Are you looking for a guide to international shipping to really get your business off the ground? Then look no further.
With more and more consumers participating in e-commerce, expanding your operations abroad is necessary to continue experiencing business growth. Discovering new markets can also lead to greater brand awareness, resulting in new revenue streams.
As there are many factors to consider when shipping freight internationally, it’s hard to know where to get started. Fortunately, Dubai’s leading international freight forwarder highlights the five most essential details to remember when shipping out your first parcel.
1. Shipping partners and carriers
One of the most challenging aspects of shipping products and parcels overseas is vendor relationships. Choosing the right shipping partner can mean the difference between a successful seamless international transition and a frustrating experience.
One of the leading entities to know in the shipping industry is the freight forwarder.
A freight forwarder acts as an intermediary and manages the shipment process on your behalf. From negotiating freight rates with international carriers to tracking shipments, freight forwarders do it all.
To find a qualified freight forwarder to manage your international shipments, do your research online. Online shipping quotes allow you to compare rates and talk to a freight support team about your business needs.
2. Custom fees and regulations
Every country you ship to will require your products to first clear customs. Custom fees are dependent on several factors like the value of your goods and the destination country you’re shipping to.
Not correctly paying the customs duties can result in your product being held up at the port until payment has been cleared. This is why it’s so important to know what countries you’re shipping to, to know how to price your products correctly.
While your freight forwarder partner can help you better manage this, ultimately, it is your responsibility as the shipper to know what duties and taxes must be paid.
There are many online resources available to help you estimate duties and taxes. The federal government of your destination country will often have a tool you can use to calculate the duties owed on your goods.
Just as custom fees are your responsibility, so, too, is understanding shipment rules surrounding restricted items.
What items are restricted will vary by country. It’s highly recommended you reach out to your freight forwarder or carrier before shipping your items to remain compliant with the shipping requirements of your destination country.
3. Required documents
Like custom duties and taxes, your products are required to be shipped with the appropriate documents to clear customs.
Without these documents, your goods could be delayed at the border indefinitely. This not only will cost your business time and money, but it can also significantly tarnish your company’s reputation.
When shipping goods abroad, the most common export documents you will need to include with each shipment are:
Acts as a preliminary invoice for the creation of sales. A proforma invoice is sent by the shipper to specify the goods being sent, the value of the products, delivery details, and other pertinent information.
As the bill for the goods being sent, a commercial invoice includes shipment details like item description, item value, item quantity, total shipment value, and more.
Goods shipped via air freight will require an airway bill. An airway bill is a legal agreement that serves as a contract between the shipper and carrier.
Bill of lading
The bill of lading is a legal document issued by the carrier that serves as a shipment receipt for goods received at the predetermined destination.
A packing list details all the necessary information about the shipment. It identifies the seller and buyer, invoice number, item description, specific measurements (net weight, gross weight, package dimensions, etc.), and more.
Certificate of origin
Detailed information about where the goods originated from are provided in the certificate of origin. This document is required only by certain countries.
Shipper’s letter of instruction
The shipper’s letter of instruction is a written record of all transport and documentation instructions.
Dangerous goods certificate
This is a declaration form that must be included in your shipment when transporting dangerous goods. It specifies what types of dangerous goods are being transported, how the goods are packaged, and how they should be handled.
4. Modes of transportation
There are two primary ways to ship goods across borders: sea or air. Both have advantages and disadvantages that you must carefully balance to ensure that your shipments not only arrive on time but also don’t overrun the estimated budget.
When it comes to modes of transportation, most goods are carried via ocean freight. This is because financially, ocean freight trumps air freight. Another advantage of ocean freight is that it has a significantly higher volume capacity compared to air freight.
The cost and capacity difference often means that ocean freight is much slower than air freight. While air freight can reach its destination in a few days, ocean freight may require a week or longer.
Air freight is the preferred method for businesses looking to transport goods with urgency. Airplanes are also less susceptible to piracy, making them ideal for transporting high-value goods across borders.
Air freight also has an easier time reaching remote areas than ocean freight does. All of these advantages, though, come at a steep price, not to mention the environmental impact of air transport.
When deciding between the two modes of transportation, consider the urgency of delivery, the value of your goods being transported, and the location of your delivery. These factors can better inform you on which transportation method is best for your needs.
5. Reducing costs where possible
One of the most significant expenses small businesses face when shipping goods internationally is shipping costs.
Fees, taxes, inventory storage, and logistical costs all add up to how much you end up paying per shipment. While there are several costs (customs duties and taxes) that are unavoidable, there are areas in the shipping process that can be trimmed down to create significant savings.
One of the biggest areas where you can trim down shipping costs is packaging. As goods are priced by weight and size, how you package your items can significantly contribute to the overall cost of your shipment.
To avoid eating into your profit margins, avoid extra air space in your boxes. Try to use boxes that perfectly fit your products while keeping them secure. If you’re shipping via carrier, they will often have packaging you can use that eliminates additional packaging costs like dimensional fees.
Another way to save on costs is to partner with a freight forwarder.
Working with a freight forwarder can also help you get favorable freight rates for your shipments. They have longstanding, established relationships within the shipping industry that can get them freight rates at a much cheaper cost than you could if you tried to negotiate on your own.
Final advice on mastering international shipping
If you are shipping out anything of significant value, don’t overlook the importance of insurance.
There is considerably more risk of damage and theft when shipping internationally than there is domestically. Not taking out insurance to save on costs could become a regretful decision should your goods get damaged during transportation.
When all is said and done, following these tips before your first international shipment will help you maximize your new opportunities abroad, and avoid any of the challenges that may present themselves in the process.