost triple the cost to discharge our vehicle compared to what Nermien had estimated. This is the only cost that isn’t included if you go with CFS and is estimated to be 800 EGP. We were however presented with a bill for 2,200 EGP. Apparently this was because our car was high and heavy and was therefore put into a different location in the port. We found this hard to believe and a little frustrating as we felt that CFS should have prepared us better for this cost, especially given they had the dimensions of our vehicle upfront and had imported many cars of our make/model complete with roof tent. Given we had paid so much to our fixer, we trusted that we wouldn’t be hit with any extra costs such as this. Our Swedish friends went to see Marina (the Egyptian agency) the next day about it, but we are not hopeful there’ll be any reimbursement. On this point, we hoped for more from CFS
Number plates being fitted:
You’re free!!! 2 - 3+ days after car arrives in the port...
- Once customs has cleared, you’re free to go of course! We had a lovely evening with our Swedish comrades eating pizza & drinking beers on the curb outside of our hotel whilst sorting our stuff ready for the next stage of the adventure.
If you would like any more information or help, please get in touch with us. We would love to help you on your journey. You can find us at @Cape to Cape on Facebook @MacKayseyes on Instagram or our blog, mackayseyes.com
Supporting docs & info:
Neptune Lines details:
Maria Gabriel | Customer Service Coordinator |Neptune Lines | Iassonos 5-9 Piraeus GR-18537 |
Minoan Lines (Agency for Grimaldi) details:
Xanthi Nannou Grimaldi Car Carriers & RoRo Piraeus Agency MINOAN LINES SA, As Agents only Τel. 0030 – 210 – 4145720 Fax. 0030 – 210 – 4145730 http://www.minoan.gr/page/1455/grimaldi-cargo
Ioannis Stratakis Grimaldi Car Carriers & RoRo Piraeus Agency MINOAN LINES SA, As Agents only Τel. 0030 - 210 - 4145749 Fax. 0030 - 210 - 4145730 http://www.minoan.gr/page/1455/grimaldi-cargo
Confirmation from Neptune re personal belongings:
Breakdown of costs for shipping (note 24% VAT in Greece):
Example bill of lading:
(Note that this is the most important document to enable your car to be released in Alexandria. You’ll need to give this to your fmixer as soon as you can. In most cases, the shipping agency will keep the original and ‘telex’ a copy to the port and to you. This is sufficient to release your car - you don’t need the original).
Discharge invoice from Marina, Alexandria: