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.
There are four factors which affect the price of shipping by sea:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Written By:Joe Webster
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.