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How to Get an International Shipping Quote

Dec 31, 2010

int-freight.jpgPerhaps you've just landed your first overseas sale and you need to get the goods there in prompt fashion.  How do you get a shipping quote for international shipping?  Thankfully there are many reliable freight forwarding companies and transportation brokers that handle international freight.  They act as intermediaries between you and the transportation companies in the U.S. and in the destination countries that physically handle the cargo.

The first step in getting a freight quote for international cargo is to contact several companies and discuss your needs.  International freight may travel by air or surface, with surface options including rail freight, truck transportation or ocean going vessels for that leg of the trip.  If time is not of the essence then shipping your cargo via surface transportation is the route to choose since the shipping quote usually will be significantly less than it would be through an airfreight carrier.

When you contact these cargo agents they will seek all of the details on your international freight shipment in order to provide a shipping quote that is accurate and one that won’t overlook any unforeseen costs down the road.   These freight forwarding agents use complex software known as a freight calculator to determine their shipping quote.  Factors include obvious details like the weight and volume of your cargo, its destination, the time you need it to arrive and even how much traffic goes to that particular port or country.  Getting goods to an out of the way port is generally more costly than shipping your international freight through major cargo ports and hubs.

There are other factors not so obvious that the transportation brokers will need to find out.  Each type of goods is categorized with a specific freight class.  Cargo is placed in a class determined by how easily it can be transported.  The criteria include liability or fragility, density – producing differing weights in the same volume, stowability, and the presence of special handling needs for categories such as fresh, frozen, or hazardous materials.  These factors will be inputted into the freight calculator and your freight quote will reflect the relative ease or difficulty of transporting your international cargo.

The freight forwarder will help you determine whether Ltl carriers or full truck load/full container load carriers are right for you.  If you’re shipping enough international freight to fill an entire truck container then it will make most sense to choose that option rather than break up your shipment into different containers.  Ltl carriers serve shippers very well because many overseas loads are not large enough to fill a container.

The final details the freight calculator needs involve things like insurance to cover your liability, the preparation of the documentation required for shipping international freight, whether warehousing is needed along the way, etc.  Once your forwarding agent has the information in its freight calculator it will deliver a shipping quote that covers all of the variables.  More than one freight quote might be prepared that offer you options in some of the details.

You will find that seeking more than one freight quote makes good business sense.  The transportation brokers you work with have relationships with a wide variety of carriers and there may be times when they are able to expedite your international freight or find bargain prices on ships that are not full.  It may be that they can sometimes get your freight on an airfreight load for a rate similar to a surface shipment.

In time, you’ll come to rely upon your freight forwarder to not only provide the best shipping quote available but to set up the entire international freight shipment covering the myriad of details involved.  Solid, dependable forwarding agents and transportation brokers will prove invaluable as you seek to satisfy the growing demand for your products in overseas markets.  Balance the dollar figure of the shipping quote with the reliability of the forwarding agent for the absolute best results.