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Shipping Small Packages

Moving Small Shipments in Boxes or Barrels Overseas

Shippers often send small shipments of personal goods to family or friends in their home countries or to persons living abroad. These shipments are commonly sent in boxes or barrels which are packed and sealed by the shipper. The shipping company usually charges a flat rate based on the size of the box or barrel. A shipment may be picked up by the shipping company at the senders’ home, or delivered to an office or pickup point.

Regardless of the size of your shipment, a company providing international transportation services by water is required to be licensed by the FMC.

  • If you are unsure whether your company has the required license, please refer to the FMC website. The licensee’s name, license number, street address, and phone number should be listed on all documentation (bills of lading, receipts, etc) given to the shipper. If the company claims to be acting as an agent for a licensed company, the name of the licensed company should be listed on all documents.

Shipping companies may target a particular neighborhood or ethnic community and distribute flyers that advertise very low rates for transportation to a particular country.

  • Check information presented on a flyer or handed to you to ensure that you are dealing with an actual business; the lack of a physical address or dedicated telephone number is often a sign of a fraudulent moving company.

Ask your moving company who will be actually shipping the goods, and what company will be responsible for delivery of the goods at destination.

  • International shipping companies often consolidate many small shipments and then give the consolidated shipment to another shipping company for actual transport.

Receive complete documentation for you shipment.

  • This should include an itemized list of the contents of your package, including each item’s value, and the terms and conditions of your move, including insurance provisions. Documentation is necessary if you wish to file a claim for any loss or damage to your goods. Avoid misrepresenting the contents or value of your shipment. Do not use a company that recommends that you do this to avoid duties or taxes. If your shipment, or any other person’s shipment, is held by customs, you may be held responsible for additional fees or penalties.
  • Companies will often limit their liability in the case of missing or damaged goods. The paperwork you are given should clearly state the maximum amount you will be refunded if your boxes arrive damaged or your shipment is undelivered.

Before shipment, determine whether you will buy insurance in the case of damage or loss.

  • If you purchase insurance, the moving company should provide proof of purchase, the coverage amount, an explanation of the coverage and information on how to file a claim. You may also wish to obtain photographic evidence of your package’s condition prior to your international moving company taking possession. Upon delivery, try to obtain photographic evidence of any loss or damage to assist with any insurance claims.

Ask the moving company for a time frame for delivery.

  • Although some delays are unforeseeable, there are generally predictable delays during popular shipping times, such as holidays or summer vacation months. If you are trying to coordinate the delivery of the shipment with a personal trip, discuss this with the moving company and allow extra time for delivery.

If you experience a problem or your goods have not arrived and you cannot get a satisfactory answer from your moving company, contact the FMC’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services toll free at (866) 448-9586, or at (202) 523-5807. You may also email questions to