In the 1950’s, Saabs were hoisted on to ships for transport and unloaded by crane. The process is far more streamlined now. Earl Vizzone, Director of Business Development and Contacts for FAPS, Inc. was kind enough to share some insights into port handling of Saabs into the United States.
Saabs are transported by ship to three ports in the United States, the port of Newark, New Jersey (near New York), Brunswick, Georgia (in the southeastern United States), and Port Hueneme, California (near Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles). The port of Davisville, Rhode Island has not been used by Saab since the mid 1990’s. The port of Tacoma, Washington has also been used in the somewhat recent past.
Saab Cars of North America contracts with a company in each port to process cars. Global Auto Processing Services has handled Saabs at Port Hueneme for four years and won the bid last month, when came up for renewal. The Port Hueneme facilities is leased from the U.S. Navy, which uses part of the port for mobile construction facilities. International Auto Processing, Inc. processes Saabs at the Port of Brunswick even though the shipping company, Wallenius Willhemsen, has an auto processing subsidiary, Atlantic Vehicle Processors. FAPS, detailed in this article, has been processesing Saabs at Port Newark for the past 15 years. The business is low keyed, in part to avoid attracting attention as storage lots are filled with rows of desirable cars and because some processing can involve repairs, which no car buyer wants to think about.
The MV Boheme carried my European delivery program Saab 9-3 across the Atlantic (sadly, the program has been suspended but was characterized as only a temporary suspension). Operated by the Swedish-Norwegian shipping company, Wallenius Wilhemsen, the Boheme was constructed in 1999 and can carry 7200 cars. It is owned by a Singaporean shipping company which leases the ship to Wallenius Wilhemsen. In 2005, shortly after the Boheme delivered my car, it was modernized. Essentially, it was cut in two and a new section was added to increase the capacity of the ship.
Once cars arrive at the port, they must be unloaded. In Port Newark, a van carrying 12 to 15 drivers boards the ship and the drivers then drive the cars off the ship. There is careful coordination to have a speedy process yet to avoid damage to cars. If they have the reputation of sloppy valet parking attendants, this is not deserved as the damage rate is less than 0.01%.
FAPS handles cars for several car manufacturers. There are different processes during shipping. Some have a transport fuse, which are left until the car arrives at the local dealer. Others are programmed so the car cannot exceed a certain speed, such as 20 mph (30 km/h) and are reprogrammed at the dealer. If a car has to be in storage for more than a certain period, say 30 days, the car is driven forward, voltage checked, and wrapping checked. If it is a longer period, such as 60 days, the battery is recharged and the wrap changed.
When Saabs are shipped, assembly is not quite complete as one sees the car in the dealer. Mats are installed as well as glove box labels. Some labels on Saabs vary from country to country. For example, in some countries, recommended tire pressure stickers are in the glove compartment and, in other countries, are inside the driver’s door jamb. Rear license plate holders also have to be attached in some cars. Saabs are transported with white plastic covers affixed to horizontal surfaces but various other methods are used by other car manufacturers. BMW X3’s made in Austria utilized felt covers which had openings for the window, driver’s door, and fuel port. Some BMW cars have a thick wax applied to the car that has to be washed off at the port.
Cars sold in the United States must have a window sticker that has the price, fuel consumption and other information. The price sticker is called a Monroney label, named after a Senator which wrote the law in 1958 requiring the label because of the previous practice of shipping, added optional equipment, dealer preparation charges, and other costs not being readily conveyed to the consumer. FAPS prints them and has technicians who can perfectly apply it to the window with one hand in a quick motion resulting in a straight and professional application.
FAPS places manuals and booklets in the car, even though they are sometimes printed in Sweden and Germany. They receive five to ten truckloads of manuals daily from various car manufacturers and have a large warehouse just for these and related items.
Car manufacturers, like Saab, BMW, and Volkswagen, have had more inspection and preparation done at the port in recent years standardizing some of the tasks previous done as dealer preparation. Besides off loading cars, inspecting and preparing cars, FAPS also exports cars. It has the capability to homologate cars to the market it is to be exported as well as make factory authorized repairs to cars in shipment. FAPS facilities consists of many buildings and the capacity to handle seven ships, soon to be expanded to a capacity of eight. Building 290, a 108,179 square foot structure, handles Saabs. It also processes Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mazda cars.
Cars in the Port of Newark are later transported by rail (Norfolk Southern and CSXT rail lines) and trucks to various dealers. FAPS ships some cars to the west coast of the United States but not for Saab. Saabs destined for the western part of the country are shipped to Port Hueneme.
FAPS, orginally called the Foreign Auto Preparation Service, Inc., was founded by John Anthony LoBue and was relocated from Long Island City, New York to Port Newark in 1956. It was the first company of its kind, having value added services instead of merely unloading cars from ships. The company had origins in a family automotive business by a senior member of the LoeBue family, Agostino, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1917 and began work in the industry six years later. The sons of FAPS founder, August and Gary, currently operate the company and have greatly expanded its capability. The Stella Maris Chapel in Port Newark was constructed on company property. The manufacturing capability of the company has been used to restore old and antique cars on the side. The company employs over 200 people.
The LoBues have a Saab Sonett III, given to Gary and Augie by a friend of the company and family. The orignal owner gave the Sonett to them because they could restore it and provide a good home for the car. The brothers’ philosophy is to restore the car for enjoyment and use, not just for display. A follow-up article about the Sonett and other restorations is planned.
The company occupies an area to the right of the ship channel. Building 290, which processes Saabs, is yellow and located on the ship channel close to the bend. Of the three yellow buildings on the ship channel, it is on the right. Prior to Spyker’s acquisition of Saab, General Motors and Saab cars were processed in Building 262, which is a yellow building north (towards the background) of and across the parking lot from Building 290. Newark Liberty International Airport is beyond the top left corner of the photo. If one is taking off to the north, FAPS facilities will be to the right as the aircraft pasts the end of the runway.
Originally posted on SaabWorld on 3 June 2011