In past years, we have avoided offering shipment of our Nativity sets and large outdoor Christmas decorations outside the US and Canada. We even put website notices to that effect on most of our large items. This year, perhaps because of the economy, we have had numerous requests for orders from Europe and the Far East. I decided I had better learn about ocean shipping since air freight is very expensive and most people leave enough time to make less than container (LCL) shipping work.
Using Google, I identified a number of broker and fright forwarding services, some quoting big name shipping lines and some using smaller independent companies. Some of the sites were very useful, as they provided spread sheets that allowed you to calculate the cube and weight of your load, estimated ocean freight and summarized origin options and costs. Other sites were more like electronic brochures and after singing the praises of their various services, required a phone call for an emailed quote.
Initially, I was annoyed with these non DIY sites but I came to appreciate them when I discovered “the dirty little secret of overseas shipping”, namely that ocean freight is cheap, but charges at destination are expensive and must be quoted for each shipment!To illustrate, let me offer disguised details of a shipment we recently made to Germany from the Port of New York.
The order was for two pallets of religious statues total weight 397 pounds and cube of 3.68 cubic meters or about 130 cubic feet. This could be similar to say 10 cartons of clothing and personal effects shipped to your new home. The ocean freight was $312.80, charged at $85 per cubic meter and the origin charges, totaling, $305 were for truck pickup and delivery to the dock and customs and handling.
Where it became expensive, was with the destination charges, all charged in Euros. There was insurance, terminal handling, wharfage, delivery order(?), delivery, customs, duty and German Value Added Tax (VAT). Total $$1000.42. Obviously, there are many ways to pay for the welfare state. The VAT was refundable, if paid by the recipient, but not if prepaid by the shipper. Any way, I want bore you with more figures except to summarize and say that a product sold for $2834 cost $1618.22 to deliver to the door in Germany.
Shipping within the US and Canada usually costs between 10% and 25% of the product price so 60% for this order seems a lot until you find out what is involved.