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Can we provide you with more information with regards Art Handling? Perhaps we can offer an estimate for a specific transport request?

Please contact us using the boxes to the right of the map. If you need an estimate, be sure to include sizes of the object, a brief description and their origin and destination.

If this is a purchase from an auction house, please include the sale date and lot number.

Thank you.

Aiston Fine Art Services
Phone: 212-715-0629
Fax: 718-361-8569

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Comprehensive Fine-Art Handling Solutions


Rules of Thumb
  • Sea shipments can take several weeks to be delivered.
  • A full container is the most cost-effective way to ship.
  • A groupage container is the next best, but might only be available on common routes.
  • Small shipments may need to be crated, depending on how the container is handled.

Before Containerization, all fragile shipments dispatched by boat had to be crated in sturdy timber crates, as they were individually loaded into the ship’s hold and frequently were subject to rough handling. Nowadays, shipments tend to travel inside steel containers and depending on the way that container is loaded and unloaded, can travel quite safely packed in padded paper and cardboard.

However, it is important to know how the container is loaded and unloaded. By far the safest and preferred way to send a shipment by sea is with a company that packs and loads an entire container full of individual shipments inside their warehouse and has that same container unloaded at the destination either within their own overseas warehouse or by a qualified and trusted foreign art handling agent.

This method of shipping is often referred to as a "groupage container", it is a method popular with European shippers since the late seventies. This affords the economies of scale of full-container shipping with the flexibility of shipping small consignments in a timely fashion.

If this level of port to port handling can not be guaranteed, it is advisable to crate the shipment, so that whilst the shipment is being loaded and off-loaded by fork-lift truck it is properly protected. The risk of pilferage is also eliminated.

A full container shipment is by far the most cost effective by unit volume. However unless the shipment is large to begin with, it often does not make sense to wait for enough to fill the container. Containers are either 20-feet or 40-feet long, each being approximately 8 feet wide and tall.

It is worth knowing however, that as long as the container is approximately 60% full it makes sense to send ones own full container shipment, rather than sharing, as the ease of handling a container at the destination will result in a cost saving over the handling and unloading of your portion of a shared container.

When it comes to shipping art or antiques, shipping in a container that is unloaded at the docks is not an option. Even if the consignment is crated, there is not enough control of consignments in a busy dockside environment to provide the security needed for valuable or fragile shipments. Warehouse to warehouse shipping is essential and the routing of any seafreight shipment should be taken into careful consideration.

It is just as important to ascertain the method of handling at the destination as it is at origin, perhaps more so. Time spent researching the handling agent at the arrival port will pay dividends when it comes time to organize the delivery. It is worth considering this when choosing the exporting agent, a company with strong ties with the destination port may make more sense than your usual shipper.

Though cost-effective, seafreight shipping has some drawbacks. It is much more time-consuming both in transit time and handling time at the destination. The interior of a container is subject to extreme heat, cold and humidity, worth considering for delicate furniture and fabrics. Furthermore, containers do fall off ships every day.

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