Shipping Your Mobile Marketing Tour to the Caribbean

Fact: Caribbean consumers and retailers have been exposed to mobile marketing through the media, but rarely live. Translation: the islands bordering the U.S. perimeter are fertile ground for your mobile marketing tour—literally.

Most destinations have paved roads, accept American currency, are affiliated with major U.S. Customs operations, and are populated by millions of consumers and b-to-b customers you may have never directly connected with. Here are a few things to consider:

Get a shipper for your mobile marketing tour

You’ll typically get a better price by using a shipping broker (check out than by contacting a cargo company directly. Finding the shipping company is easy, but getting a decent price is trickier. Trans-coastal cargo carriers operate within a system defined by “export days” and “import days.” They’re either doing one or the other.

  • Option 1: If you can synch your truck’s export and import to the shipper’s schedule, they’ll accommodate you, room permitting (prices range between $8,000 to $20,000 each way).
  • Option 2: Even better, contact the shipper in advance; find out when they’ll be running a lighter-than-usual load and can give you a break on price ($5,000 to $10,000 each way). The carriers will try to price the tractor and trailer separately but you should negotiate one charge for the total.

Understand the Schedule

Sail times vary, depending on the size of the ship and the number of planned stops. It could take three days to get the vehicle to Puerto Rico, for example, or as many as five. The truck must be at the port of disembarkation 24 hours prior to sailing for a U.S. Customs inspection and load-in. Fuel the rig before you drop it off (several of the Caribbean islands use diesel that is thicker than its U.S. counterpart, so you may have to cut it with kerosene if you fill up on the other side).

The staff can’t travel with the vehicle, so make arrangements to get your team over to the destination. Take pictures of the entire rig before it sails, as well as when you pick it up. And get an insurance policy that covers you if the ship sinks or the 18-wheeler accidentally falls into the ocean.

Prep the Paperwork

You’ll need a dossier of vehicle information, including duplicate copies of the registration, title, ownership contract, and separate documents for the tractor and trailer. Customs officers will demand a full listing of the vehicle’s “total assessed” value. This entails detailing not only the value of the vehicle and its contents, but how much was spent to customize the exterior and interior (it’s the same requirement in Canada, so marketers who have toured the Great North should already have the list). Once the inspection is completed, you’ll have to seal the trailer prior to dropping it at the shipping yard. Keep the keys and advise your driver to remove all valuables from the cab.

Plan on some type of weather system making the truck at least a day late, so don’t book any events too close to arrival. You’ll need the right permits when you pick up the vehicle in the new shipping yard. Be patient, it could take six hours to clear Customs.

Bonus Tip:
The Caribbean should be an easy extension for a mobile marketing tour, as it’s close enough to the mainland to accommodate busy event schedules and is easily reached via ports all over Florida. Hawaii, however, is a bit trickier, as sailing can take a week and shippers charge by container height. You can’t allow multiple tons of containers to be placed on top of your $2 million truck, which means the shipper will try to charge you for the 70-feet of space they can’t fill because of your rig. Translation: You’re looking at $80,000 to $100,000 for a trip to Hawaii.

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.