Project managing heavy machinery transportation to another country

Exporting heavy machinery can be a daunting task, especially if you have not managed this type of project before. In addition to knowledge of engineering, you will also need to have an understanding of international machinery shipping requirements, local laws related to tax and duties, as well as knowledge of customs documentation and procedures. This can be quite complex, and it can be easy to miss or wrongly interpret important rules and regulations.

Heavy Machinery Transportation To Another Country

We have spent decades transporting and installing heavy machinery, across multiple sectors, within difficult environments. This experience means that if you are in charge of project managing the export of a heavy machine to another country, we can help to guide you through the process.

Whilst we will never be able to impart all of the knowledge we have gained over our near 100 year history, here are some important areas for you to consider within your project plan.

  • Export law, duties, tax and tariffs
  • Detailed information about the machinery
  • Preparing the machinery for transport
  • How to choose a machinery transportation service
  • How to choose a shipping service
  • Risk management and insurance

Export law, duties, tax and tariffs

It is important to thoroughly research the import laws of the country you are exporting to so that you fully understand the taxes and duties that will be payable. Each country has a unique set of standards and documentation requirements and may also have other processes that you need to follow. For example, some countries will only allow import of ‘clean machines’ that are free of oils and other contaminants which may inadvertently bring pests and diseases to their country. It is vital to understand the impact these costs will have on your budget and the timescales involved to prepare and submit documents.

Detailed information about the machinery

Typically, this will involve obtaining precise measurements and weights, and how the machine will need to be decommissioned and dismantled. These machine dimensions and weights are important as this will determine the lifting equipment, vehicle transportation options, and packaging requirements. It will also help to determine the most appropriate shipping method.

Preparing the machine for transport

In order to satisfy insurance requirements and to provide evidence of the condition the machine was in prior to transport, it is important to take photographs that are date and time stamped. Some companies may also choose to employ a qualified surveyor to oversee the movement. This will provide independent certification of the machines’ condition before packing and ensure an itemised inventory of separate components is signed off.

In the majority of cases, a heavy machine can be packaged for export into a wooden crate that can be securely sealed. These are then lifted on to road or rail transports and transported to the port ready to be lifted onto a ship or freight train.

Choosing a machinery transportation service

By now, particularly if you have not exported a machine before, you are beginning to see that expert help can be invaluable in ensuring there are no hidden costs that have not been factored into the budget, minimising health and safety errors, and avoiding damages to the machinery during decommissioning and transport.

Our guide to choosing the right heavy machinery moving service will help you understand the key factors that we think you should consider when evaluating your potential project partners?

How to choose a shipping service

The size, weight and manoeuvrability of your machine and how it is packaged will determine shipping options. There are four main types of shipping for heavy machinery:

  • Container shipping
  • LoLo – Lift−on/Lift−off
  • RoRo – Roll−on/Roll−off
  • Flat Rack Shipping 

Container Shipping

Standard ISO shipping containers are 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high and come in two lengths; 20ft (6.06m) and 40ft (12.2m). There are also extra tall shipping containers available which measure 9.5ft (2.89m) high. These are called high-cube containers.

The majority of the heavy machines we transport are carefully packaged with even weight distribution within wooden crates so that they can be safely forklifted into a standard container shipping. A sealed container provides additional protection and assurance against damage. However, whilst this enables easy loading and unloading, there can be dis-advantages caused by the additional time it may take to dis-assemble and re-assemble the machine.


Another frequently used method is called “LoLo.” As the name suggests, Lift−on/Lift−off requires using a dockside crane to simply lift the heavy machine directly on and off the ship. Whilst LoLo is a relatively simple method of transporting heavy machinery by sea or rail, the need to have a crane capable of lifting and moving the machine and having specially trained crew to operate the crane at both ends, means that these costs need to be factored into the project cost.

Flat Rack Shipping

A flat rack is a shipping container without sidewalls or a roof. This means loads can be mounted onto the stackable surface of a container without being confined to its dimensional restrictions. Whilst this option overcomes size limitations of a standard container, your heavy machinery will be exposed wind and salt water. Whilst this can be avoided with careful packaging and by using tarpaulin covers, there is the risk that damage disputes may occur.


We find that this is generally unsuitable for most heavy machines as they usually are not mounted on wheels. Also, their unusual sizing and weight distribution means that this option is often also unpractical from a health and safety perspective.

Risk management and insurance

The HSE and your insurers will expect to see evidence that a risk assessment has been conducted and any potential risks have been minimised or eliminated.

When we are asked to submit a quote on a heavy machinery transportation project, Merritts will carry out detailed site survey to understand machine location, size and transport options. From this we will provide a comprehensive outline of our transport methodology, shipping options and costs proposals.

Once approved, and before works commence, all customers receive a comprehensive health and safety pack which includes detailed lifting plans to address the foreseeable risks involved in the work and to ensure that there is also a clear understanding of how the lift is to be executed. This will also include an outline of the regulations, duties and documentation that will need to be produced.

We can help prepare everything for you and also arrange specific insurance cover for the project if required.

 If you are considering the export of heavy machinery please get in touch or complete the enquiry form.

March 22, 2021 by Richard Merritt

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