This post is about our shipping adventure from Pireaus to Alexandria, sit back and enjoy the bureaucracy. For fellow overlanders, there is a short summary with all the relevant info at the end of this post.
The story starts back in January when we first contacted Xanti Nannou, our agent from Minoan Lines. She must have laughed when we asked for the shipping schedule of Grimaldi. Silly Dutch people, come back to me in September. So we did, we spammed her for three weeks but the schedule was constantly changing. In the end we confirmed our booking for Monday the 15th of October on the Friday before.
On Monday we woke up early to do some final prepping for the delivery of our car at the dock. We locked the rear door with belts, put up a note (that the door is locked and that we will open it up for customs), chained our most valuable things (fridge, chairs, table) and secured the back with wooden plates. We had to take these measures because we had to hand over the key of the car and a lot gets stolen on these ships and/or in the harbors.
At 9h we arrived at Minoan lines, the only shiny building in a dodgy neighborhood. After the necessary copies and payments we went to the car terminal G2 and called the broker, mr. Kostantinos Thomopoulos. He took our passport and carnet, we followed him to customs and back again to the car terminal. He arranged everything very smoothly. The vessel, Grande Detroit, was written on the car and then it was time to say goodbye to Hank the Tank. Mr. Thomopoulos dropped us off at the bus, for which we did not have a ticket but the driver let us in anyway.
The next day we flew to Cairo and took a train to Alexandria. The train was very good, the station very chaotic. We are in Africa now after all 😉
The next day we took a taxi to Consolidated Freight Services, our fixer in Alexandria. We were supposed to meet Fahty but she did not came in. Instead it felt like that the whole office was working for us. After an hour of copying and filling out forms, we had to go to the Egyptian government with Salah, our fixer, to get a stamp on Guus Egyptian visa, to prove that we are really in Egypt. This is when the fun started. There was a detection port at the entrance and you were not supposed to bring in cameras. Well, we took all our valuable belongings with us so we not only had cameras, but also walkie-talkies, a go pro, a satellite phone and laptop…First they took Charlottes camera away. Charlotte refused, but Salah said it would be okay. Maybe it was Charlottes angry face or we just had so many ‘spying gear’ with us that they decided that Guus should go inside on his own and Charlotte and Salah had to wait outside with all the bags on the street. Don’t think this is how things are supposed to go, as Salah apologized a million times ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this is Egypt.’ In the end, Charlotte was lucky. She could breath or at least inhale diesel fumes. Guus however, was stuck in a small room for 1,5 hours with 200 sweaty Libyan men, but he did get his stamp.
Next, the harbor. What a nasty and chaotic place. We had to arrange power of attorney, which means that CFS can do things on our behalf. Again, Charlotte was put on a bench, next to the only other lady in the room. Salah shook some hands and paid some men, Guus had to show his face. Then we went to the Automobile Club, a fancy building along the coast, where we had to get some stamps for the carnet. Salah gently pointed out that maybe Guus should come on his own the next day ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this is Egypt’. We were just discussing this, because Guus is the car owner Charlotte cannot do anything anyway so it was fine. After the craziest taxi drive ever, we took a nap in the hotel and enjoyed the Arabic street life at night.
The next day, while Charlotte was searching for hotels in Cairo in the hotel lobby, Guus got to CFS again. For the first stop he was accompanied by another employee of CFS, a young fellow called Mustafa. First stop was the Marina Office, where Guus paid the Carrier Discharge cost (1100LE) and we got a stamp on the bill of lading (probably to say that it was paid for). Mustafa accompanied Guus to the harbor where he met Salah again. Salah would then go for ‘5 minutes’ (at that point unclear to do what). Almost 2 hours later he returned. He had been arranging the port permission, which was hard to get because the Egyptians thought Guus’ name was strange (point taken…).
Then we went into the port to see the car. Luckily it stood safe and unharmed in a very dusty warehouse (among many brand new BMW’s).
Next we go to a variety of places, unclear to do what exactly. First: copy shop in which a lady prepared some papers based on Guus’ passport on a typing machine (and we ate a chocolate bar). Next, we went into a place with many booths, but we went behind them, exchange some jokes, and get some stamps. Then Guus is parked in the lobby of this place, says hello and waves to people, while waiting for an hour. Salah returns, and says we’re finished for the day. He said everything is OK, but seems a little down.
Later on he sighs ‘Mafia…Money, money, money’. We arrange to meet again on Saturday (because Friday is the weekend) to finalize everything and get Hank back!
Minoan lines, agent for Grimaldi shipping, contact Nannou Xanthi: firstname.lastname@example.org Address Minoan lines:
MINOAN LINES SA
Coordinates Car Terminal G2 Pireaus: 37˚57’31.68”N 23˚36’48.72”E
Custom broker: Kostantinos Thomopoulos (00306944248197)
Although not confirmed by Nannou, we kept track of the ships via this page, it was pretty accurate: https://net.grimaldi.co.uk/GNET45/Pages_ScheduleInfo/WFSchedule
You can also see where the ships are via this app: FindShip
We payed €593,- for the shipping and custom broker. It all went very smooth, it took us 2.5 hours in total.
We secured the car to prevent theft during shipping/at the harbor by locking the rear door with belts. We also used additional wooden plates to secure the back (picture above). Nothing was stolen, so this definitely helped!
We used Consolidated Freight Services, contact Nermien: email@example.com
002 03 4863285/ 4809119 / 4819412
Our fixer of CFS: Salah, very friendly guy who gets the job done, very basic English
When you go to a government building with CFS (first stop, day 1), do not bring cameras or any other gear with you that might be considered spying equipment, otherwise it will be temporally confiscated or one of you has to wait outside. Not worth the hassle. The line for your stamp is line 7.
We only got 1 fire extinguisher, not two, as other reports mention.
Think about how you want to attach your Egyptian license plates. The plate has a hole in the two top corners, but not at the bottom corners. We managed to do it temporarily with tie-wraps, and do it properly later.
In total we payed CFS 870 euro (+ carried discharge cost which was 1100LE in our case – 55 euro), it’s a ridiculous amount but we believe it’s worth it. You absolutely need a fixer and CFS has the best reputation.
Train from Cairo to Alexandria: the ticket machines did not work when we arrived, but on the left there are also ticket offices. A police officer even helped us to get the tickets and pointed us in the right direction to the train. We had the fanciest train (the only train available for us) and payed 100LE per person. Check out this page for more information about the train: https://www.seat61.com/Egypt.htm#Cairo%20-%20Alexandria