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International Freight Shipping

Nov 05, 2010

To be a global player in your industry you must find markets abroad and get your goods to them in the most economical way possible.  Shipping international freight is far more complex than moving domestic freight from state to state especially since there is not a universal set of rules shared by destination countries.  Regulations within countries also differ based upon the freight class of the goods and the type of cargo being transported.

boxes-150x150.jpgThese complexities mean that receiving a freight quote for international freight isn’t a simple process either.  There are a host of variables to factor into the equation.  For this and others reasons, most businesses that ship overseas or across borders use a freight forwarder.  These companies function as coordinating agents for shippers and handle the myriad of details involved in shipping international freight.  They make it their business to understand the import and export regulations in each destination country so that glitches on either end of the transaction can be avoided.  They use a detailed process known as a freight calculator to account for all of the factors involved including the type of cargo, its value, the total weight of the load, the distance it is being transported, whether it represents a full container load (fcl) or is less than a full load (ltl), and the logistics required to transport freight to its destination.

When you choose to ship international freight using the services of a freight forwarder you’ll find that their freight calculator reduces a complex process to a very manageable one.  You will simply fill in the details such as what you are shipping, volume or weight, the destination port, insurance requirements, and special needs such as refrigeration.  The freight calculator will quickly supply you with a freight quote on your cost.  These transportation brokers take many of the headaches out of getting your international freight to your customers in foreign countries.

Many shipping managers have known the frustration of getting a call from their agent in an international port saying their cargo is hung up over paperwork errors or a lack of the right documentation.  That is why it is absolutely vital that you, or the freight forwarder you build a relationship with, understand the rules shipping international freight.  While it is important to know the specific regulations in each port, there are certain basics that you will need to provide with your international freight no matter where it goes.  These include:

1. The Commercial Invoice: Similar to domestic invoices, this document is a line by line statement of the specific goods in the international freight, total quantity or weight, line item value and total value.  The actual form required isn’t important for most countries though some, like the CARICOM coalition of Caribbean countries have their own specialized commercial invoice for documenting the international freight.

2. The SED or Shippers Export Declaration: When shipping international freight from the U.S. with a value of $2,500 or more, the U.S. Census Bureau requires an SED for keeping track of statistics.

3. Certificate of Origin: This document comes into play in the process of clearing customs.  Some destination countries apply differing regulations to international freight based on its origin.  The Certificate of Origin needs to be verified as authentic by one of the agencies in the origination country authorized to do so, not unlike having a document notarized.

Depending on the freight class of the cargo, the export and import countries, and special categorizations for types of goods like hazardous materials, additional documentation will be required.  The freight forwarder that you use may supply you with a list of documentation required and may also handle the document preparation for you, including the cost of doing so in the freight quote they provide.

While the challenges of shipping international freight may seem daunting there are systems in place to make it amazingly smooth given the multifaceted logistics involved.  The learning curve isn’t too great to climb when you work with reputable freight forwarding providers that know how to take the hassles out of the international freight aspect of expanding your business into lucrative foreign markets.