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How To Ship Heavy Equipment Overseas

How To Ship Heavy Equipment Overseas

When it comes to shipping heavy equipment overseas, planning is the most crucial element in getting your stuff from point A to point B. International shipping introduces several factors that anyone shipping equipment within the country's borders doesn't have to worry about. It was a lot more of a headache in the past because you had to manually get forms and fill them out before shipping equipment to operate overseas. Sometimes, you'd need special licenses and bills of lading for your equipment that would complicate matters. Today's rapid information age has made it easier and quicker than ever before to ship equipment overseas. Even so, knowing the process will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.


Know Your Equipment

Know Your Equipment

The size, make, and model of your equipment are all vital information that you should have on hand when visiting a shipping company to do an estimate. Not only does it help the shipping company give you a solid estimate on the cost, but it also allows them to advise you on safety measures. Heavy equipment can be expensive and taking proper care and precautions with it while shipping will ensure that it is delayed. The size of your equipment is a crucial consideration since some ports (especially minor ones) may not have the capability to handle heavier axle loads. In such a case, the shipping company may opt to unload the equipment at another port then use overland methods (trains, flatbeds, etc.) to ship it to its final destination. The cost would, of course, be impacted as a result, but at the very least, you'll be sure that your equipment can get to where it needs to be. You will also need the weight and size to apply for clearance beforehand. Some shipping companies have a weight limit on what they can handle, so heavier equipment may require you to shop around for a bit.


Documentation and Forms

International shipping carries with it a lot of risks. Governments try their best to reduce the incidence of black-market dealings by requiring documentation for heavy equipment. The US also has requirements for heavy equipment leaving its shores. The ownership and title of the vehicle need to be expressly established in documentation to avoid misunderstandings. While you can fill these documents out yourself, you don't have to. Some shipping companies offer options for filling out your departing and landing papers for you. These companies have dealt with international regulations for most of their operational life and are well poised to help you overcome any hurdles you might encounter. The destination country's requirements for landing equipment will vary by location. Hiring a professional international shipping company saves you the hassle of researching these minute details yourself.


Prepare your Vehicle for Shipment

Heavy equipment may be on a ship for a while. However, before the vehicle is loaded onto the vessel, you will need to take a few precautions to ensure that it remains in top shape while on the ship. Ideally, you shouldn't have loose parts or tools in the vehicle. If you do, you should ensure they are secured. Ships move about a lot, and unsecured tools or utilities may cause damage to the interior of the equipment's cab. Ideally, you should remove as much fuel as you can while still leaving it mobile enough to get to its destination (based on the shipping method, see below). Disconnect any batteries or alarm systems. If these go off during the journey, there may not be a way to turn them off, and the vehicle's battery may be dead by the time it makes landfall. Finally, ensure that the equipment will have enough space to maneuver in to offload it from the ship. Usually, your shipping company will do this for you, but you should still provide clearance figures to support their considerations.


Determine Transportation Option

Determine Transportation Option

overseas. These transport options have their bonuses and drawbacks, so determining which one is best for your equipment comes down to the vehicle in question.

  • Flat-Rack: if the vehicle cannot be driven on or off the vessel, a flat rack offers the best option to transport it to its final destination. In this methodology, the equipment is mounted on a rack and then lifted off via a crane. It can then be secured to a truck or train for final movement to the site.
  • Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO): RORO requires the equipment to be mobile so that it can be driven onto the ship. This method also needs the vehicle to have enough fuel to drive it on and off the ship. Ideally, the vehicle should have no more than a quarter tank of fuel when loading. However, having too much fuel in the equipment's tank is a fire hazard.
  • Container: Both of the above methods leave the equipment open to the elements. While most heavy equipment can stand up to constant abuse by the environment, others may require more controlled surroundings. Containers provide an enclosed area that a vehicle can be shipped in.


Getting the Equipment to Site

Getting the Equipment to Site

While some of the uses for these heavy machines may not require moving them off the port, most sites they're required to be on will probably not be in the nearby vicinity. When the equipment makes landfall, you'll need to work out how you're getting it from the port to its final destination. Owners have several options for this leg of the journey.

  • Flatbed Shipping: Flatbed trucks can take the load of some of these heavy equipment pieces and ferry them across a country via highways and arterial roads. There are a wide variety of flatbed options that cater to many different weight classes of equipment. Usually, these top out at around 48,000 pounds. When deciding on flatbed movement, you should ensure that it can take both the cargo and the equipment needed to unload it.
  • Towing: Instead of putting it on a trailer, some equipment can be towed behind a truck or other motor. The towing force will need to match the weight of the equipment, so it may require some sizeable horsepower to move more significant pieces of equipment. You'll also need to prepare for towing the equipment, including ensuring that the brakes are disengaged and setting the gearbox to run as being on tow. Specialized shipping companies usually have a lot of support equipment for towing large loads.
  • Special Trailers: Some heavy equipment is demanding in that it requires specialty trailers for its transport, loading, and unloading. Depending on your equipment, you should contact the shipping company to see if they can handle your specialized transport needs.


Know The Risks

Most shipping companies have insurance for their clients because there's no telling what can happen on a trip. Heavy equipment should also be covered by insurance, but sometimes, this insurance doesn't extend to shipping the unit overseas. Consulting with your company's insurance agent may help you figure out if this is covered in the policy. If not, many shipping companies are willing to accommodate expensive equipment under their extended or advanced shipping insurance. If using commercial shipping insurance, you may need to get the equipment professionally appraised and evaluated. Ideally, your shipping company should use military specifications for shipping heavy equipment. These specs ensure that the equipment will be shipped with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Shipping Equipment Overseas With a Professional Company

While you can attempt to do all the minor overhead without support from a professional company, it's far more time-consuming than just hiring a pro. A1 Transport has experience in equipment shipping and management, dealing with hundreds of contracts over the years. If you want your equipment to get to its destination safe and sound, give us a call, and we'll offer a quote. The sooner you get in contact with us, the better it'll be!

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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.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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