Container shipping from Colombia to Panama

First of all: don’t do container shipping from Colombia to Panama!

Sail your bike with the Stahlratte sailboat or maybe fly it to Panama. But don‘t ship it in a container!
There is no road between Colombia and Panama, it’s the Darien Gap. So vehicles have to be shipped to Panama somehow.
There seems to be a RoRo (Roll-On, Roll-Off) boat (no ferry!), but you cannot secure a motorcycle enough on such a boat and the workers on those steal everything possible. With a motorcycle, the best choice is the German sailboat Stahlratte. They do all the customs paperwork and are the only sailboat from Cartagena/Colombia to Panama, which can (legally) do it! From Panama to Colombia there is the Wild Card sailing, but they can‘t do it FROM Colombia TO Panama!
There is the possibility of flying the bike from Bogota for about 1200$. But I went for the container shipping, because if you can share it with other travelers it may cost around 500$. You may register on to find other travelers to share a container. Or ask on the forums/facebook/etc. I contacted different companies and agencies and the only response and offer I got was from Ana.
Ana Rodriguez used to work for the customs (aduana) in Colombia and is now a freelance agent for container shippings. And she is praised a lot in iOverlander, Horizons Unlimited, etc. She is reachable by Whatsapp: +573014146464
But I had a very bad experience with her service!
I waited almost one month around Cartagena to get on a container! Every week Ana said there will be a possibility, but everytime she had an excuse why it didn’t work out. One time she said the car on the same container didn’t want to ship anymore (so it‘s canceled), another time I was already booked but she kicked me out, because there was no more space for my bike (although I was the customer already waiting the longest time)! Later I found out that she puts cars in the containers and kickes out the single bikes, because she makes more commission with cars!
In total she booked me for four different containers and every time she had an excuse why I could not ship with them!
And when it finally happened, there were delays with the ships. I get it, this can happen. But as an agent she knows that a week beforehand, but chooses to inform her customers just one day in advance! And then I had to wait one more week in the very expensive Cartagena! Otherwise I would have camped much cheaper somewhere else. This happened to at least two other groups/containers I know off.
I was also disappointed by her paperwork! I had to go to her office four times to sign papers, as she always forgot a form or did something wrong! I mean, she does this shit every week and still doesn’t have a routine?! Also she doesn’t speak one word English, which makes everything even more complicated. And she lacks of communication skills: sometimes even her Whatsapp messages couldn’t be understood by native Spanish speakers!
Information about Ana‘s service and the procedure:
  • One car and one motorcycle is 700$ for the bike.
  • Two cars and one motorcycle is 500$ for the bike.
  • One bike alone in the container is 1800$.
  • She makes 100$ commission for a motorcycle and 200$ for a car.
  • You must pay in Colombian pesos, not USD. Payment can be done with credit cards, but it will be 2-3% fees on top, depending on card (cheapest is mastercard debit). It‘s hard to get so much cash in Colombia, as most ATMs only give about 200$ per day with 15000 pesos/5$ fees per transaction!
  • the ship to Panama takes two days. Normally it leaves on a Saturday to unload on Monday (the harbour in Colon is closed on weekends).
  • The container can stay for 3 days in Cartagena/Colombia and 7 days in Colon/Panama without storage costs. Additional days in Cartagena are 30$ per day. So if you want to load the container earlier (i.e. if you want to take the 5 day San Blas sailing), then you may need to pay for the storage. The departure day counts too! So realistically you can load the container just two days before the departure of the ship. And if the ship is delayed, you as the customer have to pay for the storage!!!
  • Getting the bike back at the harbour in Colon/Panama costs 35$, a car is 95$ (although I heard from others 50$ and 100$!)
  • You must first get an insurance in Panama for around 25$/month before you can start the paperwork in Colon!
  • In Panama you have to give your keys to the harbour personal and they will drive your vehicles out of the container! You will not be present at the container opening! Be prepared that things are broken and missing!

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