Update on Our Lift

For those of you following this saga…

After much research and negotiations between Michael and various shipping companies, we selected Sonigo International Shipping because of Ed Singer’s responsiveness to our questions and the many good references we obtained from the Nefesh B’Nefesh e-mail list from people who had used Sonigo during the past year.

Here’s the time-line of our experience:

  • June 3, 2008: We signed a contract with Sonigo International Shipping. They quoted 6 to 10 week delivery from date of pick up. Which in our case would put us at July 31st to August 28th.
  • June 19th: Our lift (two 7′ long x 3.5′ wide x 7.5′ high wooden crates filled with our worldly possessions) was loaded and picked up at our home in University Heights, Ohio by Corlett Movers (the local moving company that holds the monopoly for servicing all the international shipping companies for the Cleveland area).
  • June 20th: Wire transferred 80% of the estimated contract amount to Sonigo in Israel ($3600)
  • June 23rd: Completed and submitted the inventory and insurance forms to Sonigo for $52,310 coverage.
  • June 24th: Sonigo filed the insurance certificate and confirmed receipt of wire transfer. Also added $10,590 of insurance to cover the luggage on the NBN flight because El Al doesn’t provide coverage on these flights.
  • June 27th – 29th: Asked if we could track progress of our shipment online. Ed responded: “Once we have confirmation from the ship line that the container has loaded I’ll be able to provide you with the ship line’s tracking.”
  • July 11th: Asked what the status of our shipment was.
  • July 15th: After no response to my e-mail, Michael phoned Ed and was told that our lift had been sitting in CHICAGO awaiting consolidation in a larger container to be sent to Baltimore for shipment. Later that day Ed sent an e-mail instructing us to bring the following items to meet with him in Jerusalem prior to the shipment’s arrival:
    * US Passports
    * Israeli Passports (if you have them. If not, don’t worry)
    * Teudat Zahut
    * Teudat Oleh
    * Copy of lease or purchase agreement for house.
  • July 23rd: I e-mailed him for an update. No response.
  • July 28th: Michael phoned Ed. There has been no change in the status of our shipment, it’s still in Chicago. He expects we should have it in 3 to 4 weeks.
  • August 5th: Message from Sonigo “we loaded the container, and is at the ship yard scheduled to sail on the Zim California ETA Haifa 9/1/08, It will add 2-3 days to get to Ashdod, and we will then clear customs and deliver.”
  • August 10th: Still no tracking info because it hasn’t actually sailed yet.
  • August 21st: Met with Ed in Jerusalem and completed customs paperwork. Still no tracking info, but he promised to send it on Sunday.
  • September 1st: Ship Work Slowdown Affecting Arriving of Lifts for Olim

When questioned about this, Ed wrote back and said: “I hate to bring more bad news, but your ship, the Zim California, is scheduled to unload in Turkey, due to the slow down in the Israeli Ports. Zim has not yet declared if/when they will start shuttling containers in, nor have they declared “End of voyage” (which would mean both a delay and extra charges).

If history is any example, Zim will shuttle containers in, which will free the large ships to continue their operations, and only cause delays, not extra charges.

I’ll keep you posted as news becomes available to us. We just got this notice this morning, and I am still going through the files I have on the water to notify clients.


Ed Singer

  • September 8, 2008: Today we’re learning that our lift probably didn’t sail on the ZIM California and it appears that Sonigo doesn’t really know where it is.

    From Ed at Sonigo:

    As of this morning, we are getting mixed reports from ZIm.

    On the one hand, the Zim California (The Trans-Atlantic vessel which came in the week after yours) was supposed to unload, then make a circular route to Italy and Turkey to shuttle in the containers. This way, they only lose one vessel instead of every vessel coming in being delayed.

    However, the California waited 4 days to unload (this is after the labor courts ordered the port workers back to work) and Zim made some very strong statements along the lines of “We are not coming to Israel!” and “All containers destined for Israel will be marked as Ashdod, Haifa, or nearest available port!”

    We’re hoping that these statements are to put pressure (on the workers, the government, anyone) to do something, but it could also be a legitimate statement that they are not willing to take huge losses for the benefit of overpaid port workers with a monopoly on the Israeli Ports.

    I’ll keep you posted as news comes in.

    When will they declare our shipment lost already so we can collect the insurance and get on with life? We have been living without our Shabbos dishes, candle sticks, challah board, Judaica, Talmud set, dozens of boxes of Holy books, kitchenware, small appliances, tools, winter clothing, toys, toiletries, camping gear, CDs/DVDs, furniture and have nothing (machsorim, sukkah, decorations, etc.) for the upcoming chagim. And today we were given no hope of receiving the lift we shipped on June 19th from Cleveland, Ohio! Can anyone help us resolve this nightmare quickly?

Lessons Learned:
The cost of shipping 2 lifts wasn’t worth it. We should have sent a 20 ft. container because:

  1. It would have moved more quickly from port to port – they don’t store containers, they ship them because they need to reuse them ASAP. For example, friends who moved to Efrat shipped 1 week before we did and their shipment arrived 2 days after they arrived on the same flight as us.
  2. We could have sold space on the larger container to others who were leaving the States, or those already here who needed things shipped to them.
  3. The cost per cubic foot of a container is approximately half that of a lift.
  4. We could have shipped all of our furniture and sold it here if it didn’t fit – rather than selling everything in the States for much less than the replacement cost here.
  5. We could have shipped all the little things that we didn’t have space for in our crates that are so difficult to find or expensive to replace here – like dish drains, storage racks, large folding tables, storage cabinets, tools, etc.


Read on for the day our lift arrived!


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