Cheap Small-scale Sea Freight!
July 29, 2007 5:53 PM   Subscribe

How can I ship my life - cheaply - from Canada to Australia?

This fall I'm going to be moving from Toronto to Australia.
I'm not shipping furniture, but all my personal effects (clothing, books, photos, other misc. items) need to be shipped - preferably slow and cheap by sea-shipment.
A pallet worth or less, I'd guess.
I've looked through previous posts, and found a few shipping methods (Tri-ad International looks plausible) - but I'm wondering if anyone out there knows who might ship small shipments cheaply by sea-freight?
posted by tabubilgirl to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You've got the right idea. I shipped a pallet from Baltimore MD to Australia a few years back, it's the way to go. I used '7 seas' or something. They were OK.

If you're putting things in boxes to be put on the pallet check the boxes you use. Non-food stuff is best. The Australian authorities will flip if you use fruit boxes like I did.

Also, you may find that there are charges in Australia for pickup that don't get put into your shipping costs. They did this to me.

You could also google "less than container load", that gets similar things to what you're after.

Other than that, you may well be presently surprised as to how rapidly your shipment gets to Australia.
posted by sien at 6:45 PM on July 29, 2007

pakmail here in the states will do it, i don't know if they have one in toronto but may have something similar - I was told a pallet worth of goods from Ohio-Hong Kong = less than $1,000 by sea the slow way
posted by Salvatorparadise at 7:06 PM on July 29, 2007

Also, you may find that there are charges in Australia for pickup that don't get put into your shipping costs

I would second this thought. Whether shippers really can't say what these costs will be or whether in a price-sensitive market they don't wish to mention this component I don't know but on most/all occasions I have done this there has been a chunk of money to pay to get the gear at the other end. You should at least enquire about it when getting quotes.

One other thing if you have camping / hiking / biking equipment then you will probably save yourself time and money if you can demonstrate that it was cleaned before you packed it - the default action by Aus/NZ customs is to fumigate it if they think there's anything that might have soil/vegetation fragments and (if memory serves) charge you for having done it. It might be that you will get this done anyway if your manifest indicates that type of stuff. Someone else will know it's a while since I did it.
posted by southof40 at 8:27 PM on July 29, 2007

Consider what you can leave behind. Canadian winter clothing will be over the top in most of Oz.
Australia, like North America has a good value second hand market, unlike the UK where savings are minor, so you may want to get new stuff here if it is not sentimental.
We also have the full China effect going on for cheap imported new stuff. If you will one day be going home, maybe find a relative to store bulky stuff like books?
posted by bystander at 8:37 PM on July 29, 2007

You want to look for "freight forwarder" in the yellow pages; they're companies that will take a couple hundred dollars for your pallet, stick it in a container with a bunch of others and tell you when it gets to the other end. Should be about 6 weeks.

There will be charges at the far end; check first and get an estimate on how much is likely. At a minimum, you'll need to pay the AU customs clearance fee, about $70 when I did it last.
posted by polyglot at 8:45 PM on July 29, 2007

What part of Australia are you heading to? How long are you staying?

I live in Brisbane, Queensland and lived in Toronto for a while last year. My observations are similar to bystanders - most of your winter gear will be over-kill in most parts. I pay for excess baggage on my flights for my clothing.

Except for computers etc, electrical goods are not worth transporting. The voltage changing things are more expensive than they are worth. You can easily get cheap or second hand appliances. (Not quite as cheap as Dollarama).

Books are a hard call. Unless the book has sentimental value, I'd leave them behind.

I sent a couple of boxes of paperwork and books via Canada Post surface mail (incidentally, the clerk at Canada Post asked me if I wanted it to go by road or sea!) - its not in-expensive but is slow.

If I can help or do anything "on this end", feel free to let me know.

posted by dantodd at 3:11 PM on July 30, 2007

Call a few freight forwarders, they do this stuff all the time. Ship around for prices.

What city are you moving to? If it's Melbourne and you need a hand arranging delivery etc. feel free to drop me a line, I import goods from time to time, and have contacts with freight forwarders here.

Packing tip - get sturdy cardboard boxes. Pack them, then wrap them in plastic. Then, get everything onto a pallet, strap it with plastic strapping and wrap it with the stretch wrap stuff that's used for this very purpose. Use a lot of it. When done properly, the pallet and boxes should feel as if they are all one piece. You don't want stuff sliding around.
posted by tomble at 11:48 PM on July 30, 2007

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