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Picking a truck up from the Port of Savannah - My Experience

Discussion in 'General Truck Info' started by dasfrogger, Jul 11, 2021.

  1. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member


    I just picked up my truck (94 Carry, Lift/Dump) from the port of Savannah and I wanted to document my experience. I had a hard time getting clear information on what to expect and bring, so i figured that sharing here might help someone else (or at least me for next time I do this). I'd imagine much of this will apply to other ports as well, but who knows.

    My process - I used Japan Car direct to buy the truck at auction and they arranged to have it shipped to the united states. I could have Baltimore, newport news and Savannah were all similar distance from me, but they suggested Savannah to be the best option. After purchase it sat for about 6 weeks in japan (shipping is rough right now) and took about a month to arrive once it was in transit.

    I used an import broker to take care of everything on the US side. I need to go back and look at the costs again, but I'm 95% sure I'd do it again just for the peace of mind that its being done right and I won't encounter any trouble. The customs system is murky and i've seen it help to know how to navigate it. I used Joe Hohenstein (joe@jbhohenstein.com) and he was a big help getting everything sorted out.

    The Port:
    Once I'd received notice that the truck was at the port, the wheels started turning fast. I got an email from the Autoliner asking to pay some small charges. No clue why they don't include this in the freight costs, but they don't. It was about 50 bucks, but had to be paid by either wire transfer or check. Pay this ASAP if you're in a hurry for your truck as they have to get payment before you can get your truck from the port. After that, you've got to contact the port and pay any of their fees. Amounted to about 80 bucks for me. Ga Port Authority @contact for this is 912-651-3362. With that paid, they respond to you with a "delivery order". This is the most important doc i had to get the truck off the port.

    Once everything is paid, you wait for a 'line release'. Basically, the port is making sure you paid the Autoliner, the port, and that Customs and USDA is happy with your truck coming into the US. My experience (and what i was told) was that Customs release happens fast, but USDA can take a few days to give their blessing.

    So, line release granted, everything is good. Get an appointment with a TWIC escort (unless you have a TWIC Card) so you can get on the port to get your vehicle. Book this appointment early. I was given the advice to bring the names of 1-2 other escort companies with me just in case something goes wrong. I didn't do this and got lucky that it didn't bite me - Would absolutely have a back up in the future. I used Georgia Vehicle Escorting, 912-677-5631. Their rate (for this) was $150 for two hours, then additional fees if beyond that amount of time. BE ADVISED: only one person gets to go into the port at a time. If you're bringing friends, they will have to stay behind. Also, the port 'goes to lunch' from 12-1, so i'd recommend getting there as early as possible.

    My impression was that i had to drive my truck/trailer into the port with the escort and load the vehicle there. Luckily i was allowed to go in and drive the truck off the port and load (with help of my friends waiting) a few blocks away at GVE's office. This is definitely the way to go if your truck is driveable. Make sure to bring a battery jump box and a gallon or two of gas, maybe some starting fluid just in case. These trucks are shipped as empty as possible and are notoriously left with the ignition on which drains the batteries. My truck was buried in the middle of a group of others & we had to move another truck to get mine out - it took a few tries before finding one that was able to start.

    Anyway - process and documents needed for the port:
    Escort drives you onto the port where you're given a visitor badge/sticker. They will check your drivers license and you need a Hi-Viz safety vest for entry. Bring one with you from home. First stop is to an office in the port where they Reprint a delivery order with a 'gate pass' so you can get out. You will need:
    A) Vin number for your truck.
    B) Delivery order - or at least your delivery order number
    C) Bill of Lading - or at least the Number associated

    I say 'at least the number associated' because no one actually looked at my paperwork that I'd brought with me. My BOL had already been surrendered, so if that hadn't happened your mileage may vary. I filled out a form with those numbers, signed a few things and they handed me what i needed to get out of the port. From there, the escort drove me back to the truck where we A) made sure it would start, B) moved another truck to be able to get it out c) drove away. My paperwork (that was provided by the port) was checked by a port worker and i was given a carbon copy. From there we went to the exit where a customs cop checked my paperwork, took my gate pass & visitor badge.

    Driving the truck around and then off of the port was an cool experience, but I am a nerd. Lots of neat stuff to see from really heavy construction equipment to dozens of rows of brand new Mercedes-Benz and BMW vehicles. The entire process door to door was a little over half an hour, but could have been much longer if we'd run into any troubles with the truck or had to wait to have paperwork inspected.

    Once the truck is out of the port and loaded onto your trailer its time to go to the Customs Trade office to get your paperwork stamped. This is not a mandatory step, but seems like it can help get your truck registered in your state.

    The office is located @ 139 Southern Blvd., Savannah, GA 31405 and they close at 4:00 PM (another reason to get to the port early). You can contact the office @ SAVTRADE@cbp.dhs.gov. You will need the following forms, as filled out and submitted:
    · Entry Summary
    · Customs Release
    · EPA Form 3520-1
    · DOT Form HS-7

    This process was also painless - walked into the office, handed my paperwork off, and about 5 minutes later It was returned stamped.

    Moral of the story, be extra prepared, have all your ducks in a row ahead of time, and it will go smoothly. While i was there I encountered someone else trying to do the same thing who didn't quite have everything together (understandable, its a murky process) and he was having a very bad time. Keep a smile on your face and enjoy all this nonsense - it is a unique experience.

    If anyone has questions about anything thru the process I'm happy to answer here
    movemint, Tom Meeks and Limestone like this.
  2. Giant Robot

    Giant Robot New Member Supporting Member

    Wow! Thanks for posting that fantastic walkthrough!
    I copied/pasted the whole thing into my Minitruck Notes folder.
    The selection of trucks available via import is impressive and I am considering that route.
    dasfrogger likes this.
  3. srmoose

    srmoose New Member

    Glad it went well, good info to use. FYI other ports are a bit easier but if you follow these instructions you should be good to go.
    dasfrogger likes this.
  4. Enoc Cantero

    Enoc Cantero New Member

    I just purchased a Subaru Sambar from carfromjapan.com. I too am having mine shipped to Savannah, GA. Right now I am playing the waiting game while they schedule the shipping process. My question is, at what time did you contact your customs broker? Obviously, I feel like it is too early for me right now as all I really have is an invoice and a receipt of payment through Paypal. Also, do you have a rough idea as to how much you paid for your customs broker?
  5. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    I’d go ahead and contact one now. Probably not a lot they can do for you at this point, but they can help make sure everything happens right before it gets on the boat. Mine was missing some bond or something that ended up not being a big deal.
  6. Ken Faber

    Ken Faber New Member

    Do you remember what Customs charged you? The Customs in Savannah charged me 25% of what I paid for it in Japan. Ouch!
  7. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    A 25% import duty is correct for anything with a “bed”. A car or van would be 2.5%.
  8. Ken Faber

    Ken Faber New Member

    You are correct. That is what the Custom's guy told me and that is what I was prepared to pay, but my friends at JDMCarDirect says that it can vary depending on the Custom guy you get that day you show up. But as you've confirmed this is just wishful thinking.
  9. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    Hopefully your import broker can get everything paid for you ahead of time. Makes the process very easy. I wasn’t aware that you could pay those duties etc upon arrival at the port. I think they want all that squared away before.

    I was told the same thing you were. I think it makes the prospect of importing these more palatable and easier to sell. Maybe someone could get away with 2.5%, but the Feds could either come back after the fact for the difference, it could impact your ability to properly register (because of improper import) or both. It sucks, but seemed like it would be less painful in the long run.

    Good luck with your import! When do you head down?
  10. Ken Faber

    Ken Faber New Member

    Thanks. I picked up my imported truck in June of 2020. I listed 'self' as the importer - which is allowed. I purchased the truck at an auction in late January, 2020 and had my JDMCarsDirect team assist with putting on new tires and wheels before it left Japan. By then Covid was in full on 'oh-shite' mode. It took like what seemed forever for the truck to ship. The JDM guys helped me out in a couple of ways - shipping the truck was very cheap via a Roll-on, Roll-off ship ($900). I scheduled a date to pick up my truck - about a week after it arrived. Got my escort and got my truck, but it was enough of a hassle, and I had a few glitches on that day that I resolved to document the process at the port but never did. Thanks for doing this for posterity's sake. Q: What did you pay the importer to facilitate everything?

    Waiting to ship.


    Waiting to ship from Japan.

    20210730_081209 (1).jpg

    What it looks like now.
  11. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    Your truck looks great! Love the Tonka decal!

    I don't remember how much i paid - but it wasn't much, especially for the amount of work that Joe did. I think i was well under 2k stateside - that included all the tariff's, entry fees, port fees, import broker fees, etc etc. For a novice i don't see a downside to it - will absolutely do again
  12. Ken Faber

    Ken Faber New Member

    Yeah, I had a check list from my JDM team and there were some items left off. There was really no one to help me figure it out, but I did. The escort is a bit of a racket - I think there is only one escort company now. $150 bucks for 2 hours, problem is- if the port is busy, you and your escort can sit for hours inside the port before they take you to where the cars are parked. None of this is a show stopper, but I'd advise taking a Valium before you enter the port. All in all, 2 grand (if it includes the shipping sounds like a deal to me).
  13. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    I am curious about this part:

    Once the truck is out of the port and loaded onto your trailer its time to go to the Customs Trade office to get your paperwork stamped. This is not a mandatory step, but seems like it can help get your truck registered in your state.

    Do you just go back to the customs office and ask them to stamp your papers? Is it to verify that your truck matches the information on the import documents?
  14. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    This is actually a completely different office, in an office park about 15 minutes away from the port. You do just arrive and ask them to stamp your papers. The way they explained it to me was their stamp was kind of like a notary, basically they were recognizing that it was signed properly. They said it didn't mean anything to them and shouldn't to local governments/dmv, but they recognized that those agencies liked it, so they continue to stamp upon request.

    All the "VIN" matchup is done at the port, before they even allow it to be released. Its all kind of silly really. That said, having those stamps really helped my case with my DMV.
  15. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    I'm still a bit confused as to why this is needed. If local governments/dmv's don't view the customs stamp as anything, then how did it help your case with the DMV?
  16. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    Because they don't know what they're looking at.

    My particular branch had never done an import from japan. Had only done a handful of imports period. Anything you have that makes the underpaid employee feel good about your transfer is a bonus. Most state laws/statues are vaguely written and as we all know, many are antagonistic toward kei vehicles - especially trucks. The stamp, as unnecessary as it is, makes it all look more official/legal/correct/etc.
  17. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    ok, I get it now. Gives them the warm fuzzy feeling, and if US Customs likes it, then why wouldn't they?

    Maybe you can help me with this. I received my arrival notice. ALl bills are paid, I have my customs form, EPA form and DOT form. Whom do I send them to? I"m sure they need this information before I come to collect my truck?

    Thank you in advance
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2021
  18. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    Unfortunately I don't have good advice about that. I used an import broker (contact info above) to handle all that paperwork and clearances.
  19. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    I got it figured out, should be picking my truck up in a day or two! Dunno why everyone wants to be so secretive about this part of the process. ( I don't mean you btw, thank you for the information you have provided!!!)
  20. dasfrogger

    dasfrogger New Member

    Excellent! Congrats - i hope it all goes smoothly.

    I agree - i don't know why this process is so opaque. No reason to make it so inaccessible.
  21. Enoc Cantero

    Enoc Cantero New Member

    How long did it take your truck to ship after you paid? I'm at 3 weeks today and still haven't heard anything.
  22. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    I purchased my truck July 14. It didn't arrive at the outbound port until July 27. I had a booking date on August 19th. Truck was picked up at Nagoya, Japan on August 27th, and arrived in Jacksonville, FL yesterday, 10/12. But was scheduled to be in Jax on 10/1.
    So it was like 6 weeks after purchase. It sucks waiting, for sure.
  23. HiJinks

    HiJinks New Member

    Thanks so much h for this great information. My truck arrives on the 11th. I have my TWIC card and plan on handling things myself. My question is, how difficult is it to navigate entrance and vehicle location? Do you have to stop at a building? Pull up to a window and say, “I’m picking up a To Go order of one Hijet.” seriously, is there clear signage? Etc…
  24. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    I wasn't able to go back, my friend did it for me. But he told me what happened.

    We went through a security gate, they just make sure you have a TWIC card. He went back to vehicle import area. They took his card I think and the bill of lading from the shipper. I had copies of everything just in case, in triplicate. But they only wanted that.
    He said truck was easy to find, the vin will be written on the windshield, key was in it. Started right up and he drove it onto the trailer.
  25. HiJinks

    HiJinks New Member

    Thanks again for this helpful information. May I ask how long from “ship arrival” to the day you went to pick up your vehicle? Trying to figure out a ballpark day to plan to go to the port.
  26. pass1over

    pass1over New Member

    My truck was ready for pickup the next day.

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