Shipping a container to Uruguay is basically problem-free. However, given that, on the one hand, on both the side where you will be sending the container from and the Uruguayan side, there are a countless number of companies that offer related services (freight forwarders, shipping companies, customs brokers), and on the other hand, most people do not know very much about this rather complex process, this is the one area where personal experiences and the costs involved vary most widely among people immigrating here.
Firstly, there is the seemingly straightforward option of contracting a freight forwarding company to take care of the entire process. In this case, you shouldn’t need to worry about anything, since you are paying for full service. This approach usually works well, but unfortunately, we have heard of cases when the client’s trust was misplaced, and the experience turned out to be extremely costly.
This is easy to understand when you consider that there is no single company that can provide door-to-door delivery and deal directly with every step along the way, including port and customs clearances. Freight forwarders must necessarily work with other companies, such as a shipping company for the actual shipment, a shipping agent (despachante, in Uruguay) to handle port and customs clearances, and in some cases, an additional transportation company to deliver your container to your new home in Uruguay.
When you choose to work with a freight forwarder, you are paying for a package of different services provided by different companies, which means you have no way of knowing the actual costs incurred along the way, in addition to the costly communication problems that often arise between the companies involved.
We are not trying to say that there are no reliable, inexpensive freight forwarding agencies. However, we have heard of cases where the companies involved knew nothing about the others, which meant that the rapid flow of information needed for these operations didn’t happen, and as a result, the containers ended up sitting in the port for days on end, adding significantly to the costs. The problem for the clients in these cases was that none of the companies involved accepted responsibility for the delays and instead blamed the other companies or, ultimately, the Uruguayan customs authorities.
In the event that you decide to contract a freight forwarding company to ship your container, make sure you have an accurate overview of the different cost factors involved.
The costs involved can be broken down as follows:
- The packing of the container (if you don’t do it yourself)
- The transportation of the container to the port of origin (from where it is shipped)
- The Terminal Handling Charge (THC) in the port of origin
- The container itself and the actual shipping
- The Terminal Handling Charge (THC) in the port in Montevideo
- The costs of customs procedures in Uruguay
- The fees of the shipping agent who handles the paperwork in the Montevideo port
- The costs of the customs staff who verify the contents of the container
- The transportation of the container within Uruguay
- The unpacking of the container (if you don’t do it yourself)
The most cost-effective alternative to hiring the services of a freight forwarder is to personally deal with the companies that offer the different services involved yourself. This is not nearly as complicated as it might seem.
We have had excellent results with this “do it yourself” approach, and will gladly help our clients to do the same.
No matter which option you end up choosing, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:
- By no means should you let yourself be convinced of the “advantages” of buying your own container. When it is imported into the country, this container will obviously not be considered as a “household item” and you will have to pay customs duties on it, which can be extremely costly.
- Take care in preparing your belongings for transport. Use good sturdy boxes, preferably moving boxes, and protect moisture-sensitive items like electronic goods and computer accessories with a waterproof covering. Wrap furniture and other bulky items with corrugated cardboard. Number all of the boxes and items being moved (see the conditions for importing personal effects ), and make sure you have plenty of ties and blankets for padding.
- Whether you load the container yourself or have it done for you, make sure the contents are packed in such a way as to keep them as safe as possible during transportation. The heaviest items should be placed on the bottom and distributed evenly in the container. This is something we can’t stress enough, based on our own experience: trust is good, but control is better. Remember, the container and everything inside it will have to withstand a lot during the journey.
- If you choose to pack the container yourself, ask to have it delivered on a Friday. This won’t cost much more than any other day of the week, but you will have the whole weekend to pack, since as a rule it won’t be picked up again until Monday.
- Make sure that the container is sealed in your presence. You should also be present when the seal is removed later. It is also a good idea to secure the container with a padlock of your own.
- Once the shipment of a container has been paid for, a document called a Bill of Lading (BOL) is issued. If you choose to contract a freight forwarder to handle the entire process, you should ask for a copy of the BOL, since it essentially serves as the “ownership papers” for the contents of the container, and the container cannot be removed from the port of destination without it.