Getting hands-on with your move: International Moving basics explained

Getting hand-on with your move

It’s vital to understand what the process entails and deciding how much involvement you want to have.

A few suitcases might be best handled by airfreight, add a few items of furniture and maybe a bed then you’re looking at the shared container and if you are looking at shipping your entire household and then a 20 foot or 40 foot container might be required.

Understanding International Moving terminology

There are likely to be several parties involved in your international move. It is important to understand everyone’s role particularly if you do not pay for a door to door service.


The shipper is you or the owner of the goods which are being moved. The shipper is deemed to be the exporter from the country of origin and the importer at the port of entry of the destination country.

All documentation and paperwork are in the name of the shipper. Customs duties, taxes and any ancillary charges are generally regarded as the responsibility of the shipper.

Origin Agent

This is generally the moving company with whom you will deal throughout the move. This is the party who conducts the pre-move survey, provides the quotation, invoices you and who you pay.

They will normally be responsible for arranging the packing and loading and export of your goods. The origin agent normally outsources the other aspects of the move to some/all of the parties below.

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Origin Port (Export)

The port of export is controlled by the local authorities and your shipment will arrive here containerised (see consolidator for shared container shipments). Random inspections (in Dubai ports for example), may be applied, (however, this type of physical inspection is more common at the destination port).

Your shipment must arrive in the port allowing sufficient time to go through the export process prior to being loaded on board the vessel.

Shipping Line

This is the company who owns the shipping vessel carrying your containerised shipment. They issue the Bill of lading / Sea waybill.

It is their responsibility to transport the container to the designated port of entry. The only contact you are ever likely to have with the shipping line is to track your container.

Getting hands on with your move: International Moving explained

Insurance Company

During the process of an international move, it is vital your goods are properly insured for international transit.

Moving companies and shipping lines have a limited standard cover, commonly known as contractual liability, however, this is insufficient in most, if not all cases.

Most major insurance companies and some brokers will offer a specific marine transit policy which will cover your goods for either “Full Risk” or “Total Loss”.

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Freight forwarder / Consolidator

The international moving company may employ the services of this third party, rather than deal directly with the shipping line.

Freight forwarders tend to move higher volumes giving them more competitive sea freight rates.

Additionally, freight forwarders who specialise in smaller sized shipments are in a position to consolidate these shipments in a container which is destined to a common country/port. This is ideal for handling LCL and groupage shipments.

Transhipment Port

Container ships make stops along their route dropping off and picking up hundreds and in some cases thousands of containers.

In some cases, your container might be moved to another container ship in the fleet for delivery to the final port of entry.

This is known as a transhipment point. Whilst most containers complete this process smoothly there is always a chance of delays to the schedule of the container during this process.

Around half of all containerised shipments will be transhipped at least once during the journey

Destination Port (Import)

At the final destination country the container is off loaded and undergoes customs clearance. Various handling and transport fees apply here which is part of the door to door service.

Depending on the country, your physical presence may or may not be required. Some countries are very flexible and may not even require you to be in the country at the time your shipment arrives.

If you have paid for a door to port service, this is the point at which you will need to take over. Assuming you have the time to visit the port and appoint a customs broker this could save you some money.

Destination Agent

Assuming you have paid for a door to door service this is the company who will arrange customs clearance, handling, delivery, unpacking and set up of your goods to your home.

The vast majority of moving companies have long standing, reciprocal arrangements with service partners around the world, so do not be alarmed if the company at destination is different from the one at origin.