October 2018: If you’ve been following along with the blog since our early days, you may recall that one of the first things we had to do when we arrived on MOKEN six years ago, way back in October 2012, was order a new set of house batteries. It was quite the ordeal getting them shipped to the Philippines, getting them cleared through customs and getting them installed on the boat. At that time, Chris had the battery box reconfigured as we switched from gel cells to AGMs (absorbed glass mat). He installed six with the option to increase it to eight in the future.
The future is now.
Earlier this year, when we were out cruising, one of our house batteries packed it in. As they are 12 volt batteries paired to provide us with 24 volts, Chris had to remove two from our array. That left us down to four batteries and meant we had to be extra careful with our power usage as we weren’t too confident that the rest would hold up until we could get to Kota Kinabalu and plug in to shore power. Six years is a pretty good run for boat batteries in the tropics, so this wasn’t totally unexpected.
We got in touch with Full River, the battery manufacturer in China, and placed an order for eight of the same batteries we bought from them last time. They weren’t in stock, so they would need 65 days to manufacture them. We arranged to have them air freighted to Kota Kinabalu to coincide with our return from our summer trip to Canada towards the end of September.
Fast forward to September and we learned that the batteries were now in Hong Kong, but there was a problem getting the batteries air freighted to Kota Kinabalu. That took several weeks and a multitude of emails back and forth between us, the manufacturer and the freight forwarder. It took a change in freight forwarder before it finally got sorted.
On our return from Canada, and while we were waiting for our batteries to arrive, we met a few of the yachties from the Rally to the East. These few boats had returned to KK rather than continue on into Indonesian waters after participating in a rally over the top of Sabah. That area is a known hunting ground for pirates engaged in kidnap for ransom, so best traversed in a group with plenty of security and support.
On one of their last nights before heading on to other ports, we were invited to join the group for a farewell Indian dinner with the rally organizer, Alvin Teh and his wife Shirley. Left to right in the photo are: Alvin, Sandra and Chris (MOKEN), Nikki and Frank (Stars End 2), Jim, Anita and Pierre (Xamala), Claire (Restless M), Shirley, and Linda (Serafin),
Over the next couple of days, Serafin departed first en route to Miri, followed a day or so later by Xamala and Stars End 2, who set off together for West Malaysia. That left just us (awaiting batteries) and Restless M (awaiting engine parts).
It wasn’t until the middle of October before our batteries were finally on their way, shipped via Brunei.
Our batteries were finally ready to pick up from the MAS Kargo warehouse on October 22, in the end just one month behind schedule. We needed extra help transporting them from the airport to the marina and getting them from the parking lot and loaded onto the aft deck where they waited overnight, covered by a big tarp to protect them from the thunderstorms prevalent every afternoon at this time of year.
With a little more help from the crew of a large ship anchored just outside the marina, we managed to get the old batteries out and the new ones in place. (In return for their help, we gave them our old batteries rather than arranging to send them off for recycling.) Chris had our new batteries wired up and running in no time. Our new eight strong battery bank gives us 1040 amp hours of capacity. Power to spare!
Of course, no international shipment to MOKEN would be complete without a mix-up in the paperwork and a couple of trips to customs to get everything figured out. We had been advised that spares for a “vessel in transit” would not be charged duties. Taxes, up to ten per cent, would likely be applied.
Despite clear “vessel in transit” instructions on the paperwork, the broker in KK ended up filing the documents with customs to include a massive thirty per cent add on for duties and taxes on the total cost including the shipping charges. We weren’t given any sort of head’s up and didn’t even learn this until after the batteries were already installed on MOKEN. We were shocked, to say the least.
After discussing our predicament with Alvin, the rally organizer and an agent who deals with many international yachts passing through Sabah, we headed to the customs office at the airport with all our boat papers and battery documentation in hand, ready to explain our situation. It was Friday. The customs officer said she would have to speak with her supervisor and asked us to check back with her on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.
When the time came and I called her for an update, she asked us to come in. We weren’t expecting to hear anything but bad news; that it was too late to adjust the duties. Much to our surprise, she said her supervisor had waived all the duties and taxes for our shipment. We wouldn’t have to pay anything extra. We were ecstatic.
Dealing with customs in Malaysia was so different from our experience getting shipments into the Philippines. Whew, what a relief!