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International Moving Options: Sea Shipping

International Moving Options: Sea Shipping
International Moving Options: Sea Shipping

Sea Shipping

This article is designed to guide you through a successful and safe international move where at least part of the journey must be done by sea. It applies to transporting both your household goods as well as your automobile, boat, etc.

Why Choosing the Right Company is Important

This is your first defense line. The mover you pick will have to oversee, coordinate, and pay the warehouse, truck, ocean shippers, and any other teams and/or organizations involved in the move. Therefore, it’s important you choose an experienced professional.

Make sure the moving company you pick is licensed, or else they are operating illegally. The law states all movers must be registered and licensed by the FMC as a carrier or a freight forwarder. This license is not given to those without the bear minimum knowledge of the industry’s practices and requirements.

Finally, ask for the mover’s bond. If a problem arises during your belonging’s shipment, and you want to hold the mover responsible, you will need that bond to make a claim against it.


When preparing for an international move, we recommend you use the following checklist:

  • Make an inventory of all the belongings you wish to move.
  • Search for a qualified mover. Compare several companies.
  • Speak to the CADRS and other consumer protection state organizations, as well as the Better Business Bureau, to see if there are any complaints filed against the movers.
  • Ask them to inspect your belongings onsite, so you’ll gain several quotes through writing.
  • Ask for their terms and conditions, and read the document carefully.
  • If needed, get some more insurance.
  • Get the mover to list everything they pack and place a number on each packed box.
  • Get and keep the moving company’s receipt for moving your belongings.
  • Check your email and/or voicemail regularly, in case the moving company sends you updates on your shipment.
  • As soon as your belongings reach their destination, be there and inspect them to ensure nothing is damaged or missing. If you find anything, report it to the mover immediately. If there are damaged goods, take photos of them. Write your findings in an inventory, and ask the driver to sign it.

Signs of a Bad Moving Company

When picking a moving company for your international sea shipping, it’s good to know what to look for, but also what to avoid. Be wary of the following signs:

  • You cannot find the company’s address on their website;
  • They are not licensed with the FMC;
  • They give a much lower quote than the norm;
  • The company does not accept payments through credit card, or charges a fee for its use;
  • Their cancellation fee/penalty seems a bit extreme;
  • They claim to offer insurance, but don’t give you any copy of their insurance policy;
  • They have many complaints filed towards them on the Better Business Bureau website.

A-1 Auto Transport can help you move your household goods nationwide. Call 888-509-3213 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote on interstate moving services.

Containers and their Sizes

For merchandise and/or personal belongings to be transported by sea, they must travel in a container. These come in standard sizes of 53, 45, 40, and 20 foot. Out of these, the standard measure for containers is the TEU (20 equivalent unit).

When making a container, companies must adhere to strict international rules. Because of this, containers are the same all over the world, making transport much easier. In terms of type, they can be standard, modular, half height, liquid build, open end, refrigerated, open top, or flat rack.

Calculating Costs

There are four factors which affect the price of shipping by sea:

  1. Your belongings’ weight and volume: Shippers usually use the greatest value of the 2 to figure out a cost. Because of this, w/m is the most common term used in the industry. However, weight rarely surpasses volume when household moves are concerned.
  2. The distance: For obvious reasons, longer trips are more expensive than shorter ones. Whether you choose a door to door or port to port option will affect the price as well. If you ask a mover to ship your belongings from your current home to your new one overseas, the price will be higher than moving your belongings from one port to another. However, there are many problems you may face when moving your things, so we definitely recommend the door to door option to avoid them.
  3. Transportation type: The way you choose to transport your possessions will affect the price greatly. Although airplanes are generally quicker, they are much more expensive than sea freight. If you are not in a hurry, it’s highly recommended you book a ship in advance.
  4. The port of destination: Each state places its own duty fees on items being imported. The price and difficulty of getting through customs will be largely dependent on the country you’re moving to.

Understanding Cubic Volume and Price

  • The price may vary depending on the size and volume of your cargo.
  • Most often, an over the phone or online cost and estimate is provided by the moving company. Additional charges may be incurred if the cargo weighs more than the original estimated price and for any extra packing services.
  • Expect any possible capacity raises. Talk to the moving company about any additional charges in the estimated quote.
  • If you think the charges are unreasonable, negotiate with the moving company to let an arbitrator calculate the moving cost.


  • Every cargo about to be shipped internationally must first be packed carefully for its safety and protection from seasonal changes or weather conditions during transportation.
  • Insurance is usually provided when the cargo is packaged by a moving company or by the actual carrier. If you pack your belongings alone, the company may not compensate your losses on grounds of faulty packing.
  • Palletization may be provided by the moving company to protect your belongings from any damage during shipping.
  • Palletization of cargo may incur an additional freight cost because of the added weight of the pallets.
  • For vehicle shipping, it is important to adhere to the directions and guidelines given by the mover. Documents and forms must be filled out completely. Any object inside the vehicle must be unloaded and the gas must be drained before the shipment can get cleared by customs.


  • It’s a good idea to get more insurance, since your mover's accountability may be limited due to federal law.
  • Be sure to read the agreement and refer to the policy contract to see if you are covered in case the ship or vessel gets lost. There may be no coverage for normal damage that takes place during the transportation of your goods.
  • Most often, marine insurance terms and conditions are provided by the third parties and not by the moving company.
  • Obtain a duplicate of the marine insurance policy in case you’ll need it at a later date.
  • Though this happens rarely, your current renter’s or home owner’s policy could be used as international shipping insurance. Review if the policy includes protection from any damage or loss while transporting the goods overseas.

Customs Requirements

  • A clearance in customs in the United States and at destination may be required for International Personal Effects Shipping and/or for the shipping of cars.
  • Seek the prerequisites for shipping beforehand.
  • Check if your carrier is the one responsible for customs clearance.
  • Visit the United States Customs and Border Protection website for further information about the requirements of U.S customs.


Get proofs of payment from the truck rental and moving company that will transport your cargo. Each invoice must have the names and office locations of the company, so your cargo can be located easily if any problem occurs. For car shipping, it is very important to keep a fine print of your car title for clearing customs.

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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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Mylene Rutllant
It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

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.

Luis Rodriguez
You have my full support and recommendation!

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!

Testimonial by Cristine Benoit
Cristine Benoit
I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

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.

David Osallo
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10!

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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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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