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When it comes to transporting a bulky set of items overseas, the most practical and cost-effective option tends to be via a shipping container. That said, the whole shipping process can be overwhelming each time you go through it, given the potential risks plus the packing and paperwork involved.
Freight and international shipping logistics companies are there to help you throughout the process of shipping your container. Nevertheless, try to systematically handle things under your control, as it can prevent headaches and time wasted later. Here are the steps you need to follow.
Similarly to choosing a box size when you visit the post office to have a package delivered domestically, you must select the right container size for shipping your goods. These containers do come in a wide range of sizes, and they take up 20-50 feet of physical space on average. Of course, the large containers will cost more, but at the same time, they offer you more room to pack your goods in a way that minimizes risks.
Together with the container size, another factor you must consider at the very beginning is the capacity of your load in relation to your chosen container. More often than not, people go with a full container load (FCL), which means their items take up the total space in that container. This option tends to be far more straightforward for both you – the sender – and the company, as there is no doubt that all goods inside belong to just one person.
On the other hand, you may also opt for less container load (LCL), which indicates the opposite and means your items will likely be shipped with items of other senders inside that same container. Granted, this is a great option for those on a budget or those who will only send smaller goods, but note that this brings about challenges and complications to the logistics of it all.
The reality is even though you might make certain choices to keep costs down. It’s still a pricey affair anytime you pack goods in a shipping container that travels overseas. Do expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. Most shipping companies use the same set of factors to calculate the precise amount for each customer. Visit the website of your chosen company to get a quick quote and gauge the cost of your situation. Still, these are generally the factors that directly affect it:
A. The shipping container size
B. The weight of the goods
C. The volume, and whether you’ve selected FCL or LCL
D. The total distance to be traveled for shipping
E. The time of year – like virtually all other industries, international shipping has peak seasons, normally during the summer (from August to September), the period shortly following Chinese New Year (between January and February).
F. The destination port – this may include additional charges for services and customs duties, and these vary from country to country
G. The method of loading and delivery – there are normally three methods that you have some control over deciding:
Given the delicate nature of transporting goods by sea and air, and considering how valuable your items are, it’s imperative to know how to best pack your stuff. Generally speaking, it helps to use packing material like shrink wrapping to protect your furniture items and items that can break easily. It is also highly recommended, and even mandated by some companies, to line up the ceiling and walls of the container with some moisture-absorbing paper if you intend to store anything with high moisture content (e.g., unroasted coffee or cocoa beans). Moreover, all liquid-containing packages must be positioned as low down as possible in the container to minimize the impact on other packages in the event of leakage during shipment. All items should be checked that they’re tightly sealed, and all boxes and packing materials ideally should be moisture-resistant.
Some rules regarding the weight of your container should also be adhered to as you go ahead with packing. First, do not exceed the maximum weight that’s marked clearly on this container. Second, don’t exceed the weight limit that applies to secondary transport on the road, and many countries have strict limits set here. Furthermore, mind the presence of good weight distribution and have no greater than 60% of the total weight of your stuff stored within half the length of your container. That means ensuring the weight is evenly distributed across the container floor, with lighter boxes, not opposite heavier boxes, as this prevents the dangers of your cargo tipping over.
Before sending out a shipment, it’s essential to know customs regulations for both the country of origin – where the container gets sent – and the country where the shipment is dropped off. For instance, specific rules might be in place concerning the importation of select goods, such as the need to undergo additional clearance for e-cigarettes in the UK. Therefore, make sure you have the correct pair of custom forms to fill out appropriately, one for each country. These forms should be kept with all other related documents.
The next documents to pay attention to are the ones indicating the official weight of your shipment. To get this as accurately as possible, you can either weigh as one everything packed inside the container using certified industrial scales or, instead, weigh each package individually and add the sum of those weights to the specific weight of your container while empty. If neither approach is convenient for you, see if you can get the company to assist here.
This is where you want to be careful about doing things by the book, as the details involved here are extremely important. Stick to the proper labeling procedures as outlined by the shipping company. Normally, containers need to be finalized and complete with labels such as port marks, the customer identification code, gross and net weights, and a few others. And as a rule of thumb, never specify the actual contents in labels of any container, as this might encourage theft. The company should be able to help you get these matters sorted correctly.
This step is one that the company should proactively work with you to fulfill, as shipping a container overseas requires lots of unique documentation. The relevant paperwork to the entire process includes (1) a certificate of origin, (2) an insurance certificate that outlines the type of insurance you have opted to get for this shipment, (3) a shipper’s export declaration form, and (4) a bill of lading documenting effects placed in the container. Furthermore, ensure that both the container number and seal number of your shipment are recorded on all documents. And such documentation must be attached to the cargo to make them easy to check by inspectors.
When the time has come for your stuff to be handed over to the company, there is hardly much left to do, provided you have diligently followed earlier steps. It’s now a matter of having the phone by your side, so you can easily be called or notified when the truck picking up your items is arriving. Double-check that none of the papers are missing as well.
Once the container arrives – and hopefully, it shows up in perfect condition –congratulations are in order! Get your stuff unloaded, sign the documentation that confirms you received your shipment, and thank the driver and the staff with a smile. Your items have survived an unpredictable journey by land and sea that took many weeks or months. So cheers to this good fortune.
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.
Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.
And my choice in terms of auto transport has to be A1 Auto Transport. It’s in the name, but also in the quality with which they do their jobs. I’ve never had a problem with this company.
The only time my shipment was delayed was during winter when a snowstorm closed down all the major roads. And they still found an alternative and got my car delivered before roads got unstuck.
When I moved to West Virginia, they picked up my car the very day I called them. I like to think they take special care of me considering all the business I’ve sent them. I’ll continue to support A1 Auto Transport. It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.
I considered selling my car when I moved to Washington. It was old and rusty, but I grew attached to it. So, I called a couple companies to transport it to my new home, but they both fell through.
The first one couldn’t decide on a schedule. He would constantly change the pickup date till I got frustrated and canceled. The second was insufferable, very rude on the phone, even worse in person.
They started picking a part my car asking me why I still have it. If that’s their opinion of my vehicle, how can I trust they’ll take care of it? If something happened midway, why wouldn’t they just blame it on the car instead of paying up?
So, I cancelled this company as well and turned to A1 Auto Transport. From the get go, they were very different from my past options. Their website was very professional and up to date, full of useful information. I requested a quote using their online form, and I got an email response within an hour. Surprisingly fast!
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were lacking customers, but the email spoke for itself. In just one email, everything I needed to know was there, including a contact number I could use to get more information or confirm the transport.
I called and got things rolling. I was very pleased with the driver. He followed standard procedure and represented his company well. Can’t remember his name, but props to him!
The car arrived in Washington 6 days later in excellent condition. From what I understand, the transport was delayed a bit by a storm, but since the time window was 4-6 days from the beginning, I don’t really care. You have my full support and recommendation!
There are a lot of options for auto transport these days, which surprisingly makes it harder to find a good company. I received more than 10 offers to ship my car, but I couldn’t decide on any of them.
After doing some research, I got even more worried reading about all the scams and accidents that can happen. But, I have work to do and couldn’t afford to drive my newly purchased Mini Cooper all the way to Virginia.
Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport. They are very good at their jobs. I spent more than an hour drilling Joe with various questions, and he never once lost his patience. He saw I was interested, so he bore with me until I was satisfied. The driver was also very courteous and my car was intact on arrival. I couldn’t have asked for more.
By the way, the price we first agreed on stayed the same. There were no delays or unexpected “surprises.” I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10! We chose them to move our car from California to Vermont, since we needed professionals.
We were abroad during the transport, so the transport was a bit tricky. The driver had to pick it up from storage on short notice and get it to its destination within at most 10 days. I was happy to note it arrived sooner. We got it 3 days early, right when we got home to pick it up. It made getting around way easier. Awesome service!
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