Shipping the Motorbikes from North America to Europe

Shipping the Motorbikes from North America to Europe

January 10, 2016


Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.

Narrated Audio Blog

We were to travel from New York to Southampton in the UK via Cunards Queen Mary 2 (QM2) cruise ship. Although Cunards had previously provided a vehicle transport service between New York and the UK, it had suspended this service with the decommissioning of the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), the last Cunard ship to boast an on board garage. We'd heard that luggage on the QM2 was unlimited but each piece could be no more than 20kg. We seriously considered breaking the bikes down into 20kg sections and taking them into our cabin, but knew this could end badly with us stuck and our bikes in pieces. The next best option was to send them in a container.

We contacted a company that shipped out of New York as this was the most convenient port for us. Schumacher Cargo Logistics quoted us $500 per bike plus £150 port fee at the other end. We didn't shop around but had done plenty of research and this price seemed very reasonable and so we booked the bikes in. Unfortunately between booking and our departure, Stu had a bad accident and couldn't easily get the bike to New York. Luckily Schumacher had a California office and for $100 more the bikes could be shipped from the West Coast.

Stu's bike after his accident
Stu's bike after his accident
The car Stu hit
The car Stu hit
Stu in hospital after his accident
Stu in hospital after his accident

We dropped the bikes off separately, Janell's about a week before Christmas and Stu's just a few days before New Years. There is a good reason behind this and a great story to go with it written in a separate blog. The process for collecting all the required paperwork seemed very professional, Schumacher Cargo Logistics had a checklist of what was needed and we handed it all over. Once the container was filled it would be booked on a ship and we'd be advised of the arrival date in the UK and collection instructions.

Stu's bike just prior to being dropped off with Schumacher Cargo Logistics
Stu's bike just prior to being dropped off with Schumacher Cargo Logistics
Stu's poor bike
Stu's poor bike

An email was waiting for us when we disembarked the QM2 in the UK. The shipping company could not ship the bikes without the original ownership papers so customs would not clear them for export. We'd provided photocopies to Schumacher without any concerns raised. Actually, the photocopies were of the original Texas titles we received when we purchased the bikes, but since then we'd retitled them in the state of Florida. To obtain the Florida plates we had to relinquish our Texas Titles. We could remember getting the plates but not the new Titles. We looked thoroughly through our paperwork and couldn't find anything, so we called the Florida DMV to arrange a replacement. It wasn't that easy, lost or damaged Titles are only replaced if the circumstances are formally documented and it was a costly and time consuming process. We were adamant we never received the papers in the first place but all their systems indicated that this wasn't the case. The manager at Florida DMV had on record the staff member who served us and assured us they were very diligent, experienced and knew exactly what to do. Quite stressed at this point, we had yet another very good look but were convinced we didn't have it. Then hiding amongst a pile of miscellaneous papers we found both Florida titles. At this point we obviously breathed a huge sigh of relief. The conversations with Florida DMV were quite heated and unpleasant toward the end but we knew the right thing to do was to call and let them know. We called the DMV back and very embarrassingly apologised for our accusation that they had not correctly handled our titles and to our surprise they didn't pummel more anger towards but were very appreciative of our apology and now fully aware of our dilemma, happy that we could get our motorbikes shipped.

The Florida Titles were sent by DHL to Schumacher Logistics so they could begin the export process and have our motorbikes placed in the next available container headed for the UK. All the various delays had put us back by a month, March to April, but given the cold UK winter we probably weren't going to do much with the bikes until May anyway.

It was over two months later that we received an email confirming the motorbikes arrival in the UK. By this stage we were quite at home in the Cotswolds. But it was a long way to move the motorbikes from the Tilbury docks to home, a 6 hour round trip in fact, and Stu's bike was in no shape to be ridden. We were tossing up ideas for hiring a truck when Tony offered the use of his pickup truck. It would be tight getting both bikes in the trailer but definitely worth a go so very graciously accepted his offer.

The advice from the UK office of the shipping company was to complete a Temporary Admission form for a temporary import. This would allow us to ride within the EU on foreign plates for up to 6 months. The two problems with this were the outrageous cost of insuring a foreign vehicle in the UK and the time limitation; around US$1000 for 6 months. We were advised that a one time only extension was possible for an additional 6 months but not guaranteed. The alternative was to conduct a full import. Usually this would attract duty and tax and be costly, but if you could prove you had owned the vehicle for over 12 months then it could enter the country free of any duty or tax provided it was not sold within 12 months. This greatly reduced the cost of insurance but meant we'd have to meet the requirements for the UK's and the EU's roadworthy inspections. To be honest, being forced to bring them up to standard was a good idea, it ensured both bikes were in good working order again and as safe as possible.

A permanent import did mean a little more work for the shipping company and hence the reason they wanted us to go down the temporary route. It also meant we couldn't collect the bikes until certain papers were approved. For our part we had to apply for the duty and tax waiver. The shipping company would start charging for warehousing after 7 days so we needed this to be processed quickly. Fortunately it was a pretty straightforward process, we just had to provide the evidence of ownership of which we had numerous supporting documents such as the sales receipt and a photocopy of the Texas Title. This was accepted without question and provided us the waiver we needed.

Driving the pickup to collect the bikes
Driving the pickup to collect the bikes

Picking up the bikes was uneventful. We drove out to the warehouse where the bikes were being stored and loaded them on the back of the pickup. We knew we'd have a lot of work to do once they were back but at least we'd achieved the first step. The pack was back together after over 3 months of separation.

Janell excited to see her bike again
Janell excited to see her bike again
Loading the bikes
Loading the bikes
Ready to depart
Ready to depart
Bikes secured on the tray
Bikes secured on the tray
Heading off with bikes loaded
Heading off with bikes loaded


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