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Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

(OP)
Hello All!

I have constructed a prototype for a small consumer appliance. I need to ship it overseas (North America to UK) to have it independently tested. However, I have realized that if someone were to X-ray the shipping box, it could easily be interpreted as a "dangerous device" (the kind that goes "kablooey").

The last thing I want is border-inspection to destroy something I've worked on for years, or get in trouble over a misunderstanding.

Some details:
  • I'm not going to be travelling with the package.
  • Shipping box is approx 50x30x30 cm (1.5x1x1 ft), box weighs under 5kg (10lbs). When assembled, it's about the size and weight of a toaster.
  • It's very fragile, so will be shipped disassembled in a case with foam inserts.
  • It's a "garage" invention, and definitely looks homemade. I feel it also looks suspicious, since it has metal/plastic parts, a crude electronics controller and has a fuel tank (see below)
  • The device uses butane. The butane tank is very small (50ml or 1.7oz), and will be shipped with an tank empty. However, the valve opening in the tank is very small and I don't think I can get it 100% empty, so trace amounts may be left inside.
So my question is: What safeguards or procedures can I follow to ensure my package safely reaches the intended recipient? For example, are there special procedures I can follow? Do special shipping services exist? Would it make a difference if I shipped it by sea instead of air?

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

I don't lock my suitcase wqhen I fly with checked baggage anymore. Let 'em get out without trouble.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

It may cost you but I would hire a packaging/shipping/freight forwarder to handle the shipping.
Here in WI we use Bentley, but there are people like this all over the country.
They know how to package and label things correctly, and how to prepare the paperwork.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

The most reliable method is to hire a freight forwarder. Explain to them what you've just explained to us and they will handle it for you. Use someone large and reputable- don't call Jim Bob's Forwardin' And Such.

This will be much more expensive than UPS or FedEx would be (depending on their policies, you may be charged for a full pallet even though you aren't using one) but the odds of your equipment arriving safely are much higher.

Weird equipment of all types has been shipped across oceans every single day of every single year since the beginning of the industrial revolution. What is weird to you is not weird to a customs agent at a major commercial port.. I wouldn't worry at all about them thinking 'this is a bomb' as long as your packaging is appropriately labeled, and what's in the box matches the bill of lading.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

if you are trying to ship with a fuel tank (empty or full) you will have to get it packed by an IATA qualified freight forwarder. Butane is classed as a dangerous goods material, and needs to be packaged appropriately, with an official declaration of dangerous goods.

Even without the fuel tank, there may be other parts that could be classed as dangerous goods - at least for air freight - so I would definitely recommend getting some professional advice from a reputable freight forwarder.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

(OP)
Thank you to everyone that posted so far! I have some follow-up questions:

RE: "The most reliable method is to hire a freight forwarder."
Thanks to those who recommended this option. I'll look into it, but I must admit that I know nothing about this method of shipment. How is a freight forwarder different from normal shipping options? Can anybody recommend a freight forwarder located in Toronto, Ontario? Or a directory service?

RE: "This will be much more expensive than UPS or FedEx would be"
When I looked into UPS and Fedex (as a regular package), it was going to cost around $200 one-way. So "much more expensive" worries me. Approximately how much are we guessing? (Because if it's more expensive than a return plane ticket, I may as well just go myself and bring it as carry-on!)

RE: "Weird equipment of all types has been shipped across oceans every single day of every single year since the beginning of the industrial revolution. What is weird to you is not weird to a customs agent at a major commercial port.. I wouldn't worry at all about them thinking 'this is a bomb' as long as your packaging is appropriately labeled, and what's in the box matches the bill of lading."
Hmmm, that's true. I'm probably just being overly paranoid. I may just take my chances and ship via Canada Post, after filling out all the proper forms.

RE: "if you are trying to ship with a fuel tank (empty or full) you will have to get it packed by an IATA qualified freight forwarder."
I have a question. The fuel tank is actually re-purposed from a BBQ lighter. How do they ship those around the globe? Those things cost a few bucks at the Home Depot, so I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around why it's so difficult and expensive for me to ship just one (and a empty one, at that).

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

If it truly is inert just package that thing up and FedEx or UPS it. No one will even raise their eyebrows. Those goods go on air freighters which are not scrutinized like airliners. I can't image anyone looking twice at it.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

WRt to the last question you've answered your own question "How do they ship those around the globe".

IATA refers to air freight. As soon as you can't tick the relevant security question ref pressurised tanks or flammable substances you're in a different field.

Freight forwarders are just specialist freight movers whereas US, FEDEX etc are small package mass market freight forwarders.

Yes, taking it yourself might be an option but first you need to get it through the x ray at the airport. Depends on who you encounter but as described it won't be allowed into a passenger cabin and in checked baggage if x rayed would probably be destroyed.

Yes I think shipping (literally) might be easier but a lot slower.

Just make two and send one by UPS and the other sea freight....

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Is it possible to include a new/unused fuel tank instead of the used/tainted one? Shipping would be less problematic if there was zero fuel in it.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Quote (MacGuyver)

Is it possible to include a new/unused fuel tank instead of the used/tainted one? Shipping would be less problematic if there was zero fuel in it.

Not really. They will treat any tank as if it contains fuel. They have no way to differentiate. Even if you put 'empty fuel tank' they will treat it as if it isn't empty.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

(OP)
Thanks everyone, for the replies thus far.

RE: "Freight forwarders are just specialist freight movers whereas US, FEDEX etc are small package mass market freight forwarders."
I did a quick search last night, and wasn't able to find any "specialized freight forwarders" (unless I misunderstood and the suggestion was to use UPS or Fedex). I'll try again tonight.

RE: "Yes I think shipping (literally) might be easier but a lot slower."
Thanks for the idea. So I looked up a few services, but they take 3-4 months! But if this is the most viable option, then I don't really have a choice then right?

Also, what if I send the fuel tank in a separate package? The main package may still raise eyebrows, but without the tank in it, then it won't encounter the issues inherent with having a fuel tank in the package. But then, how to ship the fuel tank? It's pretty small. Are there different options available for a small packet (~18x5x6 cm or 7x2x2.5 inches)?

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Quote (jgKRI)

Not really. They will treat any tank as if it contains fuel. They have no way to differentiate. Even if you put 'empty fuel tank' they will treat it as if it isn't empty.
If it contains no volatiles during shipping, I see no reason to identify that component as anything other than "container" with no further details. If it's one of multiple parts in the same box, I'd simply call the entire box "mechanical components".

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Containers for volatile chemicals have to be appropriately labeled.

If you ship an empty fuel canister and they open the box, I can guarantee your shipment will be delayed, whether the container is actually empty or not.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

If the sticking point is the fuel tank, why not find one on sale I the UK and just get it added to your system - we have lots of similar stores here like they do in the US....

We don't have "Home Depot", but we have B&Q...

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

Quote (LittleInch)

If the sticking point is the fuel tank, why not find one on sale I the UK and just get it added to your system - we have lots of similar stores here like they do in the US....

Absolutely the route I would go in OP's shoes

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

LittleInch beat me to. Design for a common container available at the destination and have it assembled at the destination. Otherwise take it to the Autozoo parts counter between 3 and 11:30 (second shift) and ask for Jimmy Meekermeyer. Tell him you're returning the vacuum regulator for the '43 tucker prototype because it didn't fit. Include the destination address, a roll of toonies and a well-spocked fiver and you're good.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

(OP)
Again, thanks to everyone to the replies so far.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to use a "similar" tank, purchased at the destination (I wish it was that easy). The original tank has been modified, and also, the tank fits a specifically designed enclosure.

I have called Canada Post for their advice, and they told me that I need to call UK Customs and work it out with them. And it doesn't matter if I send the package by mail/freight forwarder/sea, CP said everything goes through customs so I need to clear everything with them. Also, because I want the device back, I need to call Canada customs and go through all that with them as well.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

If you're trying to pedal this thing to someone in the UK perhaps it makes more sense to bring that party to you? Maybe it will show better on your premises. Pay their airfare.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

"I have called Canada Post for their advice, and they told me that I need to call UK Customs and work it out with them. And it doesn't matter if I send the package by mail/freight forwarder/sea, CP said everything goes through customs so I need to clear everything with them. Also, because I want the device back, I need to call Canada customs and go through all that with them as well."

Those are things that a freight forwarder will handle for you, along with an agent at the receiving end to walk it through the customs process and take delivery, and transport it to its intended recipient.

RE: Need advice shipping prototype overseas safely

There are good freight forwarders in Toronto, try PFCollins, or Kuehne & Nagel, they're in that business.

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