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Difference between Different International Shipping Companies

What are the real differences between international freight forwarding and shipping companies, and which is best equipped to provide your relocation needs?

Difference between International Shipping Companies

Most people don’t make many international shipments. How many times do you move to a foreign country? For most people the answer to that question will be between 0 and 2. It just isn’t commonly done, and therefore many people get confused by the terminology. Here we will try to help clarify the difference between international shipping companies, to help you choose the company that will provide the services that you need.

SDC International Shipping is a licensed exporter of both residential and commercial goods from the United States. The Federal Maritime Commission gave us a license for the sea export of cargo based upon our meeting their strict criteria and we are subject to their rules and regulations. This commission is charged with ensuring competitive and reliable international ocean transportation supply and to protect the public from deceptive practices. The commission is an independent agency of the US federal government, similar to the FCC or the SEC that most people are familiar with.

So how are you expected to know the difference between international shipping companies? The first thing that you should do is go to the FMC database, put in the name of the company, and see how it is defined there.

If the company’s name is not on this list, STOP! Do not continue. Just like you would not put money in a bank that is not FDIC insured, you do not want to place your family’s belongings in the trust of a company that is not FMC licensed.

Let’s presume that the company did show up when you searched the database. What does that mean?

It means many important things: they have been reviewed and licensed. They are subject to rules and regulations. They have posted a bond to ensure that they will deliver what they promised you.

What Do These Acronyms Mean?

You will see many esoteric acronyms on the FMC site. Even if we tell you that NVOCC means non vessel ocean common carrier it probably won’t add a lot to you understanding.

Instead of that let’s look at the different steps involved in relocating you from Athens, Georgia, USA to Athens, Greece sending a 20’ container of your personal household goods and persona effects.

  1. A truck will go the port in either Charleston, SC or Savannah and pick up a certified seaworthy container from the shipping company’s yard.
  2. This truck will now bring the container to your house in Athens, Georgia, USA.
  3. Our movers will usually come to your house before the container arrives to start packing your belongings, disassemble and protect your belongings for the long journey to your new home.
  4. When the truck arrives, our movers will load your things into the container.
  5. While doing this, they will prepare a cargo inventory.
  6. If you are sending an automobile, the fluids will be emptied and the battery disconnected.
  7. We will need to bring a special car lift to get your automobile into the container.
  8. If you are sending a motorcycle, we will usually crate them. They will also be emptied.
  9. In either case, you would have already sent us your vehicle’s title and registration, and our lawyers will have cleared the vehicle for export from the United States.
  10. After your cargo is loaded, your container will be sealed and transferred to the port.
  11. The truck will deposit the full container with the shipping company.
  12. After we do several administrative things, your container will be loaded on to a ship.
  13. In the modern ships, your container is moved about automatically several times during the journey so that it will be unloaded at the destination port.
  14. Your container will arrive in Piraeus in about 4-5 weeks.
  15. In Piraeus, the container will be transferred to a customs clearance agent.
  16. If we’re lucky, there is no inspection of your container. If everything goes well, our destination agents will take charge of your container post customs clearance.
  17. You will be contacted by our destination agent to set up a delivery.
  18. If you are moving to a destination with difficult access, we will have to send additional vans that can fit into places that semi-trailers cant.
  19. Our destination agent will arrange for the delivery of your container. All of the boxes will be placed in rooms. Any furniture that was disassembled at origin will be reassemble at the destination. The movers will clear away any moving debris while they are still there.

Believe it or not, this is only a partial list! There are several other steps that need to be added in certain situations. Less than full container loads also require palletization, consolidation and deconsolidation at the port of entry. Each one of these steps requires coordination, supervision, and understanding the other steps.

Shipping Companies

Strictly speaking, any company that ships can be calleda shipping company. A company that only receives a package at a facility near the port and puts in on a boat can be called a shipping company. So can Maersk, with over 700 container ships with a combined capacity of 4 million containers.

SDC is a freight forwarder, meaning that we don’t own ships. We also usually don’t directly contract with them, there are intermediary companies who buy large chunks of shipping capacity and sell them.

Think of a concert. When a band comes to play in your town, you don’t buy a ticket from them. You don’t even buy a ticket from the venue, you buy it from a ticket agency appointed by the organizer.

A concert is much simpler than an international move. You need much more than a “seat” on the boat for your container, you need the coordination of many professionals in at least two countries and usually two languages, sometimes including intricate statutory compliance.

SDC International Shipping is a large company with our own crews and warehouses. We have strong partnerships in countries around the world which enable us to efficiently and affordably deliver your cargo. But we certainly can’t do all of the steps above by ourselves. Many of these steps are fulfilled by SDC International Movers, the others by our partners.

Choosing a Shipping Company

If you are trying to choose between shipping companies, first of all do the FMC litmus test above. If the company isn’t registered there, don’t even consider them. Next, try to see how many of these steps they are taking responsibility for. One of the best ways for you to go about choosing a shipping company is by looking at the quote for services that they send you. How inclusive is it? It should include all of the steps outlined above. If they’re not included, it’s a sign that they don’t actually do them.

When you get your quote for moving services from SDC International Shipping it will include everything from pick up to delivery, including items like destination terminal handling fees and deconsolidation charges. When these items are not included, they are not included.

When you contract SDC International Shipping to relocate your family from the United States to another country, we take full ownership of the entire relocation process. We are responsible for your shipment, for picking it up, getting in on a boat, off the boat, through the destination customs and delivered to your destination. Whatever can be done by us is. Whatever can’t be done by us, you’ll know about very early. Our logistics teams will be in contact with you to explain what needs to be done.

Choose SDC International Shipping to ensure a safe and easy relocation!

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By Kfir Cohen

Kfir Cohen is handling global operations, cargo shipping, negotiation, and management of different suppliers around the world. He has more than 15 years of experience in the avant-garde of relocation and the sea/air freight business.
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