The Joys of Moving
I’m being sarcastic. One of the banes of life as an expat is the amount of times you have to move. Not only from country to country but within countries too. Country to country is an unending joy of bureaucracy and laws, of what can and can’t be transported, and the resulting opportunities for governments to impose tax in whichever way they deem appropriate, for exactly the same items being shipped around the globe.
It’s just part of life and moving has become less traumatic the more times we have moved and become less attached to items which will inevitably have some damage, breakages or go missing in the packaging. At least we will have our stuff with us.
When moving country to country there are lots of forms and assessments of our personal items and furniture for insurance and tax purposes but also for the actual shipping container. We had our initial assessment today by the shipping agent. He was of course very professional. He was also the barer of not great news about the world of shipping during Covid-19.
Firstly, due to local Singapore laws, a maximum of 4 people will be allowed to pack up our possessions. Pre Covid-19 it took over 10 men 2 days. The Covid-19 restrictions mean it will take 4 people at least 4 days to pack. Maximum disruption – so the process will be coordinated to enable us to still be able to cook and sleep amidst of of the packing boxes. A further day, once everything is packed, will be used to ferry the boxes to a shipping container which will be parked “nearby”. That’s moving boxes from the apartment into a lorry, ferried to the container and then off the lorry and into the container. That’s a lot of work in heat and humidity. I don’t envy them.
Due to the global effect of Covid-19 lots of companies are restructuring and recalling expats back to their home countries. This means that moving agents are extremely busy and slots have to be booked months in advance. It also means that there is a shortage of containers as they are in the ‘wrong’ places around the globe and people are using them for storage too. The price of containers has sky rocketed (lucky us!). The last 40 foot container shipped to the UK cost GBP 12,000 (S$22,382.).
Then there is trying to get the container on a ship. Shipping has decreased and demand has gone up. Previously a container could be loaded onto a ship on the same day. Now it can take 4-5 days to actually get a container on to a ship. There is nothing we can do about that. it is outside the control of us and the moving agents and is solely determined by the shipping companies. We usually cannot leave a country until the container has been shipped. This means booking flights will be tricky too. Especially with the reduced availability of flights and the inevitable Covid-19 test and results. We don’t yet know if we will be required to be vaccinated before we fly – that’s an issue for another day. As is the receiving end in the UK getting through customs. It will be at least 8 weeks between the container leaving Singapore and us receiving it in the UK at home.
Disaster Scenario Warning
It’s always rather alarming when the shipping agents remind you that all your worldly possessions are in a container on the high seas, potentially going around the Cape, with stormy weather and possibly tornadoes. Yes there may be damage and yes there is the possibility that your container goes overboard into the watery depths never to be seen again. One always likes to think this is highly unlikely – especially as the trauma of the reality of that is awful – never mind the shopping that would have to be done just to replace the basic items. However the agents told us that “recently” (I didn’t ask for a date) a ship lost 180 containers overboard as the ship tipped sideways in a storm. EEK! That’s a bit too real to think about thank you very much!
Preparing to Leave
It’s now becoming a reality that will will be leaving Singapore in around 4 months time. We will have the usually disruption with the move but also the prospect of staying in serviced apartments somewhere for a few months whilst we wait for our container to arrive. It’s always emotional saying goodbye to the friends we have made and it will be emotional returning home to family and friends we have missed dearly – especially as we haven’t been able to travel recently. And all of that is before we try and adapt back into our home culture which will once again be alien to us having lived abroad for years. That’s a bridge to cross when we come to it. The next few months will be spent enjoying Singapore before we have to say goodbye.