CAMP FOSTER (July 7, 2004) -- The summer months mark the peak of permanent change of station orders on Okinawa and many Marines may wish to ship their motorcycles here. However, those who plan to do so may pay up to $3,000.

American servicemembers ship 25 to 30 motorcycles to Okinawa each year, and these motorcycles may require expensive modifications depending on the year and make, said Ernst Berger, supervisor for inbound claims section of Transportation Management Office.

According to Japanese Land Transportation Vehicle Law, Article 41, Vehicle Safety Inspection Standards, all motorcycles or mopeds manufactured on or after July 1, 1999, must comply with Government of Japan brake standards, and all manufactured after April 1, 2001, must also pass GOJ emission testing.

Berger said motorcycles manufactured before July 1, 1999, have no restrictions, but all others must meet GOJ brake standards before shipment to Okinawa.

The GOJ mandated these requirements April 1, 2001, because the motorcycles being imported didn't meet its standards, Berger said.

Berger said vehicles shipped to mainland Japan can be inspected and modified upon arrival; however, there are few locations for this and there may be a lack of parts.

"There are two places in Japan that can do the testing and make the required modifications," Berger said. "One is in Tokyo and one is in Osaka. There are no places on Okinawa."

It is because of the lack of testing and maintenance facilities that the costs for importing a motorcycle can become very high. Servicemembers can find themselves paying between $2,000 and $3,000, said Berger.

Those who are not able to get their motorcycles registered on Okinawa have to find a place where they can store them for the duration of their tour, Berger added.

Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Lucas, a motorcycle safety rider coach here, shipped his 1999 Yamaha R1 to Okinawa in October 2001 and feels it is a long and drawn out process that needs to be reviewed. Fortunately, Lucas' motorcycle was manufactured in Japan and exported to America, making it easier and cheaper to get his motorcycle cleared.

"A motorcycle produced in Japan meets the Japanese standards prior to export," said Lucas. "Contact the motorcycle manufacturer either in Japan or in the United States and ask them what they can provide to meet the certification requirements."

For those who plan to transport their motorcycles here, Berger said the biggest problem servicemembers run into is not having the original or certified copy of the title, which is needed to prove ownership. Otherwise, just making contact is the biggest step.

"(Servicemembers) and DoD civilian personnel should contact the Transportation Management Office or the Joint Forces Vehicle Registration Office for advice before they ship a motorcycle to or from Okinawa," he said.

While many would prefer to ship their motorcycle here to enjoy it while completing their tour, Berger made some recommendations to those considering it.

"The first recommendation would be, 'Don't ship it,'" he emphasized. "Secondly, (I would ask) 'Do you have the money to pay for the modifications?' Third, keep in mind that you have to modify the motorcycle again when you send it back to the U.S."

From an online soure.