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Random Observations – Moving to Qatar

9th July 2012

After six months in Qatar since leaving the chilly, damp and grey UK we are still learning and this blog is a simple attempt to pass on some of that information for others who may chose to tread this fascinating and stimulating path. The contents of this post may seem a little random but, as per Ned Kelly’s final words, “such is life”.

Removal of personal effects

As we plan to move on from Qatar to Australia (rather than returning to Old Blighty), we decided to bring many of our personal effects and treasured possessions with us.

It’s not the first time I have moved a house full of furniture and other personal goods and the experience has often been difficult with removalists varying, dramatically, in care and professionalism, and laws of various countries that effectively prevent any meaningful retribution when your goods are negligently handled, damaged, or lost.

This time, we chose, against the advice of various pundits on the Internet, to use a company called 1st Move International. They also have a domain name called “shipit.co.uk” and may trade under other names.

1st Move International, rather quaintly, offer a 10% discount if you accept their quote. This was hardly necessary as their quote was competitive and the service at least at the start seemed quite good. The agent who called back when my wife asked for a quote was polite, prompt, knowledgeable, and efficient.

Sadly, this was the last time that the words efficient, prompt or polite could be used with regard to this company. On moving day, before any insurance had been agreed or arranged, a truck turned up to pick up our possessions. Issue number one (apart from the lack of insurance) the truck was too small. Despite having been out to our house to estimate the size of the shipment they sent a truck that was too small.

From this point forward things went from bad to worse. In a stressful time, emails to 1st Move International went unreplied to for many days, phone calls were not returned and answers were unsatisfactory. The company flatly refuses to be held accountable for loss or damage to any of your possessions while these are under their stewardship, therefor you MUST insure your property. Literally the company could drop, run over, or simply lose your goods and, according to them they are not accountable. When you try to insure for what you can afford (rather than the full value of your posessions) they coerce you into filling out the form with false information to make up the numbers. 1st Move make it extremely difficult to fill out the form honestly or provide correct details. If you have the unfortunate experience of filling out this form which has predefined fields (specifying what you may own and how much it may be worth) you will see what I mean. I was forced to downvalue many of our possessions in order to come to a round total in terms of what I was allowed to insure for (I.e. you can’t insure $50,000 worth of posessions for $40,000 –  you have to state that their value is only $40,000).

When the pickup was complete, and some three days later we had managed to sort out the insurance (during which time our goods were at the tender mercy of 1st Move and if they said they accidentally lost the whole lot in that time we had no comeback); I got an email on May 28th from a Director at the company which said:

…if we are in receipt of settlement of your account by the close of business tomorrow we will be able to book your container to load from our depot on Thursday of this week that will in turn provide an anticipated departure date of Tuesday next week (June 6th).”

previously I had been informed in writing that “On water transit time” was estimated at 28 days so it seemed that all was well as I quickly made the requested electronic funds transfer to ensure no delays.

Money gone, goods gone… what could possibly go wrong?

June 23rd, four weeks since my last communication with 1st Move International, I wrote to the woman who was supposed to be responsible for managing our move.

“I haven’t received our bill of lading and associated paperwork yet. Are you able to email these soon please?”

The response? two days later:

“It arrived on Friday – will send details by separate email shortly Many Thanks”

Wow! what a coincidence, just before I asked why, in four weeks, we had heard nothing, the news is delivered to them. And then, sure enough, I received the following:

Please be advised that we have received notification from the shipping line that your consignment has been shipped from the UK on the vessel as detailed below:

Vessel: Heluan
Sailed: 10 June 2012
ETA: 13 July 2012
Bill of Lading number: xxxxxxxx
Container number: cccccccc

Whoa! What happened to “28 days”? I thought to myself, I’ll get on the old web-er-oonie and find out where the good old Heluan is, she’s been at sea for nearly three weeks, can’t be too far away.

Imagine my amazement to find that the Heluan, in three weeks had managed to make it from Bristol to Antwerp.

On 6th July (26 days after sailing) I again fired up the web browser to see what progress the Heluan had made. Imagine my consternation to find that, rather than sailing toward Africa, the Middle East, or in fact anywhere further East than Antwerp, the vessel was back in Bristol.

I wrote to 1st Move International to express my frustration and ask why there was discrepancy between the dates they had provided and the reality. I have as yet received no response.

Yesterday, 9th July (29 days after sailing), I again checked the Heluan’s progress. To find… that the boat was back in Antwerp.

I have of course, again written to 1st move International to try to get some further information. Even if this boat was to get on jet skis, I can’t see it getting to Qatar in the next four days and this means that it will arrive in the Ramadan period.

Oh yes, Ramadan

This religious festival is a major disruption to the normal functioning of business here in the Middle East. Apart from certain substances (substances that are generally used to quench thirst, preserve fruit and clean things) not being available for purchase for more than a month; you shouldn’t expect to get much output from any business or government department for the entire duration of the festival. In fact many locals simply leave town. The impact that this has on any personal effects shipment arriving in Qatar is yet to be seen.

Of course, we too will be going on holiday in Ramadan, and no doubt, somebody will try to charge us for storage of our personal effects during that time. I have little doubt that 1st move International will refuse to be held liable for this. After all why would they do anything out of character.

In the event that, by some miracle, my effects do arrive in the next week. I’ll let you know.

Update 9th July 2012 PM

Email received from 1st move International. There is light at the end of the tunnel:

Apologies for the delay in coming back to you.  We have checked this with the shipping line this morning who have advised that the Heluan is the feeder vessel that carried your container from the UK to Antwerp where it would be transferred to the connecting vessel for onward transit to destination.  Transhipment of containers from one vessel to another is common practise with Antwerp being one of the main northern European transhipment ports.  Ordinarily when a shipment is being transhipped in this manner we are alerted to this by the shipping line by means of being provided with both ‘feeder’ vessel and onward carrying (referred to as ‘Ocean’) vessel details however, in this instance we were not furnished with this information in advance as we would normally be.  We have requested urgent confirmation of the connecting ‘ocean’ vessel details form the shipping line this morning.  Our apologies again for any confusion or undue concern that this may have caused and will revert to you further with confirmation of the same as soon as received.

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4 comments on “Random Observations – Moving to Qatar

  1. i have been enjoying reading your blog as i prepare for my own move to qatar from the uk. i am currently in the process of selecting a moving company for my belongings and 1st move was one of the companies on my contact list. is there a company that you would recommend? perhaps the company you used for your initial move from the uk? any advice would be greatly appreciated. cheers

    • Hi Bevy,

      thanks for providing some feedback. We have moved many times over the years including with Grace and Allied-Pickfords. I am not sure if these companies operate in the UK but I had mixed experiences with them anyway so would hardly recommend them.

      To be fair to Firstmove I can tell you that our furniture was wrapped well and arrived unharmed. This is with the exception of our main mattress which had clearly been either left in the rain or dropped in a puddle of water at some stage. This clearly didn’t happen in Qatar. In general the goods in the boxes we packed was relatively undamaged. Most of the distress was caused by the fact that it was rifled by the Qatari Customs. This is going to happen anyway so there is not much you can do to avoid it. If you can get tripple skinned boxes or wooden tea chests, do so – the boxes get a hard time before and after transportation.

      We had a lot of CDs and DVDs and a lot of printed material. Despite the fact that much of this was for my wife’s teaching work I suspect that it was one of the reasons the QC spent so much time pawing through our stuff. My advice would be “don’t bring it”.

      I hope this helps in some small way.

      …..Andre

  2. Sorry, forgot to mention that we have 2 kids, the eldest of them is a boy of 7 yo , bilingual, speaking Russian perfectly, and a girl of 2 yo. It could be interesting to communicate if you also have kids learning Russian But even if you don’t have any of this kind, it could be interesting as well 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Marie,

      Happy to catch up. Let us know when you are arriving and we will arrange to meet.we do have guests for last few days of oct / start of nov but drop me an email at andre@snoxalls.com

      My phone number is 3396 6364. Our kids are a bit older though (18, 18, 21, 26, 26)

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