Behind the Scenes of an International Military Move

Moving overseas is an exciting time for a military family, but it also comes with more nerves and uncertainty than a domestic move. Although you may have moved many times with the military, this may be the first overseas move. It comes with a different set of challenges and concerns.

Suddath® has been facilitating military moves (international and domestic) for nearly 70 years, and we work hard to make sure it goes smoothly. We appreciate the sacrifices our military members and their families make every day, and we strive to make the moving process as smooth as possible.

Here’s how we do it.

What is an international move TSP?

The moving industry has a network of thousands of agents all around the world. For military moves, (either international or domestic) move management, TSPs or coordination companies are required to work exclusively with Department of Defense-approved agents or service providers that fit within certain government standards.

In a typical international military move, the types of agents Suddath, as your TSP, coordinates with includes:

  • An Origin Agent
  • Transportation agent
  • Port Agent at origin
  • Port agent at destination
  • Destination agent
  • And any third-parties needed to handle any specialty items

The international PCS move process

Once Suddath has been awarded your international move, we assign the packing and origin services to one of our Department of Defense-approved origin agents within your local area. They in turn, should schedule your pre-move survey, advise us of the details and ensure they have adequate material and labor for your pack out.

In your initial communication with Suddath, as well as during your pre-move survey, you will be advised about the regulations or rules on moving certain items to your destination country such as firearms, alcohol and motorcycles.

On your pack date, the crew will come out to perform packing services. As the crews pack up your shipment, they will begin loading the international crates. Once finished, the crew will secure and close the crate doors, and put a seal on each door that you will be asked to sign. Your signature is recognizing that the crate was properly sealed at your residence.

At that point, the crew will secure your shipment in the warehouse until Suddath has procured a driver to take your items to the nearest international port. Depending on your city of origin, this could be quite far away, which is why the crew who secures your shipment will not then directly deliver it to port.

Note: Once the driver collects your shipment, they often will not go directly to the port – they make stops at different distribution points to collect other shipments.

Shipments need to be consolidated in order to be loaded properly at port. This may cause a gap in between when your shipment leaves the warehouse, and when it gets to the port. This gap is typically around 10 days, but in peak season, may stretch to 15 days or more.

Once at port, your shipment will be loaded onto the vessel, and depending on the code of service, this could be either an airplane or a cargo ship.

Typically, flights are reserved for your lighter weight shipment of items (or unaccompanied baggage) that you need quickly, like baby formula or uniforms. Shipments via cargo ship are reserved for the larger majority of your household goods, such as furniture.

Once your shipment reaches destination, the port agent will manage customs for your shipment. This means it will be unstuffed, which includes taking your items out of the container to be inspected. The inspection can include an agricultural hold that – depending on the port you’re coming into – is typically between 10 days to three weeks during the off-season, and up to a month or more during peak.

During that time, your move coordinator and Suddath have absolutely no visibility on the shipment until it is officially released. Neither us nor our partners are allowed to participate in or influence the customs process.

Once your shipment is released from its customs hold, the port agent will pick up the shipment and bring it back to their warehouse. Once it gets to the warehouse, either the destination agent or Suddath will reach out to you and schedule delivery.

Note: We cannot schedule delivery until we know that your shipment has arrived at the destination warehouse.

Delivery relies on the agent’s equipment and labor constraints, which can become limited during peak season or high-volume times, such as the end of the month. Shipments need to be scheduled as they are processed into the warehouse.

Additionally, it is possible – since we cannot predict with 100% accuracy when your shipment will be released from customs – that your originally assigned destination agent is at max capacity when your shipment is released. In this instance, we would use an alternative agent.

Your flexibility and feedback are important

Suddath is constantly evaluating the quality and performance of our DOD-approved agents.

That’s why we rely on our military customers to be our eyes and ears – your feedback is vital to helping things run smoothly. By working with your move coordinator to make us aware of quality issues, we can address them head-on and provide the type of relocation management services all our customers deserve.

And finally, we ask for your flexibility. We know moving, especially overseas, is a very stressful and personal experience, but we are required to work within the military business rules for the household goods program and many times, those rules limit what we can do or how we do it.

Rest assured knowing that our professionals will do everything possible to accommodate your needs and make your international move as smooth a transition as possible.

Helpful Resources