I previously wrote about tracking a ship around the world, but never followed up with the practical details involved with shipping my life from the San Francisco Bay Area back to Belfast. So here they are, in the hope they provide a useful data point for anyone considering a similar move.
Firstly, move out. I was in a one bedroom apartment in Fremont, CA. At the time I was leaving the US I didn’t have anywhere for my belongs to go - the hope was I’d be back in the Bay Area, but there was a reasonable chance I was going to end up in Belfast or somewhere in England. So on January 24th 2014 I had my all of my belongings moved out and put into storage, pending some information about where I might be longer term. When I say all of my belongings I mean that; I took 2 suitcases and everything else went into storage. That means all the furniture for probably a 2 bed apartment (I’d moved out of somewhere a bit larger) - the US doesn’t really seem to go in for the concept of a furnished lease the same way as the UK does.
I had deliberately picked a moving company that could handle the move out, the storage and the (potential) shipping. They handed off to a 3rd party for the far end bit, but that was to be expected. Having only one contact to deal with throughout the process really helped.
Fast forward 8 months and on September 21st I contacted my storage company to ask about getting some sort of rough shipping quote and timescales to Belfast. The estimate came back as around a 4-6 week shipping time, which was a lot faster than I was expecting. However it turned out this was the slow option. On October 27th (delay largely due to waiting for confirmation of when I’d definitely have keys on the new place) I gave the go ahead.
Container pickup (I ended up with exclusive use of a 20ft container - not quite full, but not worth part shipment) from the storage location was originally due on November 7th. Various delays at the Port of Oakland meant this didn’t happen until November 17th. It then sat in Oakland until December 2nd. At that point the ETA into Southampton was January 8th. Various other delays, including a week off the coast of LA (yay West Coast Port Backups) meant that the ship finally arrived in Southampton on January 13th. It then had to get to Belfast and clear customs. On January 22nd 2015, 2 days shy of a year since I’d seen them, my belongings and I were reunited.
So, on the face of it, the actual time on the ship was only slightly over 6 weeks, but all of the extra bits meant that the total time from “Ship it” to “I have it” was nearly 3 months. Which to be honest is more like what I was expecting. The lesson: don’t forget to factor in delays at every stage.
The relocation cost in the region of US$8000. It was more than I’d expected, but far cheaper than the cost of buying all my furniture again (plus the fact there were various things I couldn’t easily replace that were in storage). That cost didn’t cover the initial move into storage or the storage fees - it covered taking things out, packing them up for shipment and everything after that. Including delivery to a (UK) 3rd floor apartment at the far end and insurance. It’s important to note that I’d included this detail before shipment - the quote specifically mentioned it, which was useful when the local end tried to levy an additional charge for the 3rd floor aspect. They were fine once I showed them the quote as including that detail.
Getting an entire apartment worth of things I hadn’t seen in so long really did feel a bit like a second Christmas. I’d forgotten a lot of the things I had, and it was lovely to basically get a “home in a container” delivered.