Overseas shipping is more complicated than local shipments. This is because there’s more to it than just filling up the sender’s and recipient’s names and addresses.
These services require more information to get parcels from your store to their destination, not to mention country-specific regulations govern them.
To help you understand how overseas shipping and freight forwarding works, this article covers the most crucial facts about using freight services for your e-commerce startup.
What to look for in a freight forwarding partner
When looking for a quality freight forwarder to help you with your overseas shipping needs, you must be on the lookout for the following qualities:
1. License and certificates
Freight forwarders often assign a specific broker to assist their clients.
When this happens, be sure to check whether that person has the necessary license to ensure that they are qualified to handle your overseas shipments.
This will ensure that the person who handles your cargo is well-versed in international shipping regulations and is authorized to carry out such transactions on your behalf.
2. Excellent customer service
Excellent customer service is the pinnacle of freight forwarding services, so make sure that you look for a partner who is ready to listen to your needs.
Since you’ll be entrusting them with your goods, it is imperative that they practice open communication.
Moreover, a service provider with a good customer service track record will give you the peace of mind that your cargo will be handled properly and delivered on time and in the same condition as when you packed them.
3. Variety of shipping options
A great freight forwarding partner should be able to offer options for your shipping needs, regardless of the destination.
This should range from land freight (trucking), air freight, and sea freight.
This also means that the freight forwarding company should have solid connections with warehousing firms and other companies that offer logistics and shipping services.
4. Insurance coverage
Insurance is a vital element of international shipping, especially if the goods being transported are extremely valuable.
This means that you should look for freight forwarders that include insurance in their contracts.
Of course, it shouldn’t be just any form of insurance. Read the contract and look for the amount covered as well as the claims procedure.
Also, be sure to watch out for errors and omissions insurance as this only covers damage or loss of cargo.
5 Things to remember during overseas shipping
Whether you are shipping from Germany to the United States or any other part of the world, you must consider several things before going ahead with your overseas shipment.
Customs regulations vary from one country to another. Aside from this, these countries also require extra fees to be paid and a mountain of paperwork to be filed.
To help you avoid any oversights, here are five things you must keep in mind when, before or during overseas shipping:
1. Customs policies and fees
When shipping internationally, you must read up on customs regulations in the destination country.
Since any product shipped internationally need to clear customs, you must know the steps and requirements for pre-arrival processing and export clearances.
Every product shipped internationally also requires two sets of forms and documentary requirements – one for the country of origin, and another for the destination country.
On top of that, you may need to check if the item you wish to ship is not on the country’s restricted items list on both countries.
If it is indeed included in the list and you go ahead with the shipment, customs may hold your cargo for an indefinite period.
Also, you would need to have a record of the fees charged by the country’s customs department as these would add to the freight forwarding costs.
This will depend on several factors, including the product value and the parcel’s destination country.
Since you will need to pay more for products with a higher value, you mustn’t forget to include this in your shipping fee calculation.
2. Transit time
Cargo shipped overseas is more likely to encounter delays during transit compared to local shipments.
For this reason, you must make sure that you determine the date of delivery and plan for it ahead to reduce the chances of delay.
Keep in mind that not all countries can accommodate overnight deliveries.
The customs clearance time may also vary, so be sure to set your customers’ expectations accordingly or prepare contingency measures in case of delays.
3. Appropriate packaging
Many countries have set standard packaging policies to ensure that cargo is safe and secure. Research about this and follow instructions strictly.
Doing so will help you avoid delays and ensure that your goods arrive in the right place.
If you’re unsure, some shipping firms also offer packaging services.
Since they have plenty of experience in shipping cargo, they are less likely to make mistakes in packing and labeling your parcels.
4. Special rules in shipping perishables, animals, and plants
There is a special set of rules for perishable items to be shipped overseas, so be sure to look them up beforehand.
This will vary depending on factors, such as:
- The country of origin’s and destination country’s customs rules
- Type of product
- Quantity of the goods to be shipped
The same is true for cargo used to transport plants and animals.
In this case, you may need to fill out additional shipment forms and submit extra paperwork.
You may also need to hire shipping firms that have more experience in the task, especially for transporting live animals.
This will ensure that they arrive at the destination in a healthy state.
5. Mode of transportation
Mode of transportation is another crucial consideration for international shipping. This usually includes sea freight or air freight.
There are three things that may affect your decision in this matter, namely:
- Shipping cost
For overseas shipping, air freight is considered the fastest method. However, it is also the most expensive one.
On the contrary, sea freight is more affordable, but it will take more time for your cargo to arrive at the destination country.
Plus, there are certain items that cannot be transported by sea since they are fragile and may not be able to endure enclosed cargo containers.
Shipping overseas requires extensive knowledge and expertise, so it is imperative that you know the basics of this task.
To ensure the safety and timely arrival of your cargo, only avail of freight forwarding services from reputable companies.
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Paul Rehmet is the Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight. He is responsible for translating the company’s vision into an easy-to-use online freight platform for its customers. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways.