Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dar Shipping Saga, Part 1

The notorious Mr M
Since the bike shipping saga is a lengthy one, I will attempt to summarize the events of our two weeks in Dar Es Salaam as best I can. After collecting rate and schedule information from air cargo companies and freight forwarders, we decided to go with Mr Msuya's services. Shipping them as ocean freight would be significantly less expensive than by air, and although it would take roughly three weeks for the ship to arrive in Mumbai, that in itself had the advantage of allowing us to assume the role of backpackers in India while we waited for the bikes. We paid our 50% deposit to Mr Msuya, gave him our Carnet papers to start the document process, and got a receipt from him. The rest of the week was spent researching airfares and hotels in Mumbai, plotting our route for our arrival in India and the route we'd take once the bikes arrive. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with Mr Msuya and a lot of waiting for things to happen, but everything seemed to be moving along as smoothly as we expected in this part of the world.

On Friday we returned to the India High Commission and with a great amount of relief, received our visas. From there we rode directly to meet with Mr Msuya (hereafter referred to as Mr M), who wasn't in his office. His assistant called him for us, and Mr M said he would meet us at our hotel the next morning to get copies of our passports and visas. He arrived the next morning, Saturday, and we gave him the papers he needed and arranged to pay the balance of our shipping fees later that afternoon. He wanted to be paid in US dollars, but we only brought a limited amount (of very pretty, uncirculated bills in case of emergency) with us, so we asked if we could pay in Tanzanian shillings. He said yes, but it was at a less than advantageous rate for us. Since that's what we had to do, we withdrew the needed shillings and took them to his office that afternoon. (As an aside, you know there's something wrong with a country where even the citizens don't want to accept their own currency!) Mr M made an addendum to our receipt for the balance of the money, thanked us, and said he would contact us on Monday morning with instructions to “stuff” our bikes into the shipping container on Tuesday, November 8 for the ship's departure on Thursday the 10th. We spent the rest of the weekend cleaning our camping gear and repacking all of our bags.

Monday morning we changed the oil in both bikes and lubed every part that might be affected by the salt air on their journey. And we waited for Mr M to call. Since we hadn't heard anything from him by late afternoon, we called him and were told he didn't have the “stuffing” schedule for tomorrow yet, but he would let us know first thing in the morning. Tuesday morning came and went with not a single telephone call. Just before noon our phone rang in our room and the receptionist said to come downstairs. Colin went down to find a note from Mr M saying that the ship was not going to leave until the 22nd of November and that he would come to our hotel to talk with us personally at 4:30pm. The 22nd?!?!?!? With both of us in a bit of a state since a two week departure delay was completely unacceptable, I sent an email to “my guy” at Emirates to see when they could fly the bikes to Mumbai and quickly received a response that they could do it any time. With that question answered, we waited for Mr M to arrive at 4:30 to cancel our shipment. He never showed. So we walked down to his office, where he was seated at his desk. We told him the delay was not acceptable to us, and he actually tried to convince us that it wasn't even a two week difference (I think simple math is the same worldwide, 7 days in a week, 8 November to the 22 November, 22-8=14 days=2 weeks? but maybe I am incorrect). We advised him that we wanted our documents and our money returned and that we would be shipping by air. At this point, his confidence wavered and he began mumbling about needing to see what he could do since the shipping company already had our documents and, according to him, our money. He said he would call the shipping company and try to get everything back for us, but to come back tomorrow.

We returned to his office the following day, Wednesday, only to receive our Carnets, which are honestly the most important thing we needed (the money would be nice to have, but without our Carnets, we can't move and we don't get our seriously hefty deposit back from the CAA). I noticed that he didn't return our vehicle registrations either. When we pointed this out, he said he would have to send someone to the shipper to try to get those as well. He showed us some “paperwork” with the name Diamond Shipping on it to prove they had already completed the documents needed to ship our bikes and therefore, wouldn't return our money. We offered to go to Diamond Shipping ourselves to speak with them, which was met with a very quick “no, no. I am taking care of it” from Mr M. He then said to come back tomorrow and he would try to talk to the shipping company to get our money back and the rest of our documents. Well, we made yet another trip to his office on Thursday (Mr M wasn't in, but his right hand man, 'Freddie' was there to handle things) and got our registration and our Tanzanian 3rd party insurance paperwork and an offer of $300. No. Nononononononono. Freddie wanted to know why this was not enough. Didn't we agree with Mr M on this amount? If not, then what was our agreement? Well, there wasn't one, because Mr M would not answer a direct question about our refund, just that we would get our money back. Freddie called him on the phone and told us that Mr M was working with the shipping company, Diamond Shipping, to get our money back for us. At this point, we again said we would go to Diamond Shipping to speak with them about contractual obligations and holding money and theft. Freddie said no no no, they are taking care of it, and refused to ever give us the name of a person at Diamond Shipping. He did call Mr M, who said he would come to our hotel at 4:00 to update us. We left the office and left the $300 on the desk. Surprise of surprises, 4:00 came and went with no sign of Mr M. I called and reminded him that he had a meeting with us. He gave no apology or excuse and said he was still working to get our money back. I asked how much money and he would not say. After more direct questions, he finally said we would get $600, but that the shipping company needed to write a check and he would get it “tomorrow afternoon.” Mr M was “tomorrow afternooning” us into apoplexy. I said we would be at his office at 1:00 Friday.

In between all of our dealings with Mr M, I had arranged with Emirates Air Cargo to fly the bikes to Mumbai, hopefully on Friday, November 12. Emirates gave me the name of a forwarder to use who would also arrange for crating. Colin and I rode out to the airport on Thursday morning to meet with Tamim, the forwarder, and Yusuf, from Emirates Air to work out the details. They tentatively booked space for us on Friday's flight with the understanding that we were still trying to resolve our “issues” with our previous shipper. Yusuf just asked that I contact him when we had everything worked out, and if we couldn't do it Friday, they could easily move the booking and crating to Saturday.

Friday morning at about 10:00, we got a call from reception that there was someone waiting downstairs for us. We went down to the lobby, and there was Mr M's sister. She called Mr M on her cell phone and handed it to Colin. Mr M said his sister had our money, he was sorry for making us wait, he was sorry that things didn't work out, he was sorry we were not able to do business, etc, etc. Bleh. Colin handed the woman her phone, and she removed our $600 from her purse. Funnily enough, $500 of it was returned to us in pristine, sequentially numbered $100 bills- JUST LIKE the ones we gave him. Really, what are the chances that you give someone money, they give it to another company who deposit it in a bank, then write a check, and the person to whom the check is written is then given the very same bills they started with? I am forever amazed by the coincidental nature of the world.

Grillin' delicious chicken at Mamboz Corner BBQ
1000 yard stare from Mr M.- Delicious food from Mamboz
Since we were now rid of Mr M for good, Colin rode to the airport to meet with Tamim and give him a deposit on the air shipment. I emailed Yusuf at Emirates that we were ready to confirm for Saturday and started packing everything again, this time to go on the plane. We finally booked our own flights to Mumbai and a hotel for our arrival. That evening we celebrated with another delicious dinner at Mamboz. I neglected to mention that at least half of our dinners were eaten and enjoyed at Mamboz Corner BBQ. They are the #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in Dar Es Salaam, and the rating is well-deserved. Every dish we tried was delicious, the service is excellent, and the owners are super friendly. Oh, and it's cheap to boot!

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