Published in WWDR and used with permission.
Water for Life has just finished loading another container for shipment to
Guatemala. The container is loaded with material to support our work and
donated medical equipment headed for the Ministry of Health in the Petén region, as well as for other groups who are working to make a difference in the lives of the
people in the area.
The containers we ship are the life blood of our work. We constantly need
equipment to support our drilling rigs. This means tools, compressors, generators,
pallets of Bentonite, galvanized pipe, steel well casings, pumps, PVC pipe,
stainless steel fittings, nuts and bolts, wrenches, etc, etc, EVERYTHING is
carefully weighed and cataloged.
The containers themselves are somewhat special. We use High Cube containers,
certified as suitable for ocean shipping. (I think this means they are constructed in
such a way as to sink if they should come into mishap on the voyage.) The
containers arrive and we have 2 hours to load or we will be charged for extra time.
We have never made it in two hours, but we also have never had to pay extra.
The containers are loaded right to the doors. Our crew of volunteers pack them
tight, not only to get in as much as we can but to pack them tight so the loads
within will not shift. This year there were 170 boxed of donated hospital linens
that were packed into every conceivable crevice as the heavier material was placed.
These boxes cushion everything against movement. I believe you could turn the
container upside down and it would pretty much stay the way it is inside.
The containers are carried by truck to the Port of Seattle where they are placed
aboard a very large container ship for the first part of the voyage. This year the
ship is the Conti Courage, and MSC ship. It is a large container ship. The largest of
these ships can carry up to 18000 containers on board. I am able to track the
voyage of the ship carrying our precious material as it makes its way from Seattle
to Oakland to Long Beach and then to Panama. I enjoy watching where it is daily.
Our cost for shipping from Seattle to the east coast of Guatemala is usually about
$5000 and takes about 40 days from port to port. Sometimes the cost is a little
more, but usually not less. It does not seem to matter whether or not the container
is a full weight or not. I think an empty one would cost probably as much.
After the shipping where costs and progress are known, comes the mystery of
the import process. The container sits in the port. How long? No one can predict.
For the port, the longer the better, because they charge $140 per day.
It is usually about a week, so we figure about a thousand dollars for port charges waiting for us to work out the details of the importation. We have to hire an agent to help us (probably so the bribes go smoothly).
We have learned to keep Americans away from the import process. It is cheaper that way. This container is on the way. Full of stuff we need to improve the lives of folks
who have nothing, sometimes not even a glass of clean water.
If you can spare a week or two of your life, why not come and help us? It will mean the world to them and give you a new perspective.
We have the drills. You have the skills. We have the villages. You have the time. We offer a life-changing experience for you and them.