Shipa Freight SME FAQ: Your First Overseas Shipment [Updated: Nov 2021]
This quick guide to organizing your first international shipment is part of the Shipa Freight Knowledge Series for small businesses.
When you’re planning your first international shipment, you’ll need to decide whether your products will travel by air, sea or land.
In general, the mode you choose to ship by will depend on how valuable your products are, and how quickly they need to reach their destination. You may also want to take environmental and sustainability factors into account, as some transport methods have a much bigger carbon footprint than others.
Air freight is quicker but also much more expensive than ocean or road freight, and it is much less environmentally friendly. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, less than 1% of the total imports into the United States (by weight) arrive by air, largely because this transport is around 12 to 16 times more expensive than ocean freight, according to World Bank estimates.
This higher cost means that it’s mainly small volumes of high-value or time-sensitive products that are transported by air freight, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, fashion items, perishable goods and samples.
The cost of your shipment will depend on factors including the weight and size of the cargo, the origin and destination, and the mode of transport you choose. Freight prices are usually calculated per kilogram, and costs generally include container, packaging and handling fees.
It’s very difficult to give a general guide, so it’s best to run a quote for your route. You can use the Agility Shipa quick quote tool, which will give you an instant price. Fill in a few simple details about your freight needs and you’ll get to get a quote in your chosen currency.
In addition to shipping costs, remember to take into account any duties and taxes that will be levied on your goods. When you’re planning your export, you’ll need to calculate the “landed cost,” which is the total cost of a product once it’s arrived at the buyer, including production costs, transportation costs, tariffs, taxes, insurance and currency conversion.
Again, this will depend on the goods you’re transporting and how you’ve chosen to transport them. you’ve opted for air freight, you may be able to get your goods from airport to airport in one to seven days, depending on the service you choose and how much you’re willing to pay.
In contrast, ocean freight tends to take several weeks. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, goods usually take two to four weeks to travel between China and the United States.
When you’re estimating the time it will take to transport your products, remember to include the time it will take to get the goods from the warehouse or factory to the port or airport, and how long it will then take to get them to the distributor at the other end. Your freight provider should offer a “door-to-door” as well as a “port-to-port” service.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing packing material for your products. You need to take into account the import restrictions and quarantine requirements of the destination country, and your packaging needs to be tough enough to withstand handling, moisture, and other risks that it may face during the journey. But although it needs to be strong, the packaging should also be as lightweight as possible to keep costs down, especially if you’re using air freight.
Your freight forwarder will be able to help you choose the best packaging for your product, and advise you on any specialist equipment like tie downs and security seals.
Shipping always involves paperwork, but the exact document requirements vary from one country to another. You’ll usually need to provide a commercial invoice and transport documentation, and you may also need an import licence depending on the products you’re shipping.
As this area can be complicated, it’s best to choose a freight forwarder with lots of experience handling customs clearance, so that they can advise you on the documentation you need to complete and deal with any issues that arise.
It’s important to consider other factors alongside price when you’re searching for a shipping partner for your first international shipment. Look for a reliable freight forwarder with a reputation for transporting products reliably and promptly.
A good shipping partner will help you manage the risks of exporting, comply with all the regulations, and navigate export and import rules. Visit the Agility website to find out how we can help make your first international shipment a success, or use the Shipa Freight tool to get a quick freight quote.