Don’t let your stuff get stranded:

It’s summer, which means it’s moving season. People are packing up and heading across town, state, country, and in come cases, across the planet for the next chapters in their lives.

Picking up and moving everything like that is a big deal, especially when heading to a different country, and you should take every precaution imaginable to ensure you don’t have to go through what one of my clients recently went through – after accepting a job overseas, but not getting a contract in place before sending everything they owned on a voyage.

Although we didn’t originate the shipment, we DID come in and save the day.

The shipper, originating from San Francisco, contacted us requesting shipment of a large ocean less than a container load (LCL) on a delivery duty unpaid (DDU). Essentially, wanting the shipment to be cleared in Germany and delivered to the ultimate destination with the exclusion of any tax & duty if applicable. 

(MORE on DDU and other important incoterms HERE)


The mistake:

They did not have a secure work contract with the overseas employer, and from what we were told, no one was in Germany to receive their belongings.

Then it happened. The job was revoked, and of course it happened after they already sent their entire life’s belongings in a container to Germany. They were out of work, and their belongings were starting to feel out of reach.

The shipment contained items with high replacement costs AND family heirlooms with sentimental value, so the decision not to abandon was taken & instructions were given to the freight forwarder to return the shipment back to San Francisco.

The challenges we faced

Unfortunately, decisions of this nature do not come always fast. Perhaps, attempts were made to negotiate the costly situation with the German employer & meanwhile, terminal charges (demurrage) were quickly accumulating. So, when returning a shipment, the charges can and will rise, sometimes dramatically, with delays.

And there was nothing we could do except remind them of the mounting fees.

Coming home isn’t always easy… or cheap

Once all pending overseas charges were paid in full to the multiply parties involved (steam line terminal, customhouse broker, etc.), the booking and the return of the shipment could take place.

From Germany an ocean shipment takes about 30 days to the West Coast from the sailing date. Once docking, freight, terminal fee, informal customs entry & delivery take place.

All of that is wrapped up into a bill that can be like a pill hard to swallow.

Some of the details that drive people crazy

They are many ways to see changes to a freight bill. Random customs inspection or simply your initial dimensions change when the warehouses or the carriers verify that the dimensions and/or weights are incorrect, you can be assured that the freight bill has to reflect the difference.

If you provide a wrong harmonized system number describing the nature of the items shipped, a wrong value, freight terms (review your incoterms) that are not understood by the shipper. Frequently, we, forwarders, witness a disagreement between the shipper & consignee, or the appropriate parties fail to purchase their cargo insurance.


You might be thinking, “well, of course I wouldn’t pack it all up and put my life on a boat like that without a contract!” But unforeseen things happen all the time. What happens if the company that hired him, even with a contract, changed their mind?

That said, it’s probably a good idea to have experienced freight forwarders helping you with your international move from the get-go, so you can foresee some of these challenges, and perhaps even avoid complications like our unemployed client who shipped everything they owned to nobody in a foreign country.

What saved the day was having a knowledgeable and well-networked freight forwarding specialist at their side when it came time to recover, because without us, who knows if they would have ever gotten their goods back!

Are you moving overseas? Did you know that we can make the transition SO MUCH EASIER than what you’re going to experience with others? It’s true! Request a free quote today to find out how we can save you time, money, AND headache.

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