Getting Packages and Cargo forwarded when cruising is actually much easier than you think. Over the years, we have shipped many packages and LCL (less than container loads) cargo all over the place. This is a seamless process once you have done it a few times. Below are the companies I have used and am happy to recommend for getting packages and cargo forwarded when cruising.
If you want to know how to get your mail forwarded while cruising take a look at my post ‘Getting Mail Forwarded When Cruising’
Understanding ‘Yacht in Transit’ Shipping
‘Yacht in Transit’ Shipping allows you to avoid paying import taxes on parts required for your boat. This is only on boat parts. Things like BBQs and Paddleboards, while they may be for your boat, do not fall into the category of boat parts.
Be careful before sending shipments “Yacht in Transit’ make sure you speak to customs before sending a shipment:
- Find out if the country you are visiting accepts ‘Yacht in Transit’ packages
- Where and how you are able to collect your package
- Find out what handling charges the shipping company charges for ‘Yacht in Transit’ shipments, the handling fees for lower value items may be more than the cost of the shipper’s clearance charges (it is that way in French Polynesia)
- Note that once a package is en-route ‘Yacht in Transit’ it is almost impossible to change it back to normal shipping rules
Package Forwarding Services
In the Caribbean, we used eZone for our package deliveries. When you sign up with eZone, you receive an account number that you attach to their shipping address in Miami, Canada, London, or Amsterdam. Your shipments must be shipped with the account number included. Once the packages are delivered, eZone contacts you for a copy of the sales invoice. Once they have received the invoice, they ship the package to the eZone office associated with your account number.
eZone handles all the customs paperwork on your behalf. When the package arrives, you get a notification, go to the office, pay the bill and collect your package.
eZone has offices in Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, BVI, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Nevis, St. Maarten, St. Vincent, Tobago, and Trinidad. You need to sign up with each country’s office individually.
We used eZone in Grenada, St. Maarten and Antigua. We never had a single hick-up with eZone.
When we were in Panama, we used Mailbox Etc. Much like eZone, you receive an account number to attach to the address of shipments that are shipped to their address. Once you ship the package, you send a copy of the sales invoice to the local Mailbox Etc. office. They ship your package, manage all the customs clearance requirements. You collect the package and pay for the shipping at their office.
We used the offices in Colon and San Carlos, Panama. It was quick and easy. With MBE you need to sign-up with each store separately. To ensure your packages get to the correct store. The service was always excellent with Mailbox etc.
It is worth noting that different Mailbox Etc offices offer different services. For example, the MBE in Colon offered either air or ocean shipping, with a different mailing address for each. They also offered ‘Yacht in Transit’ shipping. In San Carlos, only air shipping was available, and there was no option for ‘Yacht in Transit’ Shipping. Find out if the store offers the kinds of shipping you require.
In French Polynesia, we use a Yacht Agent, Tahiti Crew. Tahiti Crew offers the use of their address to have packages and mail forwarded to. They are fantastic and very friendly, everyone goes out of their way to help you out.
French Polynesia is a huge area, 1,609 mi², made up of 118 islands and atolls, of which only 67 are inhabited. So, how do you get packages and mail when you’re not in Tahiti? The answer is Tahiti Crew. They will forward your mail and packages to you wherever you are. As long as there is a flight or supply ship that goes to your island or atoll, they will get your items to you. Sending cargo on flights or the ship is very reasonably priced.
Tahiti crew does way more than packages and mail, they are clearing agents, organized all our clearance paperwork and bond letters on arrival, and organized our duty-free fuel certificates. They will go shopping for you in Tahiti and send the items to you in more remote places. We get reduced rate wifi through them by renting a wifi dongle for $10 a month + wifi usage. We have used them for so many other things too. I can’t recommend them enough.
Freight/Cargo Forwarding Services
We have used freight forwarding shipping companies to send us larger shipments by ocean freight over the years.
The way ocean freight works are similar to the mail and packaging services above. Contact the freight forwarder to get your specific address where you send your packages. Forward copies of the invoices for all packages. The freight forwarding company holds and groups your packages. Once everything is delivered to the warehouse, it gets put on a ship. You have the option to insure the shipment for not very much money. I highly recommend you do. Once the cargo reaches its destination and has cleared customs, you are told where to collect your packages.
Caribtrans Logistics – Owned by Tropical Shipping (For The Caribbean)
We used Caribtrans and/or Tropical Shipping to send shipments to St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and Grenada. They ship all over the Caribbean. It was seamless every time. Well, except for the time the warehouse in St. Maarten burned down, but that’s another story. Fortunately, we had taken out the insurance and had a bank deposit for the full purchase value of our goods within a few days.
We sent an LCL (Less than Container Load) to Panama via Caribtrans more than once. When we shipped to Panama, we had to organize our own customs clearing agent. We used a few, most were awful other than ABM Logistics (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When we shipped ‘Yacht in Transit’ in Panama, customs wanted to see the actual boat that the cargo was being shipped to. Your boat has to physically be in the marina for customs to see. So, I suggest if you need a big shipment to wait until you can be at one of these customs ports.
The only really seamless places to clear customs for your cargo are Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of Panama, and Balboa Yacht Club on the Pacific side of Panama. Flamenco Marina on the Pacific Coast of Panama can also facilitate these kinds of shipments for their guests. Trying any other Marinas is a nightmare with customs, although some say it’s possible we didn’t find it to be.
DGX Dependable Global Express (For French Polynesia)
I have not personally used gdxGlobal for shipping items from the USA into French Polynesia. Although, I know many cruisers who have and have been very happy with their service. They arrange both ocean and air freight shipping.
Gondrand (Customs Broker)
We had our OC Tender shipped from New Zealand to Tahiti. We used Gondrand (email@example.com) to organize the import and complete the Yacht in Transit Customs Clearance for us. They were very efficient and even organized for the crate to be delivered to and unpacked at Papeete Marina for us.
I hope this puts your mind at ease with regards to getting your packages and cargo shipped to you. If you have any additional places to recommend that I have missed please add it to the comments section below. I love hearing from you.