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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ed and Susan were about to realize their dream of making aliya. They had planned for more than three years, including finding work as computer software engineers, the right location to move to, Modi'in, and schools for their three children. They had even made preliminary contacts with families who lived in their new neighborhood.
As they stood watching the last of their household goods being loaded into three large wooden "lift vans" outside their residence in Phoenix, Arizona, expecting them to arrive at their new home in five or six weeks, little did they know their dream was about to turn into a nightmare. Their goods finally arrived three months later. Many items were unaccounted for, presumed lost or stolen during "inspection" at an intermediate port. Their property had also sustained water damage, even though they thought the container was properly packed and sealed.
Like many, they had chosen a budget moving company that subcontracted most of its work to packers and shippers whose level of professionalism was far below standard. But the deal that seemed too good to be true wound up costing them in unadvised, added charges. The moving company they had chosen was not a member of any certified international moving organization, and they had no one to turn to when making a claim.
But it could have been worse - their lifts might not have arrived at all. They were victims of what is known as the "kombina," the patchy quality of moving services that all too often is the case when people try to save money at the expense of quality. Cost is certainly a real consideration for both companies and private individuals. And although stories such as this one are still being heard, more and more people are requesting that better companies to handle their relocation needs.
THOUSANDS OF international removals are conducted into and out of Israel each year, with shipments ranging from small air shipments of less than 50 kilogams all the way to giant 12-meter "high cube" steel containers which can hold up to 26,500 kilograms, or 75 cubic meters.
Firms known as "world class" have spent considerable time and money perfecting the quality of their service, including becoming members of such international moving organizations as the Belgium-based FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale des DÃ©mÃ©nageurs Internationaux (FIDI), as well as holding international quality awards like ISO. This assures their customers that their precious household goods will be professionally dealt with from the moment they are packed at the point of origin until delivered inside a residence at the final destination.
Netanya-based Ocean Global Relocation Solutions has operated for more than 60 years. Ocean is one of the oldest companies of its kind in the country, and is now focusing much attention on the global relocation business, which combines the services of a world class international mover with those of relocation service coordinators to give their customers a "one-stop shop" for handing an individual or family's entire relocation from one country into a new one.
Besides being long-time members of FIDI-FAIM, Ocean holds membership in other quality moving and relocation organizations: OMNI (Overseas Moving Network International), European Relocation Association (EURA), Household Goods Forwarders Association of America (HHGFAA) and LACMA (Latin American Moving Association). "When people deal with smaller companies who don't belong to organizations like FIDI, they often wind up getting more than they bargained for in the form of damages and lost items, as well as extra charges," says Claire Grinberg, Ocean's sales and marketing coordinator.
"More and more moving companies have their own relocation departments, making it easier for them to offer a 'basket' of relocation services under one roof. This is the new trend," says Mark Kedem, Ocean's client relations and PR manager.
THE INTERNATIONAL moving and relocations business here has undergone profound changes over the past several years, according to CEO Eran Drenger, whose father, David, started the business as a customs broker in Haifa in 1944. "We foresaw the path that the industry was heading years ago, and as such decided to focus on the relocation industry which offers customers a total relocation package and not just a partial one. As a result, we combined two entities, Ocean Company Ltd., and IRM [Israel Relocation Management] into one company in October 2008," Drenger says.
People relocating are assigned a counselor to work with them at their old address and another to help them at their new one. When moving to a location that's "different," a number of steps need to be taken prior to packing, including being aware of customs regulations in the country of destination. Clients need to be aware of what can or cannot be brought into the country, such as wood products (especially to countries such as Australia, which has very strict quarantine and fumigation requirements) and regulations involving pets and quarantine.
Making sure the proper visas and other official documents are obtained in advance will prevent costly delays and added storage expenses in government-bonded warehouses. People with small children should prepare them in advance for the big day, including giving them boxes for personal items that may be shipped ahead by air to help them adjust more quickly to their new environment.
"The relocation market has changed a lot due mainly to financial considerations; and people sent on relocation assignments often send fewer personal household goods," says corporate relocations manager Ron Stern. "The phenomenon that has occurred of one family member possibly relocating months ahead of his family results in our offering a service in which we provide furniture and other items for him to use until a shipment arrives. Companies are cutting relocation budgets and this affects the size of an employee's shipment."
SHMUEL MANTINBAND, marketing and sales director for Sonigo International Shipping Ltd., says the company is now working with many Israelis who are returning home. "We work a lot with France, the UK and other European countries, since the company's owners originated from there [France]," Mantinband says. "But nearly 50 percent of our business is from North America, and we work a lot with aliya organizations, such as Nefesh B'Nefesh."
"I always recommend that people get two or three quotes from recommended movers, and to insist on getting a premove visual survey. This way, the client receives a proper and well-based quotation and we get a chance to see what goods need to be packed, as well as what packing material and staff are needed to do the job," he says.
Also an FIDI member, Sonigo is a member of the international UTS Unigroup of international movers, the parent organization of the American movers Mayflower and United Van Lines. Sonigo works a lot with private customers, as well as with large international companies such as Intel and UPS, Mantinband says.
Both Sonigo and Ocean agree that shippers need to be aware of the new realities of shipping household goods abroad, especially in light of increased security and environmental safety requirements. Mantinband notes that there have been significant changes since the 9/11 terror attacks. "Almost all containers to the US are now being inspected, usually by X-ray, but occasionally by physical inspection. This increases costs and delays deliveries. That being said, the US Bureau of Homeland Security is moving these inspections to the point of departure, in order to reduce bottlenecks at US ports of entry."
TO COMPETE in an ever-changing and more competitive market, companies have to be more creative and to offer new types of service to an increasingly cost and quality conscious clientele. Narda Korakin, an Ocean relocation consultant specializing in hi-tech companies, said her company offers "soft relocation services," which include helping relocation assignees to set up small groups of people who help each other solve problems. "Another name for this service is 'social relocation,'" Korakin adds.
One of the biggest challenges international movers face is environmental issues. "We go through a tremendous amount of cartons, wrapping paper and plastic bubble wrap in our industry. As long as customers demand we only use new packing materials, it is difficult to be more environmentally friendly by reusing cartons and other packing materials," Mantinband explains.
Local moving and relocation businesses appear to be claiming a growing part of this international industry. And whether it be normal household items, works of art for an international exhibition or sensitive scientific hardware for a new hi-tech "clean room," Israel's international moving and logistics professionals will continue to provide their services for as long as Israel remains an international hub.
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