international shipping by sea

International Shipping By Sea

Transport your belongings internationally by sea.
Understand all you need to know

cross country movers

International Shipping By Sea

When it comes to shipping your household belongings internationally, there are two ways this can be done, by air, or by sea. Transporting by sea on a cargo ship is the most common. Understanding the process of international shipping and what it entails will assist you in making knowledgeable choices.

Shipping By Sea

Transporting your belongings by sea is a less expensive method to shipping internationally. However, the delivery time is far greater. You can expect delivery to be between 4 -12 weeks.

When shipping by sea, your items are loaded onto a container, which is then loaded onto a boat. There are three ways your items can be loaded onto the container and each has a different cost associated, with the least expensive being port to port and the most costly, door-to-door.

Port to port - You take your belongings to the port and load them onto the container. Once your items arrive at their destination, you then pick them up from the port and transport them to your home.

Drop and fill – A container will be delivered to your home at origin and loaded by you. The shipping company will then pick it up. Upon delivery, the container will be delivered to your new home, where you will unload it prior to the empty container being picked up.

Door to door – Like a Full Service Movers, the container will be brought to your home and loaded by the moving company. It will then be unloaded at destination.

The Shipper

As the individual transporting your personal belongings, you are the shipper. You will also become both the exporter and importer, as the move is international. As the shipper, you have a legal responsibility for the shipped goods and any import duties or unforeseeable charges that could occur as a result of such things as: a customs inspection, or a port strike. You are also responsible for supplying paperwork. Before shipping your belongings, make sure you know the International Customs Guide for the country you will be entering.

The Shipping Company

In most situations an international moving company is used when shipping overseas. These specialized companies oversee international shipments and assist with custom forms. They are also responsible for clearing your belongings. The international moving company will be your contact for the duration that your items are in transit, and beyond, in the event there are any claims to be made for damages. You will sign the moving contract with the moving company, and pay your bill to this company. Any questions, or requests for updates, will be done through this company.

There will also be other entities involved with your shipment. To make it easier, it’s a good idea that the moving company you have hired will also be performing these functions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Origin agent – In order to provide an accurate estimate, reputable moving companies will send out an estimator/agent to your home to perform a visual survey of the items being shipped.
  • Freight forwarder – A freight forwarder arranges the ocean freight. They also do the export documentation and prepare the House Bill of Lading, which is a document that has all the information relevant to your shipment, including your name. The freight forwarding company is also the company that moves your shipment/cargo from the pickup location and delivers to the port. In most countries the Freight forwarder is required to be licensed and have an FMC number (U.S. federal Maritime Commission)

Knowing that employees perform the above services, or subcontractors of your chosen international moving company, will make things far simpler for you, and provide direct responsibility of your shipment to the shipping company. In addition to these services, there are numerous components that take place when shipping by sea. You will be unaware of many of these processes, especially if using a professional shipping company. Listed below is a brief description of what’s involved.

  • The consolidating warehouse – Based on the volume (size) of your shipment, this will determine whether you will have an exclusive container or have your goods loaded with other cargo into a container. If your shipment needs to be consolidated, it will wait in a Consolidating Warehouse until there is a sufficient amount of cargo to fill a container. The location of the consolidating warehouse will depend on your pick up location.
  • The export port – The loaded and sealed container is brought to the port to be loaded onto the ship. It is very important that you know and check if the Origin Port Fees and Origin Terminal Handling Charges have been included in the quote you received and signed. They are commonly listed as “Origin Port Fees” or “OTHC” (Origin Terminal Handling Charges).
  • The ship line – Is the company that owns the ship and provides the master bill of lading. Knowing the company that your belongings will be shipped on is a good idea, especially for online tracking.

Ship lines have special privileges, some of which are listed below. Although rare, it’s advisable to be knowledgeable and aware of these allowances in the event that you might need to pay extra.

  • If the Ship Line has overbooked, which it has the right to do, cargo will be rolled to the next ship available. Any extra charges associated will be payable by you, the shipper.
  • If the destination port is not available due to a port strike or any unforeseen reason, the Ship Line has the right to declare “End of Voyage”. Any extra charges associated will be payable by you, the shipper.
  • Jettisoned cargo – this is when a Ship Line has the right to throw cargo overboard. This will only be done in emergency situations when the ship might sink.
  • If needed, Ship Lines can change routes or schedules.
  • Before releasing cargo, Ship Lines must get paid.
  • Destination port – This is where your belongings will be unloaded once they arrive in the country of destination. Like the export port, it is important that you know that your quote includes Destination Port Fees and DTHC (Destination Terminal Handling Charges). If the quote does not include these fees, make sure you know how much they are, as they will need to be paid. These may need to be paid in the currency of the country you are moving to.
  • Customs bonded warehouse – Your belongings need to clear customs and this is where they will be held. Each country has different procedures and knowing the process of your destination country is important. If you are working with a professional shipping company, they are responsible for your items clearing customs.

If you’re considering other options to ship your belongings internationally, check out International Shipping by Air.

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Shannon L.
Jan 5, 2024

Movers who packed my things up in NY were great. I was also very impressed with how clear everything was, how fast the move coordinator Eric was with getting back to me. Read more testimonials

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Feb 11, 2024

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Ria B.
Jan 10, 2024

Everything went smoothly with CA-NY Express Movers. They packed up my apt in NYC in no time, put it into storage for me while we found our new house. Read more testimonials

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