An international move with a family and an entire household of personal effects in tow can be overwhelming. Even if you’re a seasoned global nomad, the process can be completely different, depending on the regulations and procedures of your new country.
Relocation companies continue to emerge and assist in this entire process, making a tough task easier. They can do as much of the thinking and work as you need them to do – but of course, at a price you must be willing to pay. Many large companies, embassies, schools and other employers include a relocation package in their employment contract, some with an already-approved short list of agents to use. But sometimes you have to do a little research on your own.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between relocation companies and moving companies. A relocation company offers a wide range of services including finding a place to live, locating schools, and becoming acclimated to a new culture. Moving companies provide the professional packing and shipment of household goods. Some companies are full-service, covering all aspects of a move from start to finish. This can make the entire process easier to manage, but it’s also more expensive. For the purpose of this article, both options will be referred to as relocation companies.
If you are researching companies on your own with little support from an employer, there are some basics to consider. First, choose a member of FIDI (Federation of International Furniture Removers), the largest global alliance of independent quality international removal companies. Additionally, a company’s association with FAIM (FIDI Accredited International Movers) is important.
Even if your employer handles the majority of the relocation, you must first get quotes with which to compare. Quotes will give you a good idea of what services can be provided, and at what cost, so that you can add to or subtract from your list of relocation needs. Because costing is such a complex process, most companies require an in-home survey to give you the most accurate information. Some will provide online quotes, but these are only for small shipments of a few household goods. It’s worth the effort to get a few personal quotes and make an educated decision based on the information you gather, while getting a good feel for the company and service.
Remember that price shouldn’t necessarily be the primary reason to hire – or not to hire – a relocation company. More important are their reputation, experience, worldwide locations and track record. We’re talking about all of your household items being packed tightly into a container and shipped to the other side of the world. Make sure the company values those items as much as you do.
Aside from other relocation needs you might have, basic shipping of your possessions from one location to another is pretty straightforward. The overall shipping rates are based on the volume and destination. The moving industry works in volume as opposed to weight for sea shipments. Volume can be expressed in cubic feet or cubic meters (to convert, divide cubic feet by 35.3148 to get cubic meters). However, some employers provide a weight allowance for household goods rather than a volume allowance. Be sure you understand what is to be calculated.
As explained by James Sanderson of Links Moving Beijing, it’s helpful to understand your shipping options and terms. Three common shipping terms that you will come across are FCL (full container load), LCL (less than container load), and GPG (groupage or consolidated load).
A FCL refers to the exclusive use of a 20-foot or 40-foot steel shipping container which will hold 30 cubic meters to 60 cubic meters of items. A LCL is an exclusive shipment but the effects are cased in wood. The volume is typically a maximum of 10 cubic meters, and this type of shipment is rare out of Beijing. A GPG is a cost-effective way to ship, typically containing less than 15 cubic meters headed for popular destinations (Europe, the US, Australia). Shipments are consolidated into a 20- or 40-foot container before being shipped. Because of consolidation, transit time is increased, but it’s a great option if you have a smaller amount to ship, if you have time to receive it, and if you only want to pay for your portion of freight.
It’s comforting to know that most reputable relocation companies have websites with thorough explanations of the entire process. There are links to other sites for more helpful information, downloadable forms, checklists and contact information. The online FAQs are particularly helpful.
There are many reputable moving and relocation companies available in Beijing. Get referrals from people you trust, and make your own judgment call on whom to hire. It’s your relocation, and it’s important to leave ample time to make the decision that’s right for you and your family.
things to consider when choosing a relocation company:
• Do you need entire relocation services, such as storage, repatriation needs, specialty transport (pets, cars)? Or is the shipment of your household items straightforward enough to pay for moving only?
• The agency needs to be the point of contact for all other elements of the move (movers, freight forwarding company, customs, destination).
• The agency needs to know the rules of the country you are in, as well as the country you are going to. Do they know what can and cannot be shipped? Do they know all documents that must be provided at each step?
• Are they FIDI/FAIM members?
good to know:
• A sea shipment takes around three months, including customs clearing. An agency may quote four to six weeks, but many things can add to a delay. Air shipments are usually around one to two weeks.
• Summer is the busiest time to move.
• You’ll need receipts for any major purchases made in China. Also, hold on to any original customs forms you had when you first moved to China, so that items brought into China will not be taxed.
• Antiques less than 150 years old are legal to export. If made before 1949, items are subject to customs inspection and fees. Anything of museum quality (Tibetan artifacts, rare woods, or anything made before 1794) is not permitted for export.
• Play it safe. If your furniture or other large items look antique, get appraisals and/or certificates for them. The customs officials going through your container may hold up your entire shipment if they are left to make the judgment on whether or not a certain piece of furniture is antique.
• Don’t cut the timing too close to. Leave at least one day for buffer just in case the packing and loading takes longer than expected.
FIDI/FAIM members with 1,500 full-time dedicated professional staff. Offers the largest fleet of trucks and the most warehouse space of any mover in East Asia. Has a great website, with lots of helpful information. Provides post move follow up.
(+86 10 6415 1188) www.asiantigers-china.com
Asian Express International Movers
Founded in 1979 with four locations in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. FIDI/FAIM accredited. Employs over 250 people. Offers lots of downloadable information from their website, including customs hints, duty calculator and insurance forms.
(+86 10 8580 1471) www.aemovers.com.hk
The largest international moving company in the world with corporate owned offices in over 40 countries and 800 offices. Offers online estimates for small shipments; otherwise, a physical survey can be booked online.
(+86 21 6332 0088) www.alliedpickfords.com
Links Moving Beijing
Wholly-owned moving company established in Hong Kong in 1997 with full range of household moving services and storage options. Now handles over 3,000 international moves worldwide each year. Great website, offering information including freight container sizes and details, online quotes available for smaller shipments. Keep an eye out for specials, such as free air freight with certain container sizes or percentage discounts for early booking during peak seasons.
(+86 10 8447 7496) www.linksmoving.asia
Crowne Worldwide Group
Offers complete relocation services; established in 1965. Global Passport program offers intercultural training programs and helps streamline the process of repatriation needs. Offers state-of-the-art security systems.
(+86 10 5801 8088) www.crownworldwide.com