Sunday, March 01, 2015

UAB & HHE (aka HHG)

Our Household Effects (HHE) shipment was finally delivered last week after being packed out of DC in mid-December, thus completing our international, intercontinental move to Jeddah. As we take a break from trying to find a place to put all of our stuff, it seems like a good time to recap this particularly tortuous move.
Two crates per truck, so we had three trucks with 5.5 crates.
In case you're not up on your State Department acronyms, here are the ones I'll be using throughout this post:
  • UAB: Un-Accompanied Baggage. This is a size- and weight-restricted shipment that goes by air. The weight limits vary based on the number of people moving, anywhere from 250 lbs for a single person to 750 lbs for a family of four, and some In theory, this only takes a few weeks to go from door to door and is often expected to be waiting at the onward assignment.
  • HHE: HouseHold Effects, basically the bulk of your stuff.  The military calls it HHG for HouseHold Goods, but it's the same thing.
  • GSO: General Services Office, the logistics center of an embassy/consulate that deals with shipping, motorpool, customs clearance, government furniture, etc. Definitely folks you want as friends.
Timeline for shipping UAB and HHE:
14 Nov 14: The moving company estimated that our UAB would arrive in country on 3 Jan 15. The pre-move survey weights are +/- 10%: UAB (700 lbs); HHG (6188 lbs); Storage (5880 lbs). Note: State Department, as opposed to the moving company, will handle coordination of storage shipment.
8-13 Dec 14: UAB/HHE/Storage packed up this week. Actual weights:
  • UAB: 695 lbs of authorized 750 lb limit
  • HHE: 4,509 lbs of authorized 7200 lb limit
  • Storage: No weight provided by agent (but well under the remainder of the combined 18,000 pound limit).
15 Dec 14: The moving company informed us that they were advised to hold the shipments (UAB and HHG) until we arrive in Jeddah.
29 Dec 14: The UAB shipment has been booked and should depart on or around 1/6, and the HHE shipment has been booked and should depart on or around  01/11/15.
31 Dec 14: A question came up about whether to ship the Tempurpedic mattress. Apparently, the manufacturer recommends that they ship flat (who knew?) but ours is already loaded vertically in the crate. We'll risk it that all the foam doesn't sink down to the bottom of the crate. Fingers crossed.
7 Jan 15: UAB departed US.
9 Jan 15: UAB "shipment arrived to the destination port and is undergoing the customs process at this time."
11 Jan 15: HHE departed US, expected arrival date: 11 Feb 15.
14 Jan 15: My iqama came in! So I gave a copy of it to the GSO for them to start the process of releasing my UAB from customs. Post had to wait for the iqama (Saudi ID card) to start the customs clearance process, which requires exemption documents to be approved. They estimate two weeks for the approval of the letter, and then another week for my UAB to clear customs. The HHE needs 7-10 days after the exemption letter approval to clear customs, and then another three weeks to break the bulk crates (something I don't really understand).
29 Jan 15: UAB has cleared customs.
1 Feb 15: UAB delivery date scheduled.
4 Feb 15: UAB delivered! So, at a minimum, had our UAB shipped the day we hopped on the plane over here, it would have taken just over a month to clear all the administrative hurdles. Of course, the Saudis didn't allow that clock to start until we arrived in country so those three weeks lead time in December were unnecessary. But it looks like everything made it here safely.
5 Feb 15: HHE exemption letter received by GSO and delivered to customs for clearance. Anticipated two weeks until delivery.
17 Feb 15: Notified by the GSO that the shipment should have arrived in Jeddah on 13 Feb 15, and started customs clearance on 15 Feb 15...and should be released in 10 days. Fun fact: It departed from a port call in Aqaba, Jordan on 11 Feb 15.
22 Feb 15: HHE has cleared customs. Contacted by GSO to schedule HHE delivery.
24 Feb 15: HHE delivered!


The actual move-in was pretty fast. The crew of 10 (seriously, 10 people?) arrived by 9 am, and were done unloading five and a half 8x8x4-ft crates by 10:30 am. They had to rotate trucks in and out, since they could only put two crates on a truck at a time (see the picture above). I'm guessing that they don't really have a need for the massive moving trucks like back in the US. We had just over 200 items, and I was trying my best to mark off each number as the crew called it out in rapid succession, but there were some numbers that sounded like something they just made up. For example, "firty": is that thirty or forty? Also, they really, really liked calling out the "double" numbers, like "double seven" for seventy-seven...the best was 111 as "triple one." Sometimes they called out the number in Arabic just to mess with me.

So, now we have all of our stuff. And since we've gotten used to over a month of living with very little stuff, it now seems like we have way too much stuff.  Part of that is because we still need to return the welcome kit to the GSO, so that we don't have twice as many plates, tea kettles, pots, pans, or government-issued furniture than we really need. We also returned two queen size mattresses & box springs since we shipped ours (the Tempurpedic made it just fine) and wanted to downsize the beds in the girl's rooms. I'm curious to see how much of the stuff we brought with us doesn't go on to the next post (I'm already planning for it).

Lessons Learned:
  • Take full advantage of your carry-on baggage limit, because that's the only stuff you can count on having within the first month of landing in country. Rather than re-buy stuff you already have, you should include in your carry-on:
    • Two or three quality knives. GSO welcome kit includes some, but they will annoy you. Same goes for the vegetable peeler or anything else that can get dulled from use.
    • A leatherman multi-tool and an adjustable wrench (you'll have to have these in checked baggage).
    • Any pots and pans you frequently use. For us it was a skillet, a pot, spatulas and wooden spoons.
    • Measuring cups and spoons with English and Metric units. We were supposed to have a measuring cup in our GSO welcome kit, but we didn't. 
    • Swimsuits. It's better to have and not need to buy.
    • At least one suit, because you never know when you'll need one.
  • On moving day, have cash on hand for tipping, as well as disposable cups and pitcher of water for the movers. It's your stuff, you want them to take care of it.
  • A few days before the movers arrive, re-familiarize yourself with what's on your bill of lading, so that you have an idea what's coming in and where you want to put it. We had a lot of "Uh...put it in the, uh, carport and we'll figure it out later."
  • Get the movers to unwrap as much stuff as you can before they leave, because it's gonna take weeks to get all the paper and boxes out in the local recycling pick-up.

Recommended items to keep handy when you're moving:


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