For anyone looking for info on getting their vehicle shipped from Africa to Europe, we’d like to share our experience from October 2017 when we shipped with Neptune Lines from Alexandria, Egypt to Piraeus, Greece. We personally then had to fly to Greece as Egypt does not allow you to leave the country by boat.
Alternatives at this time were with either Neptune or Grimaldi to various ports in Italy (Salerno bring a popular choice for speed and price), Greece, Slovenia and maybe Turkey.
Also, container shipping is possible, but it’s around 1,500 US$ more. We would only have looked into this if we were going to ship to Germany and fly home, but we preferred to drive back.
A further alternative is to drive to Israel and take a ferry to Italy, often via Cyprus. Thus wasn’t an option for us, as currently 4x4s are not permitted in Sinai. It’s a good option for being with the car the whole time as they take passengers as well.
It looks now as if it’s possible to get transit visas for Saudi Arabia, which would get you into Jordan then Israel, then you would cross into Saudi from Sudan. This is only possible for married couples with a marriage certificate or single men. Driving women will only be from mid 2018.
The car arrived safely, without damage and everything in place, which was better than we hoped, but still, we’d like to give a word of warning on Neptune Lines: you are not allowed any personal effects st all in the vehicle, no spare parts, no tools in boxes, not even a spare wheel. For most overlanders this makes it more or less impossible to meet their criteria and be loaded onto the vessel. We had gone through all the necessary procedures for customs etc, the vehicle was deposited at the harbour, the Neptune Lines harbour boss had inspected the vehicle and seen our padlocked, chained boxes and everything was good to go. Imagine our horror when 3 hours later we got an email entitled, “TOP TOP URGENT” and explaining the car would not be accepted!! After several emails and phone calls we actually managed to come to an exceptional arrangement, but Neptune in Greece told us that even just a couple of weeks earlier they had refused loading to a Unimog and German couple for the same reasons.
Grimaldi get round this situation very easily with a waiver that you need to sign, basically confirming all responsibility lies with you for any loss or damage. It is NOT currently Neptune’s policy to issue these waivers, and unless they change their policy, they will continue to refuse vehicles.
For this reason, WE CANNOT REALLY ADVISE USING NEPTUNE LINES, until there is a policy change.
Neptune, both in Alexandria and in Piraeus, operate a professional, commercial outfit that does not act in an ‘Egyptian’ or ‘flexible’ way: a suggestion of more money, for example, would not go down well and for turning a blind eye, they would probably say they have special glasses!
Unless you speak Egyptian and have a little knowledge of shipping procedures, you are going to need a fixer. We chose Mr Nahas, for want of better suggestions on the Internet. He’s a hugely overweight, huffing and puffing, 76-year-old softy, nearing collapse in the humidity on the second day. He works along pure, old-school Egyptian lines of getting through customs procedures, with all necessary payments above and below the table. He completed the work fine but was helpless when we hit our snag with the ‘cancellation.’
Personally I would try to find someone else next time, but if you do want to use him, his number is: +20 122 3236752.
Don’t forget to leave Egypt you need to get a ‘no fines’ certificate from the traffic police. You can get it easily in Aswan and apparently in Alexandria, but we paid Mr Nahas a premium to sort it for us.
Shipping timetables are very flexible and should be seen as guidelines only. Best to get to Alexandria 3 days before planned departure. This gives you enough time to get customs sorted (takes 2 mornings from 9am to 2pm) and allow leeway for early departures. Indeed our departure date hovered around 29th and 30th September right up until the date it sailed into port
There was a delay at sea and were told 24 hours before planned arrival that the vessel would only arrive to Piraeus on Friday 6th October. That meant after they’d dealt with documentation and unloading we could only get the car on Monday at midday, as they don’t work over the weekend! Of course there a worse places to wait for you car than on a sunny Greek island, but still ….
We chose Neptune to Greece, as opposed to Grimaldi to Salerno, Italy as they were 400€ cheaper than Grimaldi, when calculating flights from Alexandria (direct flight and much cheaper to Athens, no need to go to Cairo or change planes), the different routes all the way back to Germany, freight and customs costs.
Just to repeat though, despite this saving, we don’t see how Neptune can really work for overlanders, unless they change their policies. Do check that first!
Finally, no one gives you a one-stop shop price for everything, be absolutely sure you ask everyone, at every stage, what other prices and services you need to factor in, as what they first send you bears no resemblance to the final cost!
Our costs were:
420€ Neptune freight, unloading, discharge etc in Piraeus.
22€ (450E£) THC to Neptune in Egypt
60€ customs clearance in Greece
425€ (8,500E£ plus extras) fixer Egypt
If anyone wants to ask anything, feel free! But remember the situation in Egypt changes quite regularly, so by the time you read this, it might all be different anyway.