When it comes to transporting fine art and antiques, there are
plenty of shipping companies who offer services specially tailored
for the industry. Most offer full packing, storage and
international shipping services, while many have now gone a step
further and offer bonded warehouse facilities, free from duty and
From both a dealer's and collector's point of view, this can be
a secure and cost-effective way of storing items over a period of
time while consolidating a larger consignment for shipping.
However, if you talk to dealers, competitive pricing - provided
the service is reliable - still comes top of the list. With margins
to consider, that's hardly surprising, but shippers' clients also
need to be aware that cutting corners to get a cheap deal may
eventually come at a far greater cost.
Mark Dodgson, Secretary General of the British Antique Dealers'
Association (BADA), argues that a reliable insurance policy,
whether organised directly or through your shipper, needs to be
It's a concern that his members have raised on more than one
occasion, and it's a view echoed by LAPADA, who note that some
shippers now allow clients to organise their own insurance. If you
do, though, it's essential that your policy meets the shipper's
terms and conditions… and vice versa.
A list of shippers can be found on this website (click here), but
both associations also publish lists of recommended shippers on
their websites, www.lapada.org and www.bada.org.
What makes a Good Shipper?
The Export Expert
US Regulations for Sea Freight
Checklist for Transit - the Insurer's
used here were provided by Alban Shipping (www.albanshipping.co.uk)
"Members find that service levels can vary considerably between
shippers and carriers," says Mr Dodgson.
"What may seem like a similar company, with a similar quote, may
often provide a very different level of service, usually dependent
on the quality of management, and not just on the staff doing the
"Shippers with their own offices in popular overseas
destinations (such as New York) seem to provide a better service
than those shipping to those destinations. This is because there is
a named individual with whom the customer can liaise directly when
Mr Dodgson and his members also believe that the personality and
'can do' attitude of the staff makes a large difference also in the
interface between dealer and shipper.
"Even issues such as how a
wrapping service at fairs is operated can be crucial. Some
carriers/shippers insist on charging cash to wrap goods at fairs,
rather than putting it on account. When a dealer is at a fair it
can be very inconvenient to start rummaging around for payment.
"Other shippers with a presence at fairs have been known not to
wrap items for dealers, leaving the dealer on their hands and knees
with bubblewrap in front of a valued customer."
When it comes to packing and shipping, technology and service
has moved on at such a pace over the past few years that it seems
our possessions travel more comfortably and securely than we
For instance, acid-free tissue, moulded foam and double boxing
are just three methods of packing that ensure art and antiques
remain damage-free throughout transit.
So what sort of service can one expect these days, whether as a
dealer or collector?
Things have moved
on quite a bit from the brown paper, string and sealing wax days of
hope-for-the-best. And with what many shippers see as a shrinking
marketplace, they have had to diversify, developing new services
such as high security, climate-controlled, long-term storage.
Some even offer this with 24- hour access for clients who get
their own key. Such facilities open up all sorts of opportunities
to dealers who trade in several countries and do not want the
expense of setting up a gallery in each, but who also do not want
to be forever filling out customs paperwork and paying for their
stock to be transported from one port to another.
Ron Tabor, managing director of Art- Plus shippers (www.art-plus.co.uk) of
Palmers Green, London, used to be the manager of the Export
Licensing Branch. He believes that one of the biggest stumbling
blocks for those considering shipping is incorrect paperwork.
He advises clients to employ a competent professional to
complete the paperwork for them, and to ensure that they have
checked the following:
■ Current exchange rates and values of items.
■ Regulations for the re-export of items being imported.
■ That there is clear evidence of items being exported,
otherwise HMRC may tax them anyway.
■ That your chosen courier company is covered for moving art and
antiques. Some of the leading firms are not. Dealer associations
BADA and LAPADA offer detailed advice on export terms and
conditions via their websites.
In brief, key facts to include the following:
■ There are two values above which a licence is required: that
set by the UK and that set by the EU. The UK value applies to
exports to another EU state. The lower of either the UK or EU value
applies to exports to a state outside the EU.
■ For the most part, objects over 50 years old, valued at
£65,000 or more, need an export licence.
■ Certain objects require a licence at lower thresholds. These
include, but are not restricted to, photographs and arms and
■ The threshold for paintings in oil or tempera is £180,000.
■ Firearms need
Richard Edwards of Anglo Pacific International's Fine Art
Division (www.anglopacific.co.uk) says that one of the
most far-reaching changes recently has been the introduction by the
US Government of further security restrictions on sea freight
shipments, in the form of US Importer Security Filing 10+2.
"Although this was introduced in January 2009, it was not
enforced until 2010, when greater scrutiny was applied and severe
penalties imposed for failure to comply," he told ATG.
The minimum fine for breaching regulations is $5000, which is
charged to the US import agent. The problem is that the new
restrictions add substantially to the burden of paperwork.
"They come in addition to all the usual shipping documents that
have always been provided, such as the loading manifest, bill of
lading, certificate of origin and so on. For shipments of personal
effects, approval must be obtained from US Customs at Felixstowe
before the shipment may be loaded."
To do this, clients have to supply the shipper with their
passport number or EIN/SSN number and photo identification. Then
the shipper also has to supply their own date of birth and
nationality, as well as the name, address and telephone contact of
the receiving party in the USA.
That's not all. ISF 10+2 also demands the following information
for every consignment to the USA:
■ The name and address of the supplier or manufacturer.
■ The seller's name and address.
■ The buyer's name and address.
■ The name and address of the consignee.
■ The name and address of the container loading location.
■ The name and address of the party who loaded the
■ The IRS, EIN or SSN numbers for the party who will pay US
import duties and taxes.
■ The IRS, EIN or SSN number for the person who will pay
■ The country of manufacture, growth or production of each
physical item in the consignment.
■ The US Commodity number for the contents of the
"As you can imagine, this all takes time and adds a huge burden
of cost to the administration of even the most straightforward
shipment, something that our clients find difficult to understand,"
says Mr Edwards.
"Some clients are reluctant to provide all the information we
have to supply; nevertheless we are obliged to provide this
The globalisation of the art market and the rise of the internet
have made far-flung acquisitions possible. Demand for rapid
transportation of objects from city to city, country to country and
continent to continent place an emphasis on adequate packing
methods and appropriate insurance cover, says Alexander Rich, a
director of Richard Thompson Insurance Brokers Ltd (view website here).
Most insurance policies carry general transport conditions
requiring objects to be adequately packed so as to "withstand
normal handling during transit". Some policies go further,
stipulating that "insured property is packed and unpacked for
transit by competent packers".
This type of clause doesn't require every item to be packed to
the highest professional standards (though insurers would like
this), but it does mean insurers will review the method of
transport used if a claim is submitted.
The physical protection of an object through adequate packing
and sensible labelling is the most important thing that you can do
to save time, money and aggravation. Good packing practices can
establish your professional reputation. With some objects now being
bought speculatively from small 'thumbnail' images, adequate
packing not only avoids the huge disappointment of great
acquisitions arriving in pieces, but also circumvents disappointed
buyers voiding transactions by stating that purchases arrived
It is far more preferable for a work of art to arrive safely
than to have to make a claim under an insurance policy which may
have other monetary repercussions through increased premiums or
The following prudent guidelines should ensure that you meet
conditions and avoid insurance claims:
Physically protect objects by adequate
■ Bubble-wrap alone, lined with acid-free tissue, might be
sufficient for a hand-carried journey across town, but would not be
adequate for international postal dispatches.
■ Place small objects in much larger boxes than needed: there is
less chance of a larger package getting lost in transit. Ideally,
double-box items with a layer of foam chipping between.
■ Ensure that contents are not vulnerable to cutting when they
are unwrapped. In particular, antiquarian books and canvas
paintings should be sturdily wrapped to avoid their being slashed
by box cutters during the opening process.
■ Always check for damage immediately upon arrival, ideally in
front of the delivery service: if this is not possible, write
"unchecked" beside the details. It is not good practice to unwrap
objects later and notify those at fault weeks afterwards.
■ Make sure that packages are correctly labelled. Double-check
addresses and post/zip codes and ensure that they are easy to
■ Do not write the value of the goods on a parcel. If it is
necessary to state a value for export purposes, ensure that this
information is discreetly placed in an envelope on the side of a
■ If packages need to be kept upright etc, then ensure that the
correct axis is clearly marked.
■ If you are an antiques dealer or sending goods to an antiques
shop or jeweller, avoid labels that could emphasise the goods
■ Avoid the risk of 'signed for' packages being taken in by
neighbours by stating that they are for named recipients only.
■ If using a courier or the post, use a monitored/tracked
■ Make sure you know who is responsible for insurance. If you
are not confident about sending goods to a particular area, make
sure that all costs go forward and that insurance is the
responsibility of the addressee. You do not want damaged items
returned if you did everything right.
■ If you are relying on a third party's cover or on the
insurance of a shipper and packer, courier or postal service, make
certain you have read the Terms & Conditions. They might not
cover "unique" items (i.e.works of art), may only pay the cost of
the loss or damage (with no "depreciation" cover), or only cover
goods for a small amount of 'Standard Drawing Rights' [SDR's] per
■ If you are using your own policy, make sure that you have
sufficient cover. If you are using a courier or postal service,
check whether these are appropriate for valuable objects.
■ If you are undertaking a transit yourself, avoid leaving
objects in an unattended vehicle. Make certain that you know what
the implications are if you do have to do this: many policies have
an "Unattended Vehicles Clause" excluding cover or stipulating a
limit and requiring a vehicle to be locked and alarmed and items to
be kept out of view.
■ If you are hand-carrying objects, make sure that you have
arranged transport in advance and make certain that you are able to
keep packages with you as hand luggage.