|International Piano Moves
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Who Does It and How?
International moving is one of the services that many regular movers provide. The actual overseas shipping
is done by a "freight forwarder", who consolidates the goods from a number of different customers or
movers into containers (large metal boxes that are hauled by trucks and ships) and deals with the
steamship line. Freight forwarders require a license from the Freight-Maritime Commission to do this. Your
mover may or may not be a freight forwarder, but if not, they will have a relationship with one.
The mover will pick up your goods and deliver it to them; you don't have to deal directly with the freight
forwarder unless you prefer to. The mover or freight forwarder will tell you (or you should ask) what
steamship line your goods will take, what port they will leave from, the container number, dates of departure
and arrival, and ports of call on the way.
*Tip: Some foreign manufacturers wrap their pianos in airtight plastic when shipping overseas to avoid
having the piano exposed to excess humidity. You should inquire of the mover whether airtight shipment
would be possible for your instrument.
While the shipping costs are considerable, higher still can be the import duties and taxes assessed by the
foreign governments once the shipment has arrived. These duties vary from as little as a few percent to as
much as 200 percent of the instrument's value. With these duties, governments seek to prevent the import
of pianos for resale, presumably to protect their own local piano industry. Some countries have exclusions
from duties for professionals in the music field, and some require proof of ownership of 6 months to 2
years to avoid duties. A call to any international mover will provide country-specific information on duties.
Movers are not required to provide insurance coverage, but generally make it available. Insurance is always
on the replacement value at the destination.
*Tip: Make sure that the insurance is an "all-risk marine policy", which includes what is known as a "general
average clause". This will insure against any extra costs the shipper might otherwise have to pay if damage
is sustained to the ship en route and the cargo is impounded in a port other than one that is scheduled.
These extra costs can be huge.
Shipments to Europe and the Middle-East are made from the East Coast, and to Australia and the Far East
from the West Coast. Shipping charges from your locality will include "land bridge service" to one coast or
the other as appropriate. "All-water" service may also be available, which allows goods to be shipped by
sea anywhere in the world from either coast via the Panama Canal. Door-to-door shipping of a piano from
the East Coast will usually take about 15 days to Europe, and a month or so to most other parts of the
world. Shipping times from the West Coast will differ from those from the East Coast accordingly. Shipping
from Canada to the U.S. or Mexico is usually by land, although reaching certain coastal cities may
sometimes be cheaper by sea.
*Tip: Overland shipping for pianos should be by "air-ride" vans. Rail flatcar shipping can be hard on pianos.
The customer or the customer's designee will be notified by the shipper's agent when the piano has arrived
at the destination port and he or she must go to the agent's office to file the necessary paperwork. Various
forms are needed to establish the value of the piano, including the insurance company's valuation, so that
any duty may be paid. Shipping fees and insurance premiums are paid in advance at the point of origin; only
duties are due on arrival. The duty must be paid before the agent can complete the delivery to the house.
If the customer is not at the destination when the piano arrives, it will have to be stored, which is expensive.
It's better to delay shipping the piano than to have it wait at the destination port.
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