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Diary Last Updated: Jun 16th, 2015 - 16:51:13

Stage 7 - Thursday 15 May 2008
By Dick and Pip Smith
May 15, 2008, 11:26

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A day of bureaucratic nightmares getting nowhere – the importance of checking the minute details of paperwork in Russia

Marina rang us last night to say that she had spoken to Alexander in the Shipping Agent’s office suggested by Lang Kidby. He was willing to help us with the documentation necessary to export our vehicle from Russia to Japan even though his company handled the car ferry to Seoul, Korea!

We walked down to the Ocean Terminal and met Marina at Alexander’s office at 9am. We gave him the Vehicle Permit certificate that had been given to us at the Russian border when we drove in from Mongolia, and he spent about an hour typing up the necessary export documents – a huge bundle. We offered to pay him for his service but he refused any payment – another very generous Russian.
Marina, Alexander and Dick

We then caught a taxi to the Customs Department north of the main port. We walked into the building and were amazed to find it busy, with great lines of people waiting. Marina took us upstairs and found the door to the office of the Director of Customs. She knocked on the door then opened it, only to find it full of uniformed customs men having a heated discussion. She closed the door quickly and we waited in the corridor. We had noticed a uniformed guard standing at the end of the corridor and after 15 minutes he came over and suggested to Marina that we knock on the Assistant Director’s office door, next door.

We walked into a modern uncluttered office where a very well groomed young lady was sitting behind the desk. We thought she must be a secretary but no she was the Assistant Director. She invited us to sit down and after Marina explained what we wanted she very pleasantly agreed to help us. We gave her copies of all our documents which she read. She then asked us to wait outside and it wasn’t long before she personally took us downstairs and handed us over to a uniformed customs officer. This lady took us into the crowded room that we had seen before and handed all our papers over to one of the staff members who was sitting at one of the booths.

While we were waiting our turn, Dick had a conversation with a number of Russians who were importing vehicles from Japan. One said that his 1989 Toyota Surf with 109,000kms on the clock, cost USD $800 in Japan. He then had to pay USD $6,500 duty and taxes. He still reckoned it was a good buy. Another man said that he sold about 200 Japanese cars every month. He purchased them by auction on the internet. Delivery by train to Moscow cost about USD $2,500 and to have a vehicle driven would cost less. The driving time to Moscow is 10 to 12 days for one driver and 8 days if there are 2 drivers – presumably one poor driver would have to sleep cramped in the little vehicle while the other man drives. It is a mystery why more vehicles are not delivered by rail.

The customs clerk, after an extraordinarily inspection of every number on the documents discovered that the Vehicle Permit had a slightly different Vehicle Identification Number on it compared to the vehicle’s registration papers, and the customs form that Pip had filled in at the Mongolian/Russian border. It appeared that the Russian custom’s officer at the border had made a minor typing error on the Permit. Unfortunately, the export documentation that Alexander had prepared also contained the same minor error as he had taken the number from the flawed Russian form. There was some discussion amongst the customs staff and we initially thought that a simple hand correction with an initial would surfice – as it would in just about every other country in the world. No way! All the documentation would have to be re-typed. This meant a return trip to Alexander’s office all the way back to the Ocean Terminal.

In good spirits Alexander prepared a complete new set of documents, again at no charge, and Marina agreed to take them back to the customs office! Marina, who is fantastic, then spent the rest of the afternoon standing in lines talking to lots of people, and it was eventually resolved that the necessary signature and inspection should be done when we return to Vladivostok in about a week’s time. In effect the whole day’s work had really got us nowhere.

After leaving Alexander’s office we went to the office for the car ferry to Japan, which was situated in the same building, and made our booking to Japan. First the young sales lady said we must pay for our passage in rubles but we must pay for the vehicle’s passage in US dollars. Dick said this was ridiculous and after lots of talking in Russian it was agreed that we could pay for it all in one currency and we chose US dollars. We paid $1,000 USD for each of us as passengers, and $1,200 USD for the Earthroamer, to travel on the ‘MV Rus’ sea ferry from Vladivostok to Fushiki in Japan, for passage on the 26 May 2008.We also had to pay a passenger tax of 400 Rubles per person – they would only accept payment for this in Rubles.

By now we were tired and hungry. We walked to a very nice, modern restaurant and enjoyed a ‘business lunch’ with Marina. The décor and food were very up-market and as good as anything you would find in Sydney or New York – with a price to match. We walked back to the Hotel’s car park and spent a few hours cleaning the inside of the Earthroamer while Marina returned to the Customs office for us.

As we cleaned, a number of people stopped and asked questions about the Earthroamer. One of the visitors turned out to be an old school friend of Dick’s, John Sutherland from North Sydney Technical High School. John was on a holiday and was going on the Trans-Siberian train trip to Moscow in a special deluxe train.

We plan to fly back to Australia tomorrow afternoon and we have arranged with the Hyundai Hotel to store the Earthroamer in their car park until we return on 24 May for our departure on 26 May 2008. Then we plan to drive across Japan to a shipping port where we can put the Earthroamer on a ship to Perth.


Incredible Tyres

When Dick purchased the Earthroamer in Denver in 2006, he asked Bill Swails to change the tyres to ones that would be quieter when driving on the bitumen road. Bill fitted a set of Michelin XZA2 Energy, 295/60 R22.5 tubeless radials. Little did we know how good they would be.

In the 30,000+ kilometres we have driven, they have received the most incredible pounding. Remember that the Ford F550 is designed for twin rear tyres on each side, not the super singles we have.

Other than swapping the tyres from left to right in Ulaan Baatar, nothing else has had to be done. On the roads, even in the USA and especially in the Russian Far East, we see vehicles (especially trucks) stopped on the road, with the driver changing tyres. We have never had a problem – not even a slight air leak or a puncture.

Some of the rocks on the roads are huge, making the suspension instantly bottom out against the stops. A lot of the wear and tear is no doubt taken by the tyres. We have run the tyres with 70psi in the front and 80psi in the rear.

Possibly we may end up with our first puncture in Japan, or maybe on the Gunbarrel Highway in Australia - but hopefully not at all!

They still have plenty of tread and may even last the whole world trip.

Vladivostok Railway Station

The house where the actor Yul Bryner was born

Trolley bus on a busy road in Vladivostok

The view from our hotel window looking towards Golden Horn Bay

Crowds gather around the Earthroamer in the hotel's car park

We went for a walk this evening to the western coast of Vladivostok

Dick found this vehicle parked in the street - he reckons it would be an ideal vehicle to drive the other way around the world!!

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