Guidance and help

Shipping options when moving abroad

Shipping options when moving abroad

Moving home is accepted as being one of the most stressful events in our lives, and one we experience on average once every seven years. However, add an international dimension to the equation and the potential for mishaps magnifies significantly. We have produced some basic guidance and help to explain the various shipping options when moving abroad.

When the decision to relocate abroad has been made, the first thing most will do is reach for the Yellow Pages, or go on the Internet, to search for an overseas specialist remover. What you need to be aware of is that many companies who advertise themselves as being specialists in overseas moving are in fact not. Their sole expertise is to be able to collect and deliver your effects to the warehouse of another company which “ships for the trade”.

Take great care when selecting your removals company as payment will be required in advance, although true specialists will have a financial bond in place for payments to ensure delivery is assured even in case of financial difficulties. You will find all their staff knowledgeable (rather than just the boss) providing information and guidance on all aspects of your move. They will know their overseas agents personally, as well as exact shipping and transit times. Please remember, as for storage, you need to be 100 per cent confident the company really can keep your goods secure.

Transit Methods

There are three methods of transit: by road, sea or air. Deciding which is appropriate will be dependent upon locations, volume to be moved, speed needed to destination and the budget available. Road movements will be normal to mainland Europe and can be in a dedicated vehicle, or as a part-load with other consignments for the same region. These operate in a similar way to sea consignments when sent by exclusive or groupage containers.

Container Shipping – full house moves / larger volumes

An exclusive container movement usually entails all the household effects being prepacked in the home over an agreed period of days. On the last day, the shipping line container can be brought to the residence for loading. It is then security sealed and taken immediately to the port or terminal of export. This method can avoid any undue delays and will meet a pre-determined schedule (subject to no unusual happenings). The average customer will need a 20ft long metal container. The next size is 40ft long and to some locations a 45ft is available. There are even supercube containers which have additional height. Freight costs are fixed, based upon the actual size of container used.

Many countries, the UK included, will allow normal customs clearance to be done without a physical inspection, so the container goes intact to the final residence before being unloaded. Heightened security, however, like to the USA, means more containers are being ‘pulled’ for either actual inspection or x-ray. Australia and New Zealand have strict quarantine restrictions so will always have the containers “devanned” for full inspection normally at an agent’s approved warehouse. If special inspection, fumigation, or cleaning is required, expect an additional charge to be made. For these reasons owner packing is not recommended.

For customers who do not need or require their own container there are alternatives:

Groupage / Part Load Shipping – smaller consignments, economical option.

Specialists offer consolidation or groupage services especially for personal and household effects. Here, a number of consignments are loaded into one container and then shipped to the destination. It can however take time to consolidate a full load and some companies delay this even further by waiting until a 40ft container is full. Although this does minimise the overall cost, can you afford to wait? These containers are consigned to one selected agent at the destination who must act for all the customers. No one client can gain access to their goods except via the agent. So ensure the minimum service accepted is: “cleared Agent’s warehouse free and ready for collection”, otherwise be prepared to be held to ransom. Some companies have used this ploy to gain higher rates after initially quoting low to get the business.

LCL Shipping – smaller volumes via seafreight

An alternative is shipping LCL, which means ‘less than a container load’, with transit organised via a freight carrier. The advantage here is that there is no delay whilst waiting for groupage, but it is more expensive. Care must be taken with packing as the goods will be handled by port labour, which is usually unskilled in stacking furniture and breakables.

Airfreight – fastest method mostly for smaller consignments

Airfreight is for you if you want or need some items urgently at destination, perhaps the bare essentials to allow a family to survive while waiting for the main sea shipment. A small consignment can be cost effective. Airfreight is charged on size or weight, whichever is the greater, as directed by the airlines (they like to avoid planes being full of low paying volume cargo). As a guide, allow 5kgs per cubic foot for the weight to volume ratio. Like LCL, it is unwise to send loose goods to airports as they are not known for their tender loving care. Over-packing in special palletised airfreight modules is the way professional companies will complete the service and still minimise the weight. Please see our guidance on airfreight for further information.

Your specialist remover will be able to advise you which is the most appropriate method, and make all the arrangements. The alternative, which could work out more costly, is a local mover trying to be something it is not – but at your expense.