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Making International Travel and Shipping Plans for Concrete Projects

Pile of things to be loaded onto a long-haul truck.While in the course of business these days, you will sometimes be asked to travel outside the United States to do decorative concrete work. The pitfalls are many, but the windfalls can be huge.

The very first thing to do is to make very sure that your contracts are clear and concise on who is paying for what. You should also try to get your client or your general contractor to recommend a reliable shipper and a safe place to stay.

In the case of most other countries there are a number of issues to consider, such as the transportation and storage of your equipment. Remember that the reason you are being hired is that they can’t find anyone local to do what you can do or who has the tools needed, not to mention the materials. This is also why these jobs pay well. So quadruple-check your list. A good rule of thumb is if you didn’t bring it you probably won’t be able to get it, so check that list just one more time.

Your shipper is going to require an amazing amount of paperwork that is extremely detailed: an IMO Dangerous Goods Declaration, MSDS sheets, a letter of clearance for any machine that uses oil or gasoline (with all fuel removed and the equipment shrink-wrapped), a manifest of items that are being shipped, and a complete list of what will be used and what will stay in your host country. (There will be a duty charged.) Most importantly, you will want a very detailed list of items for temporary usage that will be coming back with you, i.e. your equipment. The lists need to be submitted, stamped and approved by a customs clearing office.

This is why you might want to hire someone who is adept in shipping to your destination. Ask your shipper if they have someone at the other end who can help you get your shipment through customs in a timely manner. Be nice to everyone — don’t be an ugly American.

Three guys using a forklift to load the truck of supplies needed for an international project.

Having a few dollars to spread around certainly won’t hurt your cause. Just remember you are going to need these same people in reverse when you try to leave.

So we are now going to assume that you have everything you need in the container. We are also going to assume that you have been informed that you must supply the appropriate hazard placards for the container so that it can be transported.

Does every member of your crew have the appropriate documentation, a passport and a current criminal background check along with the application for work visas that you should have applied for the minute you knew you had the job? Time can be cruel. Hopefully these are also things and costs you have spelled out very carefully in your contract.

You’ll want to try and gauge your arrival as close to when your container comes out of customs as possible. Nothing will kill your bottom line faster than giving an entire crew a couple of days paid vacation while you are waiting for customs to clear your equipment and materials.

Fast forward — your job is complete, your client is happy and life is good. You have made sure that anything that could be on the punch list is done, that your portion of the project is protected and that you have your money. Again, make sure before you leave that your returning items have been properly stored, that your paperwork is good and that your shipper has the proper instructions.

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