Well it’s been a long road, but I can finally sign off on what, all things considered, was a very successful move from Seattle, WA to Geelong, Australia.
Planning for the move began in January of 2007 and this site was invaluable in helping me select Southern Winds to help manage the international move. We also checked Rainier and Allied. All companies were very professional, informative and reasonably close on cost, but in the end the decision came down to the following:
- 1. Some friends of ours had a bad experience with Allied at the Australian end and they were slightly more expensive
2. Rainer was slightly more expensive and just a touch slower to respond than Southern Winds
During the planning all companies were very good at educating us. Some key information I’ve since learned is not always emphasized by other companies was:
Itemize your goods.
Make sure you’re comprehensive and include replacement costs. We did this prior to receiving any quotes. It’s tedious but actually helps the rest of the process go more smoothly.
Insure your goods.
International shipping insurance is EXPENSIVE. But if you think nothing will go wrong in an international move you’re deceiving yourself. Insurance cost us ~18.00 per $1000 of value with a $500 deductable and we ended up making a claim. More on that later.
Prepare for customs
This will depend on where you go but take the time to prepare your goods for inspection at the other end. Given that we were moving to Australia I went over all our outdoor equipment with a fine toothed comb to make sure there was no dirt, etc. We also shipped some of our exotic teas and spices separately. In the event customs does decide to inspect more thoroughly, it can be quite costly. Aussie customs is $150 per half hour. Our customs bill was ~$700
Packing in Seattle was handled by Continental Van Lines who were VERY GOOD. We had a 40ft container all to ourselves and it took 3 days to pack and load the container. For international moves packing must be conducted by the moving company and it was all included in the quote. There are also good reasons to let them pack absolutely everything (more on that later).
As we were not in Australia when our goods arrived we also needed to arrange for storage and storage insurance. Our shipping insurance did include 60 days of storage, so we only needed to pay for an extra 30 days in the end.
Once we got back to Australia, our goods were delivered to our own storage facility and (in short order) will be redelivered to our house we’ve just purchased. Delivery on the Australian side was handled by Transglobal Shipping and Storage in Victoria. Apart from a couple of dropped boxes (nothing broke) they were also very good. We also had them quote for the second delivery during the planning stage and they have honoured that original quote.
Some goods were damaged during the move and some items were missing, but I expected this and so was quite comfortable given that we had insurance. Unfortunately the insurance company (Executive Insurance Services) acted as most people expect insurance companies to act. I.e. try to pay you as little as possible.
As I mentioned, as part of the insurance process I itemized (almost) everything and included replacement costs. Our premiums were based on the stated replacement costs, but when it came time to pay up, the insurance company decided to calculate the fair claim amount slight differently than I would have hoped. Here are the lessons learned:
Be VERY comprehensive in your itemization.
When it comes to clothes, shoes, toys, etc it’s best to list a number of items at a per item price. E.g. 10 x Pairs of Jeans @ $50 per pair = $500. I forgot to include lots of the kids little toys and our books. So when a couple of boxes didn’t show up, I was unable to claim for those items.
Make sure the packing list is comprehensive
This is tricky because the packing list is fairly crowded, but as much as possible, make sure items on the packing list accurately describe the contents of the package. Based on recommendations we had filled many empty suitcases, chests of drawers, etc with our clothes. When the packers listed the items, they simply put “Suitcase”. One such suitcase didn’t arrive. I claimed all the clothes ($1600 claim). However, the insurance company only paid us $150 because the packing list made no mention of clothes. This is another good reason to let the packing company do ALL the packing.
Replacement value is NOT
Just because you list something with a particular replacement value and pay the premiums for that value, do NOT expect the insurance company to pay you that amount. I had a number of microphones and listed the replacement value at what I new was a fair price based on the need to pay taxes, shipping or buy them in Australia where things are more expensive. I assumed since I paid premiums for that value and listed them ahead of time there would be very little issue getting the money. WRONG! The insurance company found a price at a retailer in the USA that was (35%) less than my replacement value and so only paid that amount. Unfortunately they didn’t include the shipping cost for me to get them from the US to Australia in their payment. My suggestion, therefore is that you demand (in writing) up front that replacement value be the lesser of the listed amount or an amount in new country of residence.
Despite the obvious annoyance with the insurance company, I have to say that I’m very pleased with how the move went. Moving a house full of stuff and a family of 4 all that way is not an easy task and it’s quite easy to see how things can go very wrong. I don’t think there are any significant secrets to share. It all came down to two main things. Lots of planning and working with a reputable moving company.
Donovan, and the rest of the team, at Southern Winds were with us the entire way, even through the insurance claim and the subsequent move in Australia. I highly recommend them to anyone who is undertaking an international move.
Well I believe I’ve used up my space and then some. I’m happy to answer questions, provide advice to anyone who feels I might have something more to offer. This site was extremely helpful to me, so I’m glad I can give a bit back.