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Shipping Inspector

Over the Darien Gap – A saint – Dyslexic border agent – Exit papers – Dirty Colon

Many who have gone before us have said the the process of shipping their vehicle over the Darien Gap has been the toughest and most trying part of the trip. Luckily for us we took advantage of their research and though it has been a long and frustrating process, akin to sticking your head in a blender, we have known full well what we were getting into. But, knowing that you have to stick your head in a blender doesn’t make it any easier.

One of the things we did right was hiring the right shipping company – Barwil S.A. and their excellent representative Evelyn Batista, who has been very efficient and helpful throughout the ordeal. I didn’t mean to say that. What I meant to say is that Pope Benedict should take steps to canonize her. The future Saint Evelyn can be reached at the following address:

Evelyn N. Batista
Sales Executive
Barwil Agencies, S.A.

Panama City Office
Avenida Balboa
Galerias Balboa Building Second Floor, Suite 35
Phone: 507 263-7755
Evelyn.Batista (atsign) transcanal.com

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At the Barwil Offices

Evelyn warned us that all the numbers had to be correct on all our documents. Lo and behold we noticed our papers had been prepared by a dyslexic border agent and had to go to the customs office to correct them. The big paperwork day arrived, with the first stop being police inspections. With zeal uncharacteristic of a bureaucrat the official crawled into the nethers of our car and told us that our engine number was wrong, despite having the mechanic verify that it was the same as the VIN. So we had to run to the customs office, again, and get this changed. We returned with the papers in satisfactory order and the inspection was approved. Inexplicably the inspections boss didn’t arrive till 1:00pm so we had to wait. There was a lot of waiting involved throughout, mostly in dank rooms that smelled of sweat and stale food. At 1:15pm step one was complete!

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Frustration Reigns

Now it was off to the Secretary General of the Police, across the street from the inspections office. This guy diabolically timed his hours so that he would LEAVE eighteen nanoseconds after the arrival of the inspections boss so as to guarantee to delay you by a day. The rest of the time Mssr. General was either a meeting, sick, or scratching his ass. At the end of the day the papers were not signed and we were told to try again the next Monday! Monday dawned and we eagerly went to get our papers, but they were still not done. He would sign them later that day, with his ass-smelling-fingers. A third trip finally produced results, and it was back to the customs office to get the exit papers.

The customs official was very nice and obligingly did everything we asked, including overlooking a small error the Secretary’s assistant had committed. By this time it was too late to go to Evelyn’s office as the Panama City rush hour poured vehicle after vehicle onto the fume-choked, traffic-infested, rude-driving, beggars-at-intersection, horn-honking streets. The next day we paid Evelyn $850 for the shipping and $50 for a document handling fee. Praise the Lord!

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Containers to be loaded

Now it was time to go to the crime infested, beggar laden, dung heap that is Colon to put the FJ in a container. The drunks passed out on the sidewalks, laying in pools of urine and diarrhea were a no-cost bonus. Of course, there was construction every hundred yards on the road and the hour long trip took us close to three. As we went to customs, inspections, more inspections, and finally container stuffing, we were glad we had 50 zillion copies of the bill of lading as each station took a random non-zero number of them. After an exhausting day with no food, the FJ was finally ready for shipment!

14 Responses to “Shipping from Panama to Columbia”

  1. Aniruddh says:

    Gosh… wot a terribly cumbersome process…
    Good thing u guys finally got done with it :-)

  2. Shreesh says:

    Hi Aniruddh,

    Alas, the process has yet to be completed! We still need to collect the car on the Columbian side, which is supposed to be a one nightmarish day!

  3. Paul says:

    Wow, that sounds even worse than my trip to the post office in Venice!

  4. Steve Rozmus says:

    I find it fitting that you had send the car out of (a) Colon filled with urine soaked drunks to get it to Columbia. Sorry, that was a little gross! Well, enjoy the next leg — however you want to say it you earned it!

  5. […] the papeles in order, running around getting this signature and that. For more on the experience: Shipping to Columbia (Warning: contains foul language) Anyway, finally we have the FJ in a container bound for […]

  6. Shreesh says:


    Venetian bureaucrats can be murder!


    I have no kind words for Colon. None. The place is an unmitigated communal laterine, about as much fun as a pneumothorax.

  7. Wayne says:

    Wow at that rate it might be quicker to actually try navigating the Darien Gap itself by land. The drug lords and rebels might be easier to deal with. LOL

  8. Vinay says:

    I am gonna stay true to form and say something completely oblique again :)

    “But, knowing that you have to stick your head in a blender doesn’t make it any easier. ”

    But if you do stick your head in a blender and don’t like it so much, you’ll soon be back to your pre-blender joie de vivre: http://www.paralinks.net/107happinessthreshold.html

  9. Fred says:

    Wow! Sounds almost as bad as flying on United Airlines.

  10. Shreesh says:


    So if happiness is inelastic then it makes no sense buying puts or calls on it? :)


    Yes, flying United is a bit worse than what we went through. At least we weren’t up in the air in a tin can beholden to a power-hungry martinet of a air hostess!

  11. Pramod Taskar says:

    Can all these formalities done in US?

  12. Shreesh says:

    No, you have to do these right here in Panama! The police permission, for example expires in eight days!

  13. dave says:


    should i tell you i’m sitting here laughing and smiling at your wonderful description of the hell that is shipping to Colombia? i’m glad evelyn took care of you. she truly is an amazing exception to that horrible process.

    oddly you’ll find that while the Colombians are far less organized, extremely inefficient and not too keen on technology they are far more amiable and easy to work with. no real test of patience because of how enjoyable the conversations can be. good luck.

  14. Jesus says:

    Lol Paul, and I thought I was the only one who’d experienced the illogical madness and cumbersome red tape of an Italian post office :)

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