1 October 2013

International shipping: Peace of mind or a crateful of regret?

VEHICLES COVERED: 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

WHAT WENT WRONG: As the popularity of classic cars grows and more collectors participate in events overseas, the odds of suffering a shipping mishap rise accordingly. It’s one thing to roll a classic onto a cross-country hauler that never leaves the pavement; another thing entirely when it is loaded into a container, hoisted by a crane and placed aboard a cargo ship – as the owner of a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing can attest. At some point during the loading or unloading process, a steel crate containing the $700,000 Gullwing – which had been shipped from New Zealand to California – was dropped from a height of 10-25 feet.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The drop distance was considerable enough to cause substantial damage to the Gullwing’s body, frame and mechanical systems. In order to fully assess the damage (most of which was not easily identifiable), the vehicle had to be completely torn down. The car’s frame and transmission underwent magniflux inspection to determine whether there were any distortions, weak spots or cracks in any of the weld joints; the frame was sent to a specialist to make sure it was straight; the engine was torn down and fully inspected; and body work was required all around, along with a new paint job. Total cost of repair was nearly $500,000, which Hagerty paid – minus a $1,000 deductible and an unfathomably low $500 that the shipping company was required to pay, thanks to the “Carriage of Goods by Sea Act,” which limits the amount recoverable to $500 per 100 cubic feet.

LESSON: The lesson here couldn’t be clearer: There is no substitute for international shipping and touring insurance. If you choose to rely on the shipping company to cover your classic in the event of a claim, you’ll get $500 – along with a crateful of regret.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    J Din United States October 2, 2013 at 16:53
    This seriously made me cringe. Good on Hagerty for covering this. Though if I was the owner, I think I'd probably be stuck in one spot with my jaw on the floor for about 6 weeks after hearing the news.
  • 2
    bentleyguy Oregon October 2, 2013 at 18:32
    I would like to add that the last car I shipped over the ocean, a Tatra 603 was fully insured for ocean marine coverage through Hagerty for a far lower cost and with a much broader scope of coverage than the insurance which my shipping broker had offered.
  • 3
    Gus Hernandez Jr. Billings, MT October 2, 2013 at 18:39
    First of all, I would never trust a shipper to ship a car such as this in a container on an ocean-going ship. I would specify that it be loaded separately into an airplane and the cost would not be close to what it took to restore this magnificent automobile to drivable condition. Half a million dollars is a lot of money to redo a car, no matter what it is. Good lesson learned here.
  • 4
    Peter Nelson calif October 2, 2013 at 20:10
    almost worth crying over...good advice also
  • 5
    Dan Terrick Pittsburgh, PA Go Bucs!! October 3, 2013 at 15:51
    What a crying shame that a shipping company basically takes no responsibility ensuring they will deliver your goods in the same way they were packed. Five hundred dollars is a sin. What government official got paid off on this law?
  • 6
    Stephen Shriver Lone Tree, CO October 3, 2013 at 11:42
    At $500k in repairs, sounds like the container was probably dropped from the higher end of the 10-25 foot estimate. Hagerty is a great company - I've been a customer of theirs for many years with 2 different cars.
  • 7
    Wayne Krennerich Houston October 4, 2013 at 13:45
    I have 20+ years experience in International Freight Forwarding. The worst mistakes I have seen are people who ship autos, machinery, etc in containers and want to pack it themselves to save money. In 99% of the cases, I am able to convince them to us a professional packer. Cars can be tied down and shipped in containers as shown in the picture but the quality of the tie down is important. Shipping containers are subject to movement in many directions at one time while en route. The vessel moves forward and rolls side to side as the bow pitches up and down in the ocean swell. Imagine the damage that can incur if not tied down properly and that is without being dropped 15-20ft or more from the crane. Air freight is expensive and vehicles are subject to a lot of potential damage using that mode of transportation. Rare and expensive autos can be crated to minimize movement and offer greater protection but no amount of crating is fool-proof. Buy your marine insurance through your freight broker or Hagerty and be sure to use a professional packing firm. If it isn't packed professionally, your insurance company can avoid payment.
  • 8
    Bryan Vackar Insurance Carmel, IN October 4, 2013 at 16:35
    We used to buy "gray-market" German cars in the 1980s, but never had an incident like this (thank heavens!). As I recall, we always purchased insurance from the shipping expediter, but as I've come to learn, Hagerty's prices are more reasonable. @bentlyguy - I've been thinking about a Tatra T700 myself...am I nuts?
  • 9
    Mari Cruver Seattle, WA October 12, 2013 at 08:27
    I work for a freight forwarder and would never even consider shipping any of my cars. I've been to port & onboard a vessel as they drop the containers onto the vessels from about 25 feet. I would only halfway consider shipping a car via what they call roll on, roll off.....vehicles are loaded onto a special vehicle carrying cargo vessel and are not put into containers.

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