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From Sharjah to Bandar Abas by VALVAJRE Car Ferry
Sunday, 05 April 2009
A year ago we took the Valvajre Ferry from Bandar Abas to Sharjah, now this time we did the reverse. The experience is the same, it’s a lot of paperwork, specially on the Iranian side. Here you find a our experience to import our truck back into Iran at the Bohanar port in Bandar Abas. It’s a lengthy story, as things can be in Iran when things need to be officially done right.

At port Khaleed in Sharjah the process of exportation is relatively easy. Most of the work is done by Oasis Freight, who is the only official agent in the harbor to handle passengers with their own vehicle. At the purchase of the tickets, a few days before departure, Oasis Freight in Sharjah (N25 19' 01.2" E55 22' 57.4") needs the Carnet de Passage and Car registration papers to do their part of the deal. Usually, we never ever hand over our Carnet de Passage and car registration papers to anyone. Because the exportation process is outsourced to Oasis, we decided to make an exception here. We made sure we had copies of everything and made the handover of our paperwork note worthy. We took a picture of the person with our papers.

Next is the day of departure. There is a sandy beach strip close to the harbor to park and spend the night. This makes departure day easy, just a 5 minute ride to the port. Our ferry – the Hormus 14 – was scheduled for 9pm that evening. We appeared at the gate at noon. At the customs house I received a gate pass when I showed the Oasis exportation letter. It’s  free and ready in a few minutes.

Police report for UAE residents

Now, here’s a detail for those who are on an UAE residence visa. The port police can ask you for “any police papers” – even Oasis might have mentioned this.  In short, these papers state you are not part of any criminal investigation in the UAE. To get these papers is a headache. First it’s an  expensive ordeal, next it’s not a 1 hour process at the police station of your residency. If your car is on UAE plates, you can expect the question. However, we know from other UAE residents it’s not always asked for. Decide for yourself, what to do.

We were asked for these papers at the port gate because of our “funny” red license plates, resembling Omani government license plates. My answer was “I don’t know, I only have my Carnet de Passage” – i showed an expired one. That was enough, I could have my gatepass stamped at the gate office. Next we could drive to berth #14, which is Valvajre’s place. Here we parked and spend the rest of the day in the harbor.

Carnet de Passage gone wrong

Round 5pm we got our CdP and car registration papers back, stamped, but with a goof.  The import slip was taken from the next page, in stead of the export slip of the facing page – clearly they don’t know how to process a Carnet de Passage.

An hour later someone appeared at our door to have our passports stamped at Immigration. This was a 30 minute ordeal, it took a long time for the computer system to process our exit. Anyhow, without any problems here, At 8 pm we embarked the ship and at 11 pm it left for Bandar Abas. So far so good! We left the UAE.

12 hours later we arrived at Bohanar port in Bandar Abas. The big border show started. Immigration took our passport on the ship and brought them back 1 hour later. Next we had to pay Valvajre for document processing at their office outside the port. Again a 1 hour trip with tea and happy faces at the "blue shipping line" office to see us again after 1 year.

Bohanar port customs closes at 2pm

Back at Bohanar port, we were ready to start the customs paperwork. However it was close to 2 pm and customs was already closing down. The next day sir, please park your truck in the customs yard. So here we were ready to go, but caught by customs who only have a working day from 8am to 2 pm, Within this time customs paperwork should be cleared. So we spend the night at Bohanar port.

The man in black

Strangely, round 7 pm, someone of Oasis appeared at the door. Please come with your passport to immigration. How weird. Inside the arrival hall we sat down in an office next to immigration. A young guy in black and a beard was busy copying passports. He wanted to know our travel schedule and have our passports for copying. While we wrote our route down, this man copied all the visa’s in our passport. It took him almost 45 minutes to copy the lot. Then a few questions more about why we came to Iran and so on. Weird experience. Also the man for Oasis seemed a somewhat ticked of about this. We left in a cloud of confusion – what was this all about?

The next day, nothing happened at the customs yard till 8:30am. No customs official, nothing. We started to ask questions, and it seemed “customs house” was near the port exit. So off we went and found the customs official handling car imports / exports in a square hall with open desks behind a huge counter. The show began – round 9 am. Just 5 hours to go before closure.

The customs official looked at my Carnet de Passage and Car registration papers and said I was missing a paper. He showed me which one. It was a customs clearance document, with many stamps and signatures. How did I get that? Welcome to the land of a mountain of paperwork!! And we seemed to be lucky, this custom official was inclined to show us in person how to get it.

Mountains of paperwork

The next 2 hours are indescribable. A complete run around between desks, copy machines and hidden counters in the back. Impossible to even think of how to manage that on your own. Anyone here needs help to do this. Even local Iranians have someone who handle the paper jungle tour. Within the 2 hours our truck was inspected – the most intense one ever.

Here we met another man – the driver who transports custom officials within the port. This man knows a lot and seemed inclined to help us to do our runaround between the offices. He took us to the bank and back to pay for several port fee’s. It seemed to go smooth so far, we just had to follow this man. However, Iran is Iran – paperwork is never what it seems.

Indra in quarantine

3 hours, the next issue appeared. Our dog Indra. Although we had the maximum paperwork for Indra, one could ever imagine, customs needed a paper from a local vet that Indra was healthy, in the meanwhile Indra had the status "In Quarantine". We had a health certificate from the UAE, but they were not authorized to judge the case. So off to the Veterinary, a 1,5 hour ride without Indra. The vet just wanted to see the UAE health certificate, that’s all.

So back after 4,5 hours – 30 minutes to go with the weekend approaching (Friday). The vet paper was processed now it was only one signature from the customs boss. Who was gone – already. His day was finished. No worries said the customs official, we call. At 2 pm, nothing, and every one has left already. The customs official suddenly caved in and said "lets go" Our customs yard driver raced us to the customs yard office, we needed 3 more stamps to get out the yard. 40 minutes later we had them all, the customs yard office works till 4-5 pm luckily. So off we went, get the truck and race to the gate before it closes, having us stay for another weekend.

Wait for the doctor

We seemed to have made it. Port police wanted to register our truck for clearance , check the chassis number and clear us. Then something strange happened. The police chief told us; “The doctor wants to see your dog, please wait here for the doctor". We objected, because the doctor already wrote his clearance paper and it was processed by customs. Without getting angry, we took it to a next level :: We fiercely objected to this treatment. We already spend 5 hours processing papers. Even our helpful customs yard driver did his part. But no luck, port police didn’t want to let us go. We had to wait for the doctor.

After 1,5 hour, the “”doctor” appeared. It was the man in black with beard with it seemed to be his boss. They wanted to see the truck. What followed was an hour of questions about our reasons to go to Iran and a more thorough inspection of our truck. Specially our satellite disk, computers, GPS, camera, mobile phones and our contacts in Iran seemed to have their intense interest. The atmosphere was not grim, more one of mutual amazement. It seemed they never ever had seen a truck like this. In the drivers cabin, they found something we could not have. Our 27 Mhz trucker CB – a very common and cheap transceiver but not allowed in Iran. It had to be removed. So I clipped of the power leads and handed them the transceiver. No – they didn’t want it, customs should have it wrapped in seals so it can’t be used. Next was goodbye and off they went.
What was this all about!!!

The dreaded Iranian license plates

So port police wrapped our CB in metal wire and sealed it with customs seals in lead. Next they wrote a paper for the police in Bandar Abas to hand us 2 Iranian license plates for the truck. This was goodbye and at 5 pm we could leave. What an ordeal!!!

We did not go to the police, instead we parked at the parking lot of Homa Hotel and had our late lunch / dinner. The next day we left early and did not make any attempt to get those license plates. We knew it would be a lengthy process, we’d rather take the beating somewhere else – if we got caught driving with our European license plates.

The helpful driver at the customs house

In retrospect, we think that the customs official had his doubts about what he saw in our truck. He most likely contacted the guy in black with the beard who in turn contacted police port to not let us go before they saw our truck. To not raise suspicion, police port made up the story of the “doctor” who had to see Indra. Who could have fooled who?

So for help in port Bohanar, give this man a ring: Mohammed Riazi- 0917-3690-631
He's the driver for customs - he knows what to do where and can speed up the process significantly.
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