The packed volume of a shipment not only determines the overall price, but also the method of transport. For ‘smaller’ shipments, sharing a container can be a sensible option.
There are two types of `shared container` services available. In general, Moving Companies fail to clearly differentiate between these. In order to make an informed decision (and avoid problems at a later date) it is important to understand this;
1). LCL (Less than a Container Load)
Often International Moving Companies will pass your shipment to a 3rd party – usually a freight forwarder – who is responsible for getting the goods to the destination port. The forwarder has no obligation to send the goods direct. They may also choose to transfer the goods to another container en route. In order to safeguard your goods during transit it is vital the goods are loaded into wooden crate(s) known as lift-vans, which are then loaded into the container. Upon arrival the 3rd party will de-containerize your shipment and handover the goods to the Moving Company’s agent who will customs clear the goods and deliver them to residence.
- The forwarder will have regular containers leaving, normally on a weekly basis.
- This method expedites departure and allows a moving company to provide a fairly reliable door-to-door transit time.
- The forwarder acts as a middleman and his de-consolidation charges at destination (these vary between companies) can be exorbitant.
- The need to load goods into wooden crates (`lift-vans`) leading to additional costs.
- Once packed goods are loaded into lift-vans the volume increases as much as 15-20% and charges are based on the gross (crated) volume.
2). Groupage (a.k.a. Consolidation)
If a Moving Company has multiple shipments moving to the same area/region it makes sense to co-load these into a 20ft or 40ft container, which the moving company is using exclusively. The goods are loaded in a controlled environment, (Moving Company’s depot/warehouse), segregated in the container. The container is then sealed and shipped directly to the port of entry. Goods are consigned and customs cleared individually upon arrival and delivered to residence.
- Cost effective. The cost of the freight/transport and other major costs are spread proportionately. There is no third party, so no exorbitant third party handling charges.
- There is no need to use lift-vans, which means a lower chargeable volume. The moving company has full control of the loading, handling and routing of the container.
- Timing. The container leaves when it is full (or almost full). This can add a number of weeks to the door-to-door transit. Not suitable if you have a deadline or need the goods urgently.
The Bottom Line
If you are flexible on timings Groupage is definitely the best option. It is safe and cost effective. If you need the goods within a specific time frame and don’t mind paying the extra then chose the LCL option, but make sure the moving company is transparent about all the associated costs. If your volume exceeds 13-15 cubic meters the price may become disproportionately high and you should explore taking your own 20 ft container.