So you’re moving abroad. Congratulations on taking this step towards a new and improved future! Of course, you still have a process ahead of you. Don’t let the excitement of your new life be overshadowed by the complex nature of international shipping options and costs. Let movabroad help you navigate the various choices offered in moving company quotes.

In this general guide to international shipping, we will cover general information. We would like to encourage you to get in touch with your relocation assistant for more detailed information specific to your circumstances.

International Shipment Options for Your International Move

Become a pro in international shipment with this quick guide.

Surface Shipment Options


Most often, household and personal effects are shipped across the oceans aboard container vessels. It is an economical service, however, service levels differ by category. Within surface shipment, carriers may provide a direct service, which means your container remains on the same ship until it reaches your destination. Then there’s transshipment, or a cargo route, which entails the cargo being moved over to a different vessel.

Direct shipments are typically more costly, but transshipments tend to spend more time at sea, and there is little direct control over your shipment.

Surface shipment offers a variety of additional handling options:

Full Load Container (FCL) – Your goods are loaded into your container and sealed. It is the most economical option, since the container is typically filled, and it also provides the best transit times.

Less than Container Load (LCL) – If your shipment is too small to use the entire container, freight from other shippers to the common destination will be consolidated into the container. The goods will have to be crated for protection. This is a less secure and more costly method.

Most containers used around the world are 20″ or 40″ in size.

Air Shipments


Most people ship their most important belongings by air, as it is the fastest method. In most cases, airfreight is more expensive than surface shipping, but in some cases, it can be more economical. It also offers similar options for handling as surface shipping.

International Shipping Insurance


Once you’ve sold or got rid of most of your household items, you may feel free as a bird, or unsettled being away from your home comforts. Either way, it is important to compare moving company quotes, and pay special attention to the insurance section of the contract.

• Insurance is typically excluded from the costs.
• Insurance costs are based on the value of your items and the deductible you select.
• Without insurance, you have have very limited to no recourse whatsoever.
• Freight carriers have the right to jettison items in the case of an emergency.

Buy enough insurance to cover the replacement cost of all the items in your shipment. There are two types of cover:

Total Loss cover allows you to claim only if your cargo is considered damaged or lost. That means that you won’t get any of your cargo back, but you will get money to replace it. Most owner-packed goods are covered for Total Loss only.

All Risk allows you to claim in the event that one or more items are damaged when you unpack it, or if it is missing. You have some time to make a claim.

Packaging Options


Who will pack your items? While you might save money on packing your own goods, it can cost you money in the event of breakages, since you may not be able to claim against damages.

• Full Pack means that the company will pack everything on your behalf, and they usually offer All Risk coverage.
• Partial Pack means that you pack your own clothing and books, while the shipping company packs all the breakables. You will get limited coverage (typically in the event of Total Loss).
• Self-Pack means that you load the container yourself, thus saving on labor costs and assuming the risk of damage. This is not a good idea, unless you have professional experience as an international packer.

If you pack your own goods, there’s a higher likelihood of a customs inspection and additional charges.

Shipping Costs to Port


Many shipping companies offer a ‘cheaper’ To Port service, which means you still have to pay an additional fee to have your goods delivered to your door. It may work out cheaper to opt for a door-to-door service instead.

Always pay attention to the following sections of your international shipping quotes:

• exclusions
• customs clearance charges
• inspection and quarantine charges
• Force Majeure fees
• destination port fees
• terminal handling charges (THC and DTHC)
• materials
• delivery to door

If you notice anything above on the ‘exclusions’ section of the shipping company quote, contact them and ask them to inform you of the costs in writing.

Need any assistance with your international shipping quotes? Please don’t hesitate to contact movabroad!