Shipping expert: Overcharged for shipping?

Vol XXIX: Shmuel, three years ago we made aliyah and there was a strike in the shipping industry. Our company charged us an additional $800 for our container being stuck outside of Italy. Was this fair?

shipping88 (photo credit: )
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For Shipping resources click here. Shmuel Mantinband works with Unigroup UTS Sonigo, partners in the parent company of Mayflower and United Van Lines. He still remembers with great pain his lifts when he made aliya over 30 years ago. Send us your questions for Shmuel. * * * Volumes I - XX Volumes XXI-XXV Vol XXIX Q: Shmuel, three years ago we made aliyah and there was a strike in the shipping industry. Our company charged us an additional $800 for our container being stuck outside of Italy. They assured us that once we paid this fee, they would file and claim and reimburse us the money they owe us. Meanwhile each time we call them, they advise us they haven't received their reimbursement. In addition, they lost my American passport and we had to buy additional clothes since it was during the chagim. What actions can I take to be reimbursed for all the additional costs we incurred? A: When you mentioned overcharging…I thought, here we go again, another story of someone being held ransom for some unfair and unreasonable charges. In this case, I do not think that is what happened to you. I would be happy to look over your specific charges to tell you if $800 was fair and reasonable. I would need to know the size of your shipment, when it arrived here or in Italy and how it made it to Israel in order to give you a precise answer, but let me lay out the issues on a more generic level below. Shipping lines obviously, want to spend as much time sailing as possible and as little time standing as possible. When they are kept waiting an unreasonable amount of time, due to war, strikes, work slowdowns, congestion, etc. they impose fees on "owners" of containers - the shippers. Since a strike's end is never known in advance, vessels will sail to a port knowing it is closed, hoping the strike will end soon and not slow them down. They want to go to every port on their schedule as they have containers to unload and load. They may wait a week or more until they decide to skip a port. They may either hold the containers until their next scheduled arrival or unload them at a near by port such as Port Said, Cyprus, Greece or in your case, Italy. The shipping line has the right to declare End of Voyage (EOV) which means they have fulfilled their contractual obligation. Even if you booked your container to Israel, by declaring EOV in Italy, they have no obligation to bring your container to Israel. EOV is based on international maritime law and while completely unfair remains an option for them. So not only is your shipment delayed - you have to pay for another shipment to get your container to Israel!! By the way, during the war in Lebanon last year, almost none of the lines declared EOV and instead shuttled the containers to Israel at no extra charge. During the big strike you write about, many lines declared EOV and clients had to pay for an extra shipment to get their containers to Israel. It gets worse…The foreign port, where your container is waiting until the strike ends, may charge you storage fees. Furthermore, EOV may cause your insurance policy to lapse and if you want coverage to your door - you have to buy another policy! This is typical for Israeli insurance policies. We use insurance through our sister company, Mayflower and United in the US and they did not end coverage due to EOV. It is probably a good idea to check this in advance, even though it is a very rare situation. Demurrage and storage fees might also be incurred. If the container was offloaded in port, and then got stuck, the port will start charging storage fees from day five. And they do not care that this is not your fault. The port also says it is not their fault, so they charge. Shipping lines allow a shipper to hold their container seven to 10 days after the vessel arrives. From the 8th or 11th day, they start charging demurrage which is rental on the container. Again, if your container got stuck at the port, the shipping line would say it is not our fault and again…charge you demurrage. I would imagine that some of these fees were charged to you. It is true the government set up a committee to approve refunding some of the fees (mostly port storage fees) incurred by shippers during the strike. The filing requirements were onerous and very time consuming. I believe there are one or two people going through the tens of thousands of claims. I do not know if any claims have been paid yet. Losing your passport is certainly within your shipping agent's realm of responsibility. They should have covered any expense you incurred to replace it. Buying clothing is not something the shipping agent will cover, especially in a situation like a strike. I fear I have not given you much to work with other than a better understanding of what are legitimate charges. As I said earlier, I will be happy to review your specific charges to see if they were fairly assessed. * * * Q: I am looking at buying a new computer in the US and having it shipped here. (Why I didn't do that before making Aliyah will forever haunt me...) What will I need to take care of to get it here safe, sound and quickly? Any suggestions on whether to use FedEx, UPS, or any other shipping companies? Is it even worth all the balagan? A: Wasn't life simpler when all you needed was a slide rule on your belt or an abacus on your desk? At least it seemed simpler… In any case, shipping a desk top computer is probably not worth it. You will only have to pay 15.5% taxes on the value of the computer plus the cost of shipping (there is only VAT on computers) and this is the same tax rate you would pay on a computer you buy in Israel. But the cost of shipping one computer will probably make it much too costly. Shipping by Fedex, UPS, or even the post office will be ridiculously expensive and even shipping by a company like Sonigo for such a small item just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, if you are already sending a lift, then (gently) throwing in a computer would make sense and the incremental cost of shipping a computer is not very significant. Until you get your computer, I will be happy to lend you my abacus - I never learned how to use it anyway… All the best, Shmuel * * * Vol XXVIII Q: I am a new immigrant from the Philippines, and I am planning to create a business that serves Filipino foreign workers. Can you help me find a forwarding company that deals with shipping to the Philippines? Thank you! A: Dear Gila, Welcome to Israel and much success with your business idea. Your idea is probably a good one, as there are already several companies providing similar services - which proves the market exists. Almost any freight forwarding or shipping company would be able to quote you for shipping a container. We, at Sonigo along with many of our competitors, do this kind of work on a regular basis. While I do not know the Filipino laws regarding importing gift boxes, here in Israel your shipping agent will take care of customs clearance for the entire group All the best, Shmuel Q: Hi Shmuel I have a copy of the invoice I received from my local shipping company and it states that 11,519CBM were sent. However the company organizing our delivery in Australia has on their Bill of Lading 6,5 CBM were shipped. The number of items on our form i.e. 53 that were packed and the number on the Bill of Lading do correlate so none of the pieces were lost. What do you suggest I do? Thank you for your advice earlier- it really helped clarify things. A: Dear Bryan, First of all, you got all your goods and that is good. (If we find the good in an experience, it might help get over the "less good.") The most important question is: For how many cubic meters (cbm) have you been charged? If you were charged for 6.5 cbm, then the 11.519 cbm reported by the Israeli agent does not matter. However, I would imagine you are asking the question because you were charged for 11.519 cbm. An easy way to check is, when your goods are delivered, take a ruler and measure the crate the goods are delivered in. Multiply height by width by depth to get the cubic meters (or cubic feet). A quick hint, the "standard" crate or lift van is 5.7 cbm or 200 cubic feet (cf). There is an outside chance your goods were shipped "loose" which means they were not placed in a crate, but were rather loaded directly into the container. In that case, climb up in the truck before the crew stars unloading and again, take your ruler and measure the "cube" your boxes make up. Again, multiplying height by width by depth will tell you how many cbm or cf you have. Now, let's examine the situation where you really had 6.5 cbm but were charged for 11.519 cbm. In this case, a criminal act has been committed. You will probably not get any help from the police, but you should definitely go to small claims court where you have an excellent chance to get the entire overcharge back. I have had the dubious pleasure of serving as an "expert witness" in much the same situation you describe. In that case the judge awarded the customer NIS 7000. That same corrupt shipping agent, according to published reports in Dunn and Bradstreet, has over 30 cases pending against him. Again, Bryan, I hope this is not the case with your shipment. However, if you feel it is, please go to court, not only to get back the money you are owed, but to send a message, that this is not the right way to do business. All the best, Shmuel * * * Vol XXVII Q: Shmuel, my son entered the Machal program of the IDF in August. What is the best way for us to send him packages from Hollywood, Florida USA? A: I am sure you are very proud of your son. I still consider it a great privilege to serve in a Jewish army protecting the State of Israel. My daughter is an officer in the Education Corps and my son, a sergeant in the paratroopers. When I made Aliya, I was also very proud to serve in the paratroopers. May you have much nachat from your son and may he be safe throughout his service. And yes indeed, he will greatly enjoy getting packages (and letters!) from home. In both cases, the post office is the way to go. Small packages can be sent either via Express Mail or parcel post. Shipping with a company like ours only makes sense if you are sending several pieces of furniture or lots of boxes. Another good way to send packages is with someone coming to Israel who can drop the package at any post office. In Israel, the post office offers a very cheap rate for packages to soldiers. Based on my experience and remembering what I enjoyed getting…send lots of snacks and goodies - home-baked cookies are always great. Paperback books are good (you know the army…hurry up and wait means lots of time to read) and around winter time, gloves and a wool hat are welcome. Again, Mazal tov on your son's induction - you should be very proud! All the best, Shmuel Shmuel Mantinband Sonigo Intl Shipping 53 Hakidma, Northern Industrial Area 77521 Ashdod, Israel Tel: 972 8 6111-222 Fax: 972 8 6111-223 Cell: 972 52 611-9670 US Toll Free: 1 (866) 978-5224 or (201) 535-4703 UK FreePhone: 0 800 097 5563 UTS Unigroup - The World Moves With Us © * * * Vol XXVI Q: Dear Shmuel, I am moving back to Israel after 5 years of being in London. I have around 100 Kilos of private stuff. The quotation I've received from Elal was £2.20 a Kilo with a minimum order of £66, can you recommend any other cheaper shipping company that I can use? A: There is no good way to ship a shipment of this size. As you have seen with El Al, 100 kilograms wil cost you £ 220 - a hefty sum! You might consider the post office if you are not in a rush. They will accept packages up to 20 kilograms (this may vary by country - check with your local post office.) You may consider companies like Fedex or UPS, but these will probably be considerably more expensive than El Al. I am afraid that I cannot be very helpful, because a small shipment like yours cannot be sent cost effectively. Good luck, Shmuel * * * Q: I have just shipped our personal effects with a local Israeli company. Firstly I was told that what we paid for was door-to-door however the company in Australia- the final destination is charging us an additional sum for handling- is this standard? Secondly the company there, is charging us over $100/ day storage while processing our shipment- this is something that we weren't aware of or told about- is this standard, should we have known about this and what recourse do we have? Many thanks. A: Dear Bryan, Call me old fashioned…but I hate surprises…and it looks like you have gotten a few surprises in Australia. Since I do not have all the details of your particular shipment, it is difficult for me to give answers specific to your situation, so I will try to give an overview of charges at destination… All overseas shipping companies have to contend with changing laws and Customs regulations in dozens of countries. Obviously none of us can be 100% up to date on all the Customs laws in all the countries of the world. Therefore it is very important to remember, you, the shipper, ultimately, will be responsible for your shipment regardless of the quality of advice you received. I frequently recommend to my clients to contact Customs in their destination country. An email from Australian Customs may have helped avoid surprise charges. You should always ask your shipping agent about charges at destination. Some countries in South America have incredibly high port charges while most N. American and Western European countries have no or very low port fees. Another "typical" surprise charge is when your shipment is pulled by Customs for a security or customs inspection. Some countries regulate the fee charged for an inspection, others do not charge while still other countries maintain no control over fees charged by moving companies. Btw, the US has just passed (or in the process of passing) a law requiring *all* containers to the US be inspected before arrival. This will undoubtedly add another fee to the myriad of standard fees charged. Storage charges are typically charged by the port after a certain number of "free days". In Israel, ports allow 4 days before charging. In Canada, ports start charging after two days. Different ports have different policies. You should be able to call the port and verify the daily rates. There is another charge called demurrage which is charged by the shipping line for excessive use of the container. Shipping Lines, typically, allow up to 7 days of use of the container after arrival at destination. From the eighth day, shipping lines will charge demurrage fees. Brian, I hope this general information has been helpful. If you like, I would be happy to look over your documents and give you specific information. Good luck and all the best, Shmuel * * * Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer. Send your comments >>
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