International movers terminology

International Moving Basics [Explained]

In Tips by Steven Kane

Making the decision to move abroad raises a number of questions – chief among which is whether to take your personal effects and household goods with you.

Moving items which are familiar to a family, can facilitate a smooth transition to new surroundings, which can prove to be absolutely invaluable. There is of course the financial aspect to consider. If you sell, (or rent – unfurnished), your home at origin then it is likely you will have to consider long-term storage to safely house the goods you leave behind.  Alternatively some people decide to refurnish their new house, buying all items at the destination.

As highlighted in other international moving articles on our blog the volume of your goods tends to dictate the type and mode of transport. Volume and modes explained

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.

Regardless of what you decide to take on your international move it is important to understand what the process entails and deciding how much involvement you want to have.

International moving terminology

There are likely to be several parties involved in your international move. It is important to understand every one’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 been 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.

Wise move tip – Early in the process check with your International Mover you qualify for duty free import of used household goods and personal effects to the destination country.

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.

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 may be applied, though this is unusual during export. Your shipment must arrive in the port allowing sufficient time to go through the export process prior to being loaded onboard the vessel. It is very unlikely you will be required during this process.

Shipping Line

This is the company who owns the 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.

Wise move tip – It has become increasingly common for International moving companies/origin agents to offer tracking. However, shipping lines provide the best method of tracking your container whilst in transit on the ocean

Insurance Company

insurance policy form on desk in office showing risk conceptWhen undertaking 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 case. Most major insurance companies and some brokers will offer a specific marine transit policy which will cover your goods for full risk.

Wise move tip – Most international moving companies will offer to arrange insurance for you. However in most cases this includes a commission for the mover (which can be considerable).  You are likely to obtain a more competitive rate if you arrange this independently from the mover by dealing direct with the insurance company/broker.

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 containerise. 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.

Wise move tip – Make sure you know the routing your container will take and if possible avoid transshipments. If unavoidable, ensure the international moving company provides you with estimated transhipment dates so you can track the container during this crucial period.

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. If you have paid for a door to port service, this is the point at which you will need to take over from the moving company.

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. Depending on the country, your presence may or may not be required. Some countries may not even require your presence in the country at the time your shipment arrives.

Wise move tip – Make contact with the destination agent well in advance of the containers arrival at destination. They will have a full pre-alert of the containers arrival and should be in possession of all documentation (received from the origin agent). However there may be some finalities which need to be addressed at destination such as registering with a local town hall.