In the end I found a Vietnamese website of a group of companies that also manufactures all kinds of boats. The guys in Sihanoukville had planned to make the boat in the sandwich method, that is there is a plywood core covered entirely with fiberglass. This is a common method if there are no molds available for producing the hull bottom and and the inner lining. This Vietnamese company, Kien Giang Composite, located in An Bien in the Mekong Delta, makes full fiberglass boats which is a lot safer due to the fact that fiberglass just doesn’t rot. Wherever plywood is used in the manufacture of boats you run the risk of water seepage through a crack in the fiberglass and then you are really in trouble. The price they offered seemed reasonable too – no bargaining, prices are fixed. The specs seemed all right so I went ahead and ordered it. I made my 50% deposit at the end of December. The quote said they would deliver after 5 weeks on receipt of the deposit. After a week I inquired whether they had started yet but was told they are still putting out 5 boats for a Phillipine customer but I would be next after January 5th. The Chinese New Year held things up too. In order to check on the progress and the factory in general I traveled to An Bien the first week of February. I thought this would be a quick one-day trip as it is only 80 km from the border at Prek Chak/Ha Tien. But until we got there it was 3:30 in the afternoon already as we couldn’t find a taxi in Ha Tien right away and we had to cross a river by ferry at Rach Gia, the provincial center, a pretty large town. Traffic is also much heavier on Vietnamese country roads. Additionally, cars don’t exceed the speed limit which was 70 for the most part. Anyway, when we got to the factory we were surprised to learn that our delivery date was set for March 05, while we had expected it to be Feb. 15 or so. We checked out our unfinished boat and made a few requests for change. Here it is at that stage.
In the meantime I had ordered a T-Top, which would have been available as an option but the price was too high for my taste. I ordered it from a supplier in the U. S. and had it shipped in a container as bulk freight. The outboard had arrived back in December already. In order to clear all these things through customs, which is a very difficult process, I used an excellen freight forwarder - CamFreight in Phnom Penh. I can only recommend them if anybody needs to import something hassle-free. They managed to get a decent rate of 26% for tax and duty for the outboard based on the invoice price. Separately I had ordered the controls, partially used, and wire harnesses from my outboard supplier in Florida and had it shipped by USPS. After some discussion with the customs people at the post office I got the same rate. They had wanted 60% initially. Although GPS and echo sounders are available in Cambodia, they are an unknown Chinese brand and very expensive. So I also ordered a Garmin Chartplotter/Echosounder from the U. S. All this is pretty easy for me as I maintain a bank account and a credit card there. It was also shipped by USPS. The customs people at the post office base their tax/duty calculation on the price that is listed on the U. S. customs export declaration. So if you get your supplier to reduce this you can get away with a much lower payment. My GPS/Echo sounder was $520 including shipping. The supplier put $220 on the declaration form and I paid my import duty of 25% on that. The only downside to getting stuff shipped over from the U. S. is the relatively high cost of shipping. You don’t want it shipped regular mail so it will have to be priority, which can run anywhere from $20 to $150 depending on the size and weight of the package. It is still more convenient than going to Thailand by car. Plus you can’t beat the U. S. when it comes to boats, boat accessories, and all the stuff you might need for boating. Smaller packages don’t go through customs anyway. They arrive at the no. 3 counter at the post office. These guys know me by now so well that they call me every time there is a package or letter for me.
As it happened, I had all the stuff I needed for the boat ready before the boat was even finished.Finally, when it was ready to be delivered it was postponed another 5 days by the factory, which didn’t make much of a difference as the negotiations with the customs department took a little longer. Items that are worth more than $300 need to be cleared in Phnom Penh at the head office. Under $300 the local office can do it. You can imagine that with 115.325% tax/duty on boats and boat hulls the negotiations can prove to be somewhat lengthy. Fortunately, the customs people don’t have a set list as for cars (see my post on importing cars). It all depends on the value on the invoice. If it is too low they won’t believe it. Remember, they got internet there too. So it all comes down to how to liaise with the customs officials. The lady at CamFreight knew her job and in the end I was happy with the result. I won’t publish here for obvious reasons what I paid and how we got that. Incidentally, the T-Top was cleared in Sihanoukville port as we declared its value under $300. Needless to say, it was somewhat higher than that.They didn’t even know what it was, especially since it came disassembled.
Now came the big part: getting the boat across the border. Vietnam being Vietnam they have their stringent procedures, not nearly as flexible as the Cambodian ones. The shipper needs to do an export clearance, which in itself costs about $500. I went to the border at Bavet/Moc Bai with two guys from CamFreight. We got there at 9 am and I hoped to be on my way back at 12 noon. Hey, what’s the rush? This is SE Asia, right? My freight guys told me we would start to clear the boat at 2 pm. So why were we there so soon? Well, the customs guys take their lunch break at 11 until 1 o’clock. The computers are shut down and until everybody is back at his desk it will be 2. But before we needed to get it through Vietnamese customs; and that took 2 hours too. At least we wanted to get it into the zero zone between the two border checkpoints to transfer it from the factory truck to the truck I hired. Finally at 1 o’clock we saw it. But then they wouldn’t let me into the zero zone as I didn’t have a Vietnamese visa. Never mind, that I am not going into Vietnam. After some back and forth between the freight guys, one customs official and the chief of the border police I was let in and we could finally start. Here is how it worked:
The rest was pretty straightforward. I worked with Ormax on the riverside, practically the only boat shop in Phnom Penh, to rig the boat with the motor, the controls, and hydraulic steering. His shop doesn’t instill too much confidence in his workmanship at first sight. It looks like a junkyard. But some of the car repair shops look the same. They can still do a fine job. He also uses a Navy technician who seemed to know his mettle. It turned out he really did. Two days later the boat was ready to go. Everything worked fine and the job was done nicely. Despite my initial reservations I can really recommend that shop. The factory had forgotten to install the bow grabrail. Ormax put it in for $300. Altogether that boat set me back more than $30k. If I had imported a used 2006 boat from the U. S. it would have cost me $43k. Here it is: