It appears that shipping a large semi-truck sized container overseas is much more complicated than packing a suitcase. Who knew? Although we must admit that we knew the process would be complicated, it has proven to be much more complex than either one of us could have anticipated. In order to complete this large and necessary task, it will require the orchestration of several events and the cooperation of many…..
It looks simple enough. One large, long, rectangular metal box. Pack it with as much stuff as you can, close the door, and send it off. In actuality, it is far from that. I will outline the process (it is actually a bit fascinating):
- Determine the needs of the school buildings, grounds, students, and staff for the next few years.
- Make lists of items needed, research their costs, and where they should be obtained from.
- Organize fundraising to collect donated items and funds to purchase what is needed.
- Coordinate with a trucking company to use their warehouse to store items for packing (must be kept in a truck bay 4 feet off of the ground so that a semi can back right up to it to load).
- Transport all items to the trucking company.
- Weigh and record each individual item to be packed on the container.
- Package items in such a way that they will not shift during sea travel or when being transported on or off of the ship by crane (this includes using a cardboard baler, 2 x 4s, plywood shelving, and straps)
- Do a “pre-pack day”. That is, use tape to mark off on the floor of the loading dock the exact dimensions of the container. On a day prior to the actual shipping of the container, assemble all of the items there and arrange them to ensure that all items fit (and to know the best way to load them to limit shifting during travel).
- Packing day! Organization and preparation is essential, as the trucking company allows for only 2 hours to pack the container. There is a fee for each hour thereafter. From those experienced in this sort of thing, we have learned to expect that packing will take at least 4-5 hours…this is where that plywood, those straps, and all of those 2 x 4s come into play. There is also another catch. When we unload the container in Zambia, we will not have a full team of workers, or a fork lift to help, so we have to also plan for how we are going to get things out of the container (once in Zambia, the container itself becomes invaluable as a large, secure, storage shed that will be placed on a concrete slab. It will house the tractor, tools, and other outdoor equipment for the school campus).
Whew! Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? I will never look at one of those containers in the same way again! Outlining the process doesn’t emphasize enough the need to ensure thatwhat we pack is just as important as how we pack it.
All that I listed above is what is involved in shipping a container while it is on U.S. soil. Once it leaves our hands and begins its journey toward Zambia things really get tricky. We are hoping for an arrival date after 3 months, but it could take much longer. There are many points along the way that can result in delay…things as simple as paperwork not being filled out correctly, or the port being too full to receive a load of containers, resulting in an additional 3 or 4 week delay. The possibilities for delays are truly endless.
At this time, the “official” ship date of the container will be April 26th. From now until then, we appreciate your prayers for ensuring that all items are assembled that are needed and that the packing process goes well. After that date, we ask that you join us in praying for timely delivery of the container. Much is hinging on the arrival of the materials that will be aboard to ensure the start of school in September.
In addition, many items are still needed. If you are interested in contributing to any of the needs at this time, you can view the list here.
In the midst of the busyness, we feel excitement for all that is happening! For progress being made, for the amazing support of many, for the plans that are unfolding page by page. What an incredible journey! Thank you for being a part of it with us. We are very blessed.