Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Unloading your container

Posted by urufish on May 27, 2007

 unload-container.jpg Dec. 24/2006.  Sorry.. no white Xmas. 

While we’re on the topic of container manifests, why not follow up with the whole container process.  

The decision to ship household goods is a personal one for every immigrant.  Each case is different.  Some people want to get rid of everything.  At the other end, people like us, professional horders, want to keep everything.  If you’re going to pick up and move your family half way around the world, it made sense to us to surround ourselves with everything we held dear to our hearts over the years.  It would also make it esaier for our teenage daughter.  If you have to lose all your friends, at least you get to sleep in your own bed, surrounded by familliar furniture and all the stuffed animals and toys that you played with all our life.  

My wife, being a member of the ex-pat Toronto, Uruguayan community for 35 years  knew the 2 Urugayans who specialized in shipping goods to Uruguay from Canada. We also got very lucky with timing.  The Uruguayan consul, a friend (and neighbour) of ours, was going back to Uruguay in June.  The government pays for diplomats’ containers, outbound and inbound.  He chose Canur Courier Service in Toronto, Canada.  ( http://www.directoriolatino.ca/web20/LookUpManager.aspx?keywords=Envios%20de%20Carga )  If this link doesn’t work, Google:  Canur Courier Toronto.  They ship approximately 10 containers to Uruguay every year for many years.  They do everything but more importantly, they know ‘everyone’. 

We met one of the owners, Oscar, at a few parties in the past.  My wife called him to come over and give us a quote.  He looked around the house.  My wife told him what was not going with us.  He took about 2 weeks to get back to us with a quote (still thinks like a Uruguayan after all these years :).  He figured one container, U$S4250.  

We flew back to Toronto a week before the container was to be loaded and finished up the packing of delicate and personal items.  Then, realizing what we needed and didn’t have in the house, went on a shopping spree which included boxes of peanut butter and salad dressing. 

The container arrived on time, mid day of the day before the loading was to start.  The next day, Oscar, his brother and 3 other men showed up.  They decided what would go in first.. things that we didn’t want customs to see.  The new, never opened clothes, LCD TV’s, and related electronic equipment and a motorcycle we decided to ship at the last minute.  They continued to load the container throughout the day and into the evening.  This went on for 3 days. 

Loading a container is nothing like a moving van.  We moved 3 or 4 times before this.  We used professional movers from top companies like Mayflower.  In those moves, the movers worked quickly, carrying things out into the driveway where goods were staged.  The guy or guys on the truck would drape the furniture with thick blankets and put them on the truck, securing them with straps as they worked.   About 2/3 through the day, they’d pack up and drive (intra-city moving), to your new house.  They’d be unload and be done usually by nightfall. 

With a container, it’s totally different.  The first thing they do is build a wooden compartment at the front.  Half the height of the container, and with  a floor.  In the top section, the put boxes.  In the bottom section, as described above, items that you want to keep away from customs and those that you want to keep as safe and secure as possible.  Each time  an item is placed, the container guy measures the space remaining, to the centimeter and calls out the exact size of what he wants next.  The guys in the house scour around for something with the closest fit and they bring that.  Insted of blankets, they will use bubble wrap or foam sheets.  We did something unusual by buying a supply of one time shipping blankets, so we put both those and bubble wrap on our furniture.  These sections are 8 feet deep.  Once they finish one section, they stop loading and build another.  They build 5 of these in total.  In our case, it took them 3 full days to complete this process.  And remember, this was only the loading.  Unloading would take place a couple of months later. 

When the packing is done, they pull out a seal and put it on the ctontainer, in front of your eyes.  You write down the seal number.  It should not broken when you see it on the Uruguay end.  In addition to this seal, we put our own locks on the container and kept the keys with us.  The ONLY reason for opening the container is, yep, you guessed it, US Customs or Homeland Security.  This is very rare, but possible.  We were Canadians but since our container had to go by truck to NYC, we were subject to the same checks Americans are.  Had we loaded the container in Montreal, we could have avoided that possibility but we took our chances.  Customs do NOT put the container back the way it was AND it’s impossible to prove they damaged something.  Been there, done that with international trucking years back.  Not a nice thing.    

We made our manifest the day after we loaded the 2 containers (a full one and half of another one).   We typed it out from written notes my wife and friends scribbled down while packing and loading it at the Toronto end.  Of course, some unmentionables never made it on the manifest or did so cryptically. 

Because we also insured our container, we took a little extra care with the manifest, also adding the replacement value of each item.  We emailed one copy to the shipping company and one to the insurer.  I cant recall if my wife gave the manifest to the consulate in Toronto or not.  I know she filled in some papers there (that had to be done before we left) at the consulate.  Check with your consulate to see what you need to do there if you’re bringing in items duty free. 

We met with the shipping company the day after they took the containers and finished all the paperwork.  The move was supposed to be one container, cost U$S4250.  This includes packing at our end, loading the container, shipping the container, clearing customs in Uruguay, delivering the container and putting everything in the house.  We ended up with 1.5 containers at U$S6375.  At the last minute, we decided to keep our basement furniture and went on a 3 day shopping spree at WalMart and the Building Center.  They gave us an approximate idea of when our containers would arrive.  The trip normally takes 4 weeks, but we didn’t want the containers until mid December, so we had one sit in Toronto (paid storage) for 3 weeks.  The other, because it was a half, and had to wait to be combined with other customers’ boxes and furniture, would take an extra 2 weeks and our shipper could hold the delivery up for a few days in Montevideo.  They told us the containers would go by truck to NYC, then by boat to Montevideo.  As it turns out, the boat went to Buenos Aires and the containers were transferred to a smaller ship there. 

The shipping company called us a couple of days before the containers were due to arrive and organized the deliveries with us for the day before Christmas.  For the half container, it wasn’t a big deal because they would offload at their warehouse and send over 2-3 smaller truckloads with their guys.  But the full container required some planning.  The day before the container was to arrive, some men came here and put flashing pylons in front of our house (see photo above).  There was a car in the way so they paid the parking guy a small sum to put them in place when the car pulled away.  By the end of that evening, we had closed off the entire front of our house and half the neighbour’s property. 

The next day, the container arrived early in the morning (see above).    I checked the seal.  It was unbroken.  I took off our locks.  The customs guys showed up.  We opened the doors and I could swear I smelled Toronto air 🙂  The customs guys joked around with the shipper for 30 minutes and then they left.  To the right in the picture above is my wife, her friend and Oscar, the shipper. 

You might be able to make it out in the picture but there is a wood floor half way up the walls that stretches the entire length of the container.  It’s built in 8 foot sections at a time.  This is done so they can load to the ceiling without placing too much weight on the bottom.  I think the container is about 7 or 8 feet high.  So there’s no more than 3.5 to 4 feet of vertical weight.  This is built with 2×4 and 1/2 inch plywood.  In our case, the shipper is a Uruguayan and he’s been doing this for years.  He built an entire house with Canadian wood framing by recovering wood from all the containers he’s sent here over the past 10 years.  Ours was no exception. 

We did something a little unusual too for packing.  We purchased a couple of hundred moving blankets to make sure everything was properly padded.  You can see a few furniture items wrapped in blue.  That’s them.  We’ve been selling them off here and there over the past few months and they took off recently, as blankets to cover beds.  It’s getting cold now. 


16 Responses to “Unloading your container”

  1. Anderson said

    Great work, keep it up…..

  2. […] thank for it. He helped settled the issue once and for all, by writing about the trans-hemisphere moving process and the costs associated with […]

  3. […] to these two articles( here and here), the cost of moving household goods from North America to Uruguay falls in the range of […]

  4. juan del plata said

    the email for canur doesnt work:

  5. urufish said

    I’ll give them a call later today..
    BTW, had lunch with Migel, Canur brother #2, last week across the street in Costa de Azul…
    When he moved our house, I loaned him my measuring tape. He put in his toolbox by accident. He found it after I left and brought it all the way down here and dropped it off at my house.
    Really nice guy.

  6. Shall we bring electrical appliances to Uruguay?

    Is Montevideo a better city and Uruguay a better country to live in than Buenos Aires?

    How cold does it get in Montevideo?

  7. urufish said

    We brought all of our electrical appliances with us… See a full description of how that’s done at

    I lived in the biggest city in Canada all my life, 6mil people in the metro area. I didn’t want to do that again. Montevideo is smaller… abou 1mil people.. Right size for us. If we decide we want the glitz again for a weekend or even a day, we take the Buquebus overt to BA. We have friends who go there almost every weekend.

    Doesn’t get near as cold as it gets in Toronto. No snow. No ice. The coldest months are Jul/August. If you have central heating, it’s just a dreary experience… I’ve been here for 3 winters. Lived through 2 of them. 2006 was mild by Uruguay standards and it was a non event. 2007 was severe by Uruguay standards. Most northerners complained about it… Many expats didn’t have central heating. We do. So it didn’t bother us much. My advice to a northerner coming to live here is simple. Do what you did up north, in reverse. Break up the winter here by going north (as opposed to going south), in July or August.

    I break up the year this way…. you have 6 months of excellent weather… Come mid September, things start to get nice. You get nice days here and there. By October, it’s nice most of the time. November is nicer and getting hotter. December is hot, as is January and February… come March, things are nice. April nice most of the time.. May, you’ll get cool evenings… and some cool days.. It’s winter by June. To sum it up, 4 months are cold, with some nice and even warm days sprinkled through… a real treat… But it’s not the cold you get in the northern US or Canada. Net: 8 months are good. 6 of those are great.

    Locals drive scooters and motorbikes all year long. That should give you another perspective on winters here.

  8. Agnieszka said

    Hi there,
    I have a question about a manifest and customs in Uruguay. I just loaded my container 2 days ago and Im wondering how it works once the container gets there. do they open the boxes , how do they check what’s in ?How detailed they are ?


  9. Anonymous said

    If it’s a full container. If the manifest is exactly what customs wants to see. If there’s nothing on the manifest of particular interest to them. If there’s nothing in the back 5 feet that’s of particular interest to them. If it’s being unloaded at your apartment/house here in Montevideo the customs people normally spend 30 minutes at the beginning.. just looking on and then leave.
    If they find something unusual, they may stay for the entire unloading, looking into most or all of your boxes.

  10. Doruletz said

    Hi Urufish.
    I read all your posts with outmost interest. We live in the US and want to move to Uruguay. Both my wife and I are 41 yrs of age, not retired, no monthly pension or other income. We will have suficient funds to come over with in order to buy a house, start a small business, etc.
    My main question is: Can we get the permanent residency processed and approved at an Uruguay Consulate and obtain it pryor to coming to Uruguay?
    Also does your mover Canur Courier Service have people in the US? Or can your Oscar come to the US and do / supervise the packing?
    Is it better if I buy my own container(s)? Can I keep / use / sell them in Uruguay?
    If I want to bring a 2007 model vehicle will it be dutty free or do you have any ideea on how much the dutty tax will be?
    Please reply. Thanks.

  11. Anonymous said

    Hi I want to send a container to my husband family in uruguay!! we live in the states and not planning to move there.do i need to be moving there to send a container???

  12. urufish said

    You dont have to move to Uruguay to send a container. The only thing moving back does is allow the goods to enter Uruguay duty free.
    It all comes down to money.

    If you dont mind paying the taxes (or his family doesn’t paying them), just fill it up and send it and within 30-45 days, your husband’s family will have it.

  13. VITA said


  14. urufish said

    Most people that ship containers to Uruguay find a company by calling around in their city.
    If your husband is connected with the Uruguayan community in Boston, he can ask them. There’s always someone who knows someone who knows someone who has experience with shipping. That’s how we got our containers shipped from Toronto–through connections in Club Uruguay.

    To ship a container, you’re talking about a ‘lot’ of stuff. A 20 foot containers handles a complete 2 bedroom apartment.

    Being American doesn’t help or hinder the operation. A 20 foot container from Boston shouldn’t cost more than $3K. Remember, there are costs here to deliver it once it’s arrived and customs brokers’ fees.

  15. VITA said


  16. Now I am going away to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast
    coming yet again to read further news.

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