R2I - Shipping Experience

We contacted the shipping company Universal Relocations two and a half months prior to our planned shipment date (5/10/2010). A reliable recommendation made shipping company selection simple. Timing was about right and we did not feel rushed during the entire process. The step-by-step log below captures the various details:

At the largely informal initial meeting, we were introduced to the various shipping options. After eyeballing our effects, the immediate verdict was that our possessions at that point would not fit a 20’ container. But, if we were to trim down, we might be on the borderline for a 20’ container with some wiggle space. We were also given a quick rundown of the costs involved, rough estimates, and insurance options (read more by clicking here). As for the Kawai K15 (48”) acoustic piano and the Yamaha P65 digital piano we wanted shipped, it was informed that they both would attract duty of around 35% of their cost in India with depreciation at 10% or per year for the years owned. Also, to minimize cost, it would be better if we were to check with our piano dealer for crating and loading.

Two weeks into the process, we signed the contract for shipping a 20’ container and provided them with copies of our passport. The estimated costs added up to ~$7400 (~$6K for shipping, origin, and destination service for door-to-door delivery, $350 for all-risk valued inventory insurance for $10K worth of listed items, and $1050 for estimated customs duty). The shipping company supplied the insurance coverage statement. For origin services, we opted to pack our belongings except for furniture, china and odds and ends of delicate nature.

We touched base with our piano dealers (DC Piano, Berkeley, CA) and it turned out crating and loading were routine for them – pricing would be around $175 for a used crate that Kawai uses to ship new pianos to their warehouse or roughly $350 for a new one. Our initial move date scheduled for Sunday 5/9/2010 had to be rescheduled to Monday 5/10/2010 as DC Piano provided this service only on weekdays. This is something to consider for people in the same situation.

Three weeks into signing the contract, Universal Relocations confirmed the availability of a container and issued a booking number as well. They also arranged for a 3-men crew to arrive between 8 AM and 9 AM on 5/10/2010 for packing. Container was scheduled to arrive later in the day (2PM or so). The ETA for wrapping up origin services was around 5 PM.On our part, we shook hands with DC Piano to arrive after 2PM for the instrument to be loaded into the container.

The shipping company sought contact information in India including phone number. As we had arranged for a cell number for use in India, we were able to oblige without scrambling. This is yet another factor to consider – a contact number in India is a must - if not your own, a close relative or friend’s should work.

Packing was in earnest by early April. Although we were living out of boxes, we had to repack carefully and that too with an inventory list – painstaking …

Some things to consider when doing your own packing:
  • Packed plastic cartons ship as such – the movers will pad it as needed.
  • Suitcases need to be left unlocked.
  • Garden tools and other odd shaped items will be shrink-wrapped by the movers.
  • New purchases are best left in their original packaging. The professional crew will add whatever extra buffering deemed necessary.
By shipment day, we were all set with our end of the bargain - all items were packed into numbered boxes, with contents noted – keeping a spreadsheet in addition to having a hard-copy and number slips for the boxes worked well.

The three-men crew came as promised by around 9 AM in a Penske moving truck. Numbering the boxes they packed and noting the contents were our responsibility. The piano movers came around 2:30 PM but they had to wait around for 15-20 minutes, as the container failed to arrive till around 3:15PM. A base for the piano was affixed while inside the house and the crating was done inside the container.

The container loading started around 3:30PM and finished by around 5:30PM. The movers were out of the house by 6PM – long day for sure, but flawless execution for the most part!

Three days after our possessions left the house, we received the invoice. The total came to $6321. The breakup was as follows:


Packing and Loading Services$1250
Ocean and Inland Freight from Alameda, CA to Chennai Port$2971
Customs Clearance and Door Delivery to Kochi$1500
Destination terminal handling charges, delivery order fees, and service charges$250
All Risk Insurance for Valued Inventory at $10,000$350
Total$6321

We landed in India by the 18th of May and were contacted a few times in June by the staff at Universal Relocations, Chennai. They reconfirmed that we wanted them as our agent to clear the shipment, had the Power of Attorney executed, and also had us sent our original passport and OCI card. They assured they will be working closely with customs to ensure customs duty is negotiated to be the agreed upon rate of $1050 – the breakdown was $800 for Kawai K15 acoustic piano (2 years old), $200 for Yamaha P65 digital piano (3 years old), and $50 miscellaneous.

Below are a couple of issues worth a mention:
  1. We first used Blue Dart to sent the passport & OCI cards to our shipper but they failed to deliver it. As Blue Dart and Speed Post (Indian Postal Service) were the only ones authorized to handle passports, we tried again via Speed Post and that worked. This caused a delay of about four days.
  2. The scheduled ETA of the container at Chennai port was the 15th of June but it was delayed by a week due to an engine problem with the ship in Colombo.
We received confirmation of the shipment’s customs clearance by the 29th of June. Our US issued visa card payment to the shipper toward customs payment ($1050) was repeatedly rejected for some reason and we ended up transferring money from our back account in India.

Universal Relocations confirmed July 1st Thursday as the date of delivery. The terminal services manager did inquire about issues with Kerala union people in our neighborhood – we frequently had seen union people around but apparently within our community, there had not been any issues - later, we came to know that the union folks generally stays clear of apartment & villa complexes due to some legal restrictions. The delivery truck arrived at our abode around 10:30 PM amidst soaking rain! They unloaded everything, reassembled the furniture, removed all packing materials and left the house in the afternoon the following day – impeccable service. One suggestion for improvement though is that movers could really benefit with better equipment – with the couple of small dollies they had between them, it was a struggle to get the piano in. But, to their credit, they still managed to do it flawlessly.

Our passport and OCI was delivered back on 7/3/2010. Customer services from Universal Relocations later called to inquire about their service. Our feedback was positive, for the process was well oiled but we did mention a minor damage to a piece of furniture. They offered to pay for its repair – by then the repair was already done and we declined the offer.

Realized a month later that we were missing a few items and on cross checking with our spreadsheet, realized they were all part of a box labeled ‘Men’s clothing’. Most probably, the government officers at the checkpoint in Kerala lifted the box during the checking process – the shipper’s had mentioned about bribing them to get past that checkpoint as well – the officers wanted to inspect the piano crate knowing full well that doing so would invalidate the insurance and also damage the item!


Related Posts:

  1. R2I - Deciding on What to Take.
  2. R2I Shipment - Choosing from Insurance Options and Our Experience.
  3. R2I Shipping Options.
  4. R2I Shipping FAQ.
  5. R2I Shipping Experience.

Get a Quote Now: Universal Relocations.



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