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From Bandar Abbas to Sharjah with the car ferry VALFAJRE-8
Thursday, 24 January 2008
In January 2008 we crossed the street of Hormuz for the UAE with our truck with the shipping company Valfajre.  This Iranian ferry service is the only connection for passengers with vehicles between Bandar Abbas in Iran and Sharjah in the UAE. This state owned Roll-on Roll-off ferry service has a monopoly status – it’s not cheap and the process of getting in the UAE has several pitfalls. Here you find our story. For 2008 the shipping company Valfarje has increased it’s prices for vehicle and cargo transport. This is what we were quoted for on first inquiry:

    1. - Car - 300 US$
    2. - Minibus - 800 US$
    3. - Truck/Bus - 1300 US$

 

These US$ rates are listed in the internal Valfarje  pricelist for 2008. There are no criteria for categories 2 and 3 which allows space for price negotiation. Trucks with trailers and/or reefers are quoted extra based on the extra length.

In our experience negotiations have 2 levels. Local price reductions at the office in Bandar Abbas, and additional price negotiations through the head office in Tehran. It might be worth the effort to visit the Tehran office when you’re there to start price negotiations at the highest level. It took us 3 days before we struck rock bottom in Bandar Abbas – no further reductions. An additional factor in negotiations is empty or full shipping. When the ferry is already booked there’s more space for price reductions.



Prices are higher for direct shipping to Oman (Muscat) and cheaper when shipped to Kuwait through Bandar Busher. The timetable is highly irregular and in our case could only be determined a few days before departure. There’s no other way than to be very flexible on the departure date – so allow a few days extra on your visa.

Additional costs charged by Valvajre are:

  1. Creation Bill of loading – Bandar Abbas    US$ 39
  2. Processing Bill of loading – Sharjah    US$ 89 (or 325 AED)
  3. Passenger seat US$ 45
  4. Port authority fee – Bandar Abbas        US$ 10

So far there are no additional taxes. Payment is in dollars through a deposit at the bank. Their bank doesn’t accept or change Euro’s. When paying in Rials an unfavourable dollar exchange rate is used by Valvajre.

The whole procedure to get our truck loaded on the ship was difficult. First of all the normal Bahonar port was under construction so we had to use Rajaee port. This port is used for cargo only so the people there see no tourists at all. And it’s huge with a maze of offices and buildings.

It’s close to impossible to navigate yourself through it without the help of the shipping agent. The risk you miss your departure is high because of unfinished paperwork. In our case we started phoning our shipping agent 2 hours after trying very hard. But we managed to get our carnet stamped by ourselves. We were lucky we had the mobile phone numbers of several people at the valvajee office. And as a very inconvenient detail, in Rajaee port the Irancell network has no coverage. We got to use the phone of the immigration officer – and he could explain to our shipping agent were we where hiding in the huge area of Rajaee port.

The confusing thing about Rajaee port is that customs and immigration are outside the port area. So stamping yourself and vehicle out means you’re suddenly illegally in Iran. Any problem getting inside the port area means no visa and a vehicle which is not in Iran. Secondly there is port customs inside the port too. They don’t stamp carnets, they handle cargo and vehicles as cargo. So we got a bit lucky here – because we already got the exit stamp from customs outside the port area. Another very nice detail here – when we arrived at the customs department, all electricity was out. It was total chaos, hundreds of men standing outside the building with their customs business. But we got our carnet stamped inside by flashlight. On top of that, it’s highly forbidden to be inside this building – even more for foreigners! So when we tried to leave we had to sit in the office of building security for about 45 minutes. Many questions and all our paperwork copied.



When our shipping agent finally arrived at the immigration office we first went to the port authorities to declare our vehicle as cargo leaving Iran. This is based upon the carnet de passage. Don’t let them rip your export slip from your carnet!! You need it for port customs inside the port. Here you pay 10 US$ for the processing. You get a wad of documents in return. Then we headed for immigration where we left Iran while we’re still in Iran. Normally only sailors arrive here which apparently don’t need a visa for a stay. Iranian sailors are entered into a registry when they left or arrived in the country. Otherwise their passports would be seriously out of pages in a few months time.

Next we entered the Rajaee port area. Our shipping agent pulled us through the police checkpoint. Without our agent we would probably be  still living there. Next stop was the docks – we arrived at the ferry Hormuz-12. Again close to impossible to find in the port area without a lot of help.

Here a tally document was created for our truck by someone from Valvajre. With this document we went to the tally master who entered our truck as cargo into their system. Several documents needed to be signed and copies needed to be made of the carnet de passage. This resulted in another wad of documents.

With the port 10 US$ port authority document and the authorised tally documents it was time for port customs. After a lot of documents processing and talking customs checked the truck and stamped the tally documents. Again more documents are handed back.

Back to the truck. Now it was time for the actual loading. It was high tide so immediate loading was necessary. The tide difference is about 2-3 meters!! Even with the body clearance of our truck we needed to drive over a heap of ropes to get into the cargo bay. What about longer vehicles with lower clearance? How do they manage to load those? Anyhow we got inside just in time, otherwise we would have to wait till night time for the next high tide.

So again to port customs – the truck was loaded onto the ship which resulted in a few stamps more. Now I received only half of the wad of documents. This remaining heap was for the shipping agent to create the official bill of loading.

In fact the bill of loading is prove of ownership of the cargo. It states that our truck – as cargo is on the ferry and we are the owners. This document is required to unload the vehicle in Sharjah. In fact a pretty important and valuable document.

During the passage we could access the cardeck and cargo bay. Our dog could stay in the truck during the passage. The passage itself was a bit rough, we got 2-3 meter waves during 4-5 hours and a roll of about 10 degrees. Staying inside the truck adds even more motion to the experience.

The paperwork extravaganza was a lot easier in Port Khalid. The shipping agent did most of the work. The only thing left for us was getting our carnet stamped and pay the fee’s. And… there’s no way to get around the shipping agent – port customs require you to have one. The agent is authorised to create the official bill of loading.

On arrival in Port Khalid - Sharjah the following costs were charged by the UAE authorities for getting our truck through customs:

  1. Custom inspection  - AED 10
  2. Stamp on Carnet de Passage - AED 20
  3. Shore handling  - AED 310
  4. Tourist Visa for Europeans - Free for 60 days

The cashier in Port Khalid accepts dollars or euro’s. For every payment you get a receipt. In our case no money was paid to officials directly.

What was left was to find a simple and affordable 3rd party insurance. There is no insurance agent inside the Khalid port. We had no clue where to look for this so we left and parked at the beach a few Km’s down the road.

In the next few days we found Abu Dhabi National Insurance branch  in Sharjah (Sarah Building in Bank street) who was willing to cover our truck for 250 AED per month. They have offices at most land borders but not in the port area’s. Other insurance agents quoted prices  2500 AED for exactly the same. The maximum coverage per incident is 250.000 AED. (€ 47.000)

Looking back on the passage to the UAE, the Iranian shipping agent is crucial. Without this person we probably would have missed the ferry and spend several days in the harbour. If there would be a next time we’d absolutely insist on the shipping agent to be with us before going to the port. Or at least someone who knows what he’s doing and knows the important people in the harbour. Prices are high for this short 180 Km – 12 hour stretch, the paperwork is massive on the Iranian side and the ferry passage is quite a ride by European standards. (Even by normal weather).


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