Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cargo - Part two

                                          Shipped !!

                                                      (part II)                                          8 June 2011 AD

Yes, cargo container…where was I? … We were enjoying, or rather using, an indeterminate delay to complete the condo remodeling. Contractors must be the same everywhere - just like another one of Dione Warwick's songs: "Promises, promises, all I get are promises, promises now - I don't know how..."  Delays, delays.  But that’s another story.
                              "Ding Dong, Cargo Calling!"
                              "Where's all this stuff gonna go?"
                                 "What a mess!"
             Guayaquil port indicated the reason for the delay was our container gained weight during shipment.  They allow for a 10% variance, but ours was 12%.   Sounds like they do not trust their scales.    Humm,  how can a sealed container gain 1000 pounds on the ocean voyage?

We had been warned multiple times about the port of G.  Never ship there, except as intermediate port of entry. Never allow the container to be opened in G.  Rumor was they enjoy misplacing items, adding daily storage charges, etc.   So, the “weight error” caused our 40 foot container to be opened.
After a week of unreturned emails, we mentioned using our attorney to unravel things.  Now, the container will arrive in Cuenca the next day, Saturday. Our two week time limit before extra charges ends Sunday. Yes, we received a review now. The previous Friday closed for Saturday voting (!?), no one works weekends, paper work, weighing twice, etc. So we hoped for an arrival on Monday at our condo.
 We needed to hire a translator for all meetings (usually to translate three sentences) and 5 strong young men to carry Sue’s piano and our furniture up two and a half flights of stairs. Next, a trip near the airport for customs. After a wait we were told to go to another office and wait for paperwork. The papers?  A  copy of each page of our passports to sign, perhaps because the shipper never asked for my Cedula number. The previous week we went to the Notary office, waited during his four hour lunch to sign a document stating I am the same person on my passport and on my Cedula.   Seems a bit redundant to me.
 We are getting closer.  Our late morning entertainment was watching our container contents being inspected and compared with our shipping inventory.  Five men patiently removed items from the middle to allow access to every item. Randomly, they opened a couple dozen boxes while we prayed. Our 39 page excel spreadsheet had been reworked several times due to lack of communication and changing rules, creating possible errors in details. The first two boxes had Bibles on top for our classes and study! The third caused smiles as they photographed Emily’s large creative Halloween pumpkin.     Ahh … all is well.
Our cargo will be trucked 4 miles, a 15 minute trip, to us at three pm. We can unload during the allowed two hours in time for the truck to return to G.  Let’s not incur another day of fees.
A t 3:20 we began cell calls. Our shipping rep was  “leading the trucker to our condo”.   At 3:40 they will “arrive in 15 minutes”.  At 4:00 “very close”. Then we saw the large trailer stuck a block away negotiating a tight turn from a small side street. Why not use the wider streets?  Then it slowly backed up for a detour around to a larger street. Next, we saw it heading for us and a row of neighborhood jacaranda trees. Two of our new Columbian friends ran down the street and climbed like monkeys on top of the cargo. They bent limbs and deftly lifted overhead cables unmindful of the risks incurred. Quite a show!
"There's some light at the end of the cargo..."

Our flurry of boxes and furniture, while the resting driver insisted he needed to leave by six pm, resulted in the complete loss of our planned strategy for proper placement of 200 boxes. But it’s all here. We’ll sort the mess after a good night’s sleep.

We hope to receive a refund of most of our $800 container deposit within a month.
                              What we would do differently?
·         Do everything in writing/email in both languages.
·         Obtain US trucker’s name and cell phone number. Verify every step, schedule.
·         Ask even more questions (even when they resist).
·         Obtain recent gringo referrals.  Shop more shippers for quotes and services.
·         Ask about route for final delivery, inspect for trees, wires, parking ,etc.
·         Allow more time for packing, listing contents of each box.
·         Verify every step. Who is accountable and how among all parties including, Cuenca shipping company, US port contact/scheduler, US trucker, “steamship line”, G port contacts, trucker. Each party may be independent of others!
·         Ask for list of all local and national holidays (this may surprise you!)
There were a number of other issues and problems I prefer not to put in writing. In defense of all parties, understand that the rules are constantly changing without notice.
May our readers gain insight from all our mistakes and omissions!