After finishing our ride through South and North Americas we were planning to continue in Southeast Asia - ship the bikes to Singapore or Malaysia and head towards India from there. However as more and more talks about Thailand becoming quite difficult to enter were happening, and while Mianmar and Vietnam aren't any easier so we went for a quick change of plans and opted for Russian part of Asia instead.
The most convenient place to ship from North America for us was Vancouver in Canada. After shopping around online, we discovered two local companies which were willing to work for us. This is what they quoted for getting the bikes directly from Canada to Russia:
By air: about 9000 CAD per bike
By sea: about 4000 CAD for a container with two bikes in it (about a month in transit)
None of these options would suit our situation. Flying them was ridiculously expensive while shipping them by sea would have taken too long since this was happening in the beginning of August and the warm weathers in Russia were coming to the end this year...
This is when we understood why some of the riders we knew made such an odd transfer through South Korea: currently the most economic and fastest method of transporting motorcycles to and from eastern port city of Russia - Vladivostok involves ferry crossing between Russia and Korea and then a reasonably expensive flight between Korea and Canada (or for example Australia as Kinga described in her page:)).
So these were our steps through the process of transporting two motorcycles from Canada to Russia:
FIRST (finding the right logistics company in Canada):
We got the quotes for flying the motorcycles to Seoul (Incheon Airport) in Korea.
"All Cargo Express" quoted 4100 CAD and didn't provide any calculation details. Moreover they insisted that we hire them to build crates for our motorcycles for additional 450 CAD per bike as according to them the BMW crates are unstable, wobbly and airlines do not accept them.
"Astra International" gave us this formula to calculate the price according to volumetric weight of our crated motorcycles: CA$3.10/kg + $100.00/bike for Dangerous goods surcharge. So, for both bikes together, we should look at about CA$3108 + $200.00 + $325.00 for pick up and deliver to airport + our export documentation of CA$185.00 = CA$3818 for both bikes + freight insurance @ 0.855% of declared value.
We decided to go with Astra. And Gabryelle proved it to be the right choice - everything went smooth and easy.
SECOND (getting the bikes crated):
Gabryelle from Astra International gave us the contacts of Harley Davidson dealership in Vancouver for the crates. She says they could get your bike crated for 275 CAD.
We spoke to BMW dealership in Vancouver about the motorcycle crates. They get new bikes from the factory in standart BMW wooden crates and are happy to provide the service of washing and crating the bikes for 250 CAD each.
But if you are willing to do the work yourself, they will gladly give the crates to you for free. Their crates are IKEA style :) they can be assembled again with almost no tools except for a hammer and a few nails.
However, if BMW crated the bikes at their facility, we would have not only paid them for their service, but also to the transport company with a flatbed truck to collect the crates and deliver them to a warehouse for shipping. The price we got for such service was 190 CAD.
Instead we got a cargo van to pickup the crating materials and deliver them to the warehouse of Astra International for 70 CAD.
It took us about 5 hours to fit the motorcycles and all our stuff into the crates. The most difficult part was to fit the panniers around the motorcycle and make sure than nothing gets loose when the structure moves. A few additional heat treated wood planks and bubble wrap plastic that we found next to a trash can in Astra's warehouse worked perfect.
On bigger BMW F800GSA we had to remove windscreen and handlebar to lower the bike enough to fit into the crate, while for a lower F650GS it was enough to only remove windscreen and loosen the ends on handlebars to turn the mirrors down. Other than that motorcycles sat perfectly inside these crates, being held to the base by four ratchet straps (which we got from BMW together with the crates).
As always with airfreighting motorcycles, there is a requirement to have the gas tanks with as little fuel as possible and the batteries disconnected, so this is what we did.
THIRD (making the transfer in South Korea):
Gabryelle from Astra International made sure that all the papers and the bikes would be shipped to South Korea in three days from the moment we closed the crates.
In South Korea everyone uses services of a lady called Wendy Choi to retrieve the shipment from customs and all the other related stuff. We initialy wanted to ride our motorcycles in South Korea, but unfortunately Lithuania and Korea doesn't have some specific agreement and therefore vehicles with Lithuanian registration are not allowed in traffic in Korea. So Wendy arranged our bikes to be transported in a customs-bonded truck from Incheon airport to Donghae sea port (about 300 km distance) and then loaded onto a ferry which goes from Donghae to Vladivostok once a week.
Wendy's email address: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The costs were following: ferry "ticket" for a motorcycle 560 USD, Wendy's services (including transportation from airport to sea port) - 700 USD for two bikes. Total for two motorcycles 1822 USD.
We found that the cheapest way to get from Vancouver to Vladivostok is to fly to Seoul in Korea and take the same ferry as our motorcycles. So we asked Wendy to get the tickets for us as well. The price she got for two beds in second class was 280 USD.
We met Wendy for a short moment after arriving to Seoul before we got on a bus to Donghae.
FOURTH (retrieving the motorcycles from the port in Russia):
After about 24 hours on the ferry we reached Vladivostok. Since we were already in contact with local broker Yuri, he picked us up from the port and drove us to the place where we were staying for the night. Even though the ferry is considered to be Ro-Ro (roll on - roll off), but the motorcycles and all other vehicles were only unloaded the next day.
So that next day we spent a few hours with Yuri in the customs office and then at the port to free our bikes from their custody. Yuri charged us 280 USD for everything, including the customs fees, port charges and his services. In the afternoon we were allowed to uncrate the bikes in secured port teritorry (to make sure that our scattered around stuff would be safe from strangers while we repack and prepare the bikes for riding).
So all in all it wasn't a cheap operation, To sum up, here's what we paid:
In Canada: 3210 USD
In Korea: 1822 USD (excluding our ferry tickets)
In Russia: 280 USD
TOTAL: 5312 USD for transportation of two crated motorcycles from Canada to Russia.
The price could have been lower if Korea would have allowed us to ride our bikes there, but the difference wouldn't be significant. This was above our budgeted cost for such transportation as when planning, we didn't expect that we will be in a hurry to get to Russia before warm weather ends there, but as we have saved quite a lot on our Darien Gap crossing (see our blog post about Shipping Motorcycles from Colombia to Panama on a shoestring) we could afford this operation without exceeding our long-term budget.
In Canada: our passport copies, motorcycle registration copies, customs paper from the border about motorcycles imported to Canada (we didn't have that, but Gabryelle took care of it)
In Korea: our passport copies, motorcycle registration copies, airway bill (and all other documents that were provided to Wendy directly by Astra International :) )
In Russia: our passport copies, motorcycle registration copies, pictures of VIN numbers and overall look of motorcycles, copies of our Russian visas, motorcycle insurance for Russia.
So here it is - a detailed overview of a complex motorcycle shipment process. We hope it helps those who are searching for information about such operations. If you need any more specific details about it, please email us to 2wheeledADV@gmail.com and we'll try to answer your questions.