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Relo Mary kindly asked me to guest blog about moving small shipments overseas, particualary Europe. Hopefully you will find this interesting and let me or Mary know if you have any questions, thanks Mark

Moving Small Shipments OverseasJanuary 27, 2013

By Guest Blogger, Mark Nash, expressly for Moving Links 4 You
Mark is the Owner of UPakWeShip and EuroUSA Shipping, Inc.

What qualifies as a small shipment

For this post, a small shipment will pertain to your personal things that can be packed into boxes. Furniture will not be included.

Two questions:

1. Are you paying for the move yourself or is a company paying this for you? If the company is picking up the tab then all you need to ask is do I have an allowance?

2. Do I have to use a specific company are you suppose to get a certain number of quotes. Three (3) bids are common.

Depending on the allowance, for example, being monetary (you have up to $2500), by weight (you have up to 1200lbs gross) or volume, (you have anything up to 100 cubic feet) you’ll have to work out what you want to take and what stays behind.

If monetary you’ll need to get some quotes from companies and see how much that will get you. If by weight, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your scales and figuring out what everything weighs and, if by volume, I suggest taping out the measurements of your volume on your floor and wall using blue masking tape to make yourself an imaginary crate size of the volume and experiment how much you can get in to that size. You will then have a better idea of what you can ship.

Full service and self-packing options

If you are paying for this yourself, then the first question is shall I save money and pack it all myself or shall I get a professional moving company to pack it?

My company has a full service and a self-packing division so I am not biased one way or the other. It really depends on your circumstances. I would say if you are capable and have the time to do it then there is no reason you shouldn’t save some money and do it yourself.

Buy proper moving cartons, plenty of packing paper, a roll of bubble wrap and some 2 inch packing tape and you’ll be fine. Pad the bottom and tops of boxes containing fragile items with scrunched up paper or a pillow, towels or anything soft. Make sure the box is completely full so it keeps its shape and tape up well across the middle and the seams like an “H” using 2” packing tape or duct tape. Make sure you have your name, destination, reference number on each box. You will also need to number each box as you will have to make a packing list for customs. This list is best typed and should be a list saying things like

1/ Clothes
2/ Kitchenware
4/ Bedding

You will also need to complete some customs forms and give a copy of your passport pages that have the details and picture on it.

Air or sea shipping to your move destination

Air freight – Depending on your destination and the amount of things you have, there will be some choices on the mode of transport. Airfreight is obviously the fastest but most expensive.

Sea freight – for small shipments can be split into 2 services: LCL which gets consolidated with all kinds of other cargo and shipped normally every week in a container to the destination or groupage or consolidated which is cheaper and gets loaded with other people’s belongings but won’t ship until the mover has enough to fill the container.

Circumstances at destination – The trick in deciding which service to go for should depend on your circumstances at the destination. For example, if you are moving to Paris and staying in a $300 / night hotel while awaiting your things then the cost of sending your things by airfreight will be worth it compared with the huge hotel bill. Possibly staying with parents or in laws could be another incentive to go airfreight.

Groupage prices – Most shipments go by sea freight. Depending on the transit times the groupage rates are not only a lot cheaper if there is a good volume going to that destination like USA-Europe but it might only add on an additional week or 2 than LCL. Groupage prices are normally far more inclusive. Beware of things called THC or port charges with LCL quotes at the destination not being included. These need to be included or at least you need to be given a good idea of what they will be at the destination if not included as otherwise you can get seriously gouged paying extra charges before you get delivery the other end.

What things to move – Educate yourself and do research online to find out what are the best things to take. What’s cheaper in the USA, what won’t work at the destination, and what are the voltage requirements? As a general rule, do not take any foodstuff, drinks, liquids, and alcohol or smoking items. Check on customs websites to get more information on what is and what isn’t allowed and also check how long you have needed to own an item in order for it to come in duty and tax free. The local consulate can also help you with these requirements.

Cheaper-to-arrival vs. through-to-door service

If you are new to the country you are moving to, do not go for the cheaper-to-arrival terminal prices thinking you will be able to just arrive at the terminal and collect your boxes. You will have to clear customs yourself, pay out money for THC, port charges, bill of lading fees, etc. As well, you will have too much other stuff going on, possibly not understanding the language and perhaps getting ripped off in local charges before you can collect your things. Unless you know what you are doing or have someone there who can do this for you, your best bet is choose a through-to-door-service.

How to select the right company for an overseas move

1. An FMC license is a must. There are a bunch of rogue movers out there. The Federal Maritime Commission regulates overseas moving companies from the USA and if you ever get into problems or arguments with your mover they are the folks who will help you out. The FMC make sure the licensed companies abide by the rules and if they don’t, they can be given hefty fines or even lose their licenses. If you don’t have a contract with a FMC licensed company, you are dealing with an illegal mover that should not be operating that service and you have no comeback if you get into trouble.

2. Make sure the mover has experience in that destination. For example, we know what we are doing going to Europe (being English helps me there J), Australia and New Zealand but probably not the best company if moving to the Caribbean or Mexico. Ask questions about the destination, who do they use in that country, what do they know about customs procedures. If there are lots of Hmmm’s and I’ll check, then move on to find a more experienced company that knows what they are doing to the country you are moving to.

3. Get recommendations from others who have moved to the same destination. You might find others in the company you work for that have already moved there or if not look at expat web sites and forums and see what they say. I suggest you don’t just go by what online reviews say due to disgruntled ex-employees, jealous competitors and some people that are just never happy unless they are complaining but you will certainly get an idea if the company you are thinking of is trustworthy or a rip off by this method.

4. Don’t go with a one man band. Make sure you speak to more than one person at the office, find out how long they have been in business, and if they publish an address on their web site in case you have any problems down the road.

5. Are they the right moving company for you? If you are paying for the move yourself you might not need the red carpet service the President requires. You might also not want to move with the company that offered you the cheapest price via email who you can never get hold of him on the phone.

Have a big clear out of unused items

Lastly, my personal advice is have a big clear out. If you haven’t used the item in awhile then don’t ship it. If you are just shipping personal items in boxes keep it that way. Don’t think “oh, I’ll just take all those boxes and my couch or table.” Your prices by adding that one piece of furniture will almost double the price of just shipping the boxes.

Many movers who have their own packing crews will say you have to have all your items professionally packed or you will have a huge problem with customs at the other end. This is totally false, BTW.

In all my 35 years experience, I have never seen this being a problem as long as you number all your boxes and type a packing list listing what is in each box.

Have fun, enjoy your travels and if you ever have any questions about moving overseas let me know.


Mark Nash
Owner, EuroUSA Shipping Inc and UPakWeShip

Tel: 1 866 868 6386

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The Moving Doctor
The Moving Doctor
"The Moving Doctor", Mark Nash has been in the moving business for over 43 years and has previously sat on the board of the International Shippers Association and the Commercial Affairs committee at the International Association of Movers (IAM).

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  1. Alejandro Garcia says:

    I trying to calculate the weight of a LCL,
    3.6′ with x 7.8′ length x 6″ hight, (168.48 cubic feet = 4.77 cubic m)
    1/ Clothes
    2/ Kitchenware
    4/ Bedding
    5/ Macintosh comp. tower. with monitors and screen
    6/ Small 1×12″ amp + an electric guitar
    7/ a box of hand tools
    8/ bedding stuff
    9/ desk items, documents, art and drawing stuff, (2 boxes)
    10/ one box with books
    11/ miscellaneous, not to heavy household items, (no furniture, no mirrors,)
    12/Perhaps a small fridge
    13/Camping equipment, (a couple of boxes + 0 -)
    Perhaps I will include few more things within the limited volume of the LCL…
    nothing importantly heavy…
    I have no idea of how much something like that could weight approximately…
    Could you give me an idea in Lb? Please ?
    Thank you in advance for your help and be well

    • The Moving Doctor says:

      Hello, I would estimate you have about 1100lbs and a crate to load it all into could be another 300lbs giving a gross weight of aprox 1400lbs
      Hope that helps, cheers The Moving Dr

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