5 Tips for Successful Pre-Christmas International Shipping [Updated: Nov 2021]
When your customers order your products for Christmas, the one thing you can’t afford to do is dash their expectations by failing to deliver. This is true whether your business is importing or exporting Christmas inventory.
Your customers will not care if your overseas supplier let you down or the shipping line rolled your container at an ocean-freight transshipment point.
All they will see is that your business did not fulfill their orders, and at Christmas, that’s typically a very big deal. But the five pre-Christmas international shipping tips in this article will help you avoid disasters and rest easy knowing your customers will get what they want for Christmas—and that your business’ credibility will remain intact.
1. Book Your Shipment Well Before Your Required Shipping Date
The key to successful pre-Christmas international shipping is to do everything earlier than you think necessary. This includes obtaining freight quotes and—once you have chosen the quote that suits you best—booking your shipment. If you will be using ocean freight, book your shipment three to four weeks before you expect your cargo to be ready. For air freight, book at least seven days ahead of cargo readiness.
2. Know Your Transit Time - Then Add Some More
When you know the transit time for the route you are using, you can calculate more accurately the point at which you must dispatch your freight. That in turn increases the likelihood that it will be received in time to meet fulfillment schedules.
For pre-Christmas shipping though, you should allow a few extra days of transit time, because when volumes are high, congestion can affect ports and air freight terminals, increasing the risk of delays.
This is especially important when you are shipping over longer routes, which will require your freight to be on the water during October (or before) to ensure arrival well before Christmas. October is usually still peak season for ocean freight, so port congestion and vessel under-capacity are a very real threat.
3. Mitigate the Risk of Rolled Cargo
If you are not familiar with the term rolled cargo, you might be having visions of your freight falling off the side of a cargo ship. Although such a thing is known to happen from time to time, that’s not where this particular term comes from. Rolled cargo is simply an industry term applied to cargo that doesn’t make it onto the vessel that’s supposed to carry it.
This is not something you want for your pre-Christmas shipment, but while it’s not possible to prevent your cargo from being rolled, you can take steps to minimize the risk of it happening.
For example, you can…
- Book your shipment on a direct route. Every transshipment point (where your freight is offloaded from one vessel, and loaded onto another) is a point at which your cargo might be rolled.
- Make sure all international shipping documentation is in perfect order. Customs delays (which are often caused by paperwork issues) are a common reason why carriers roll cargo.
- If you are shipping FCL and your cargo will fill several containers, split it over multiple bills of lading. This will increase the chances that some of your containers will get through on time, even if one or more of them are rolled.
- Avoid shipping your freight in 40-foot high cube containers. They are often the first to be rolled when a ship runs out of capacity.
- Choose a sailing with a longer transit time. They are less popular (as everybody wants to ship on the faster sailings), so there is less chance of your cargo being rolled because of capacity issues.
4. Consider the Use of Air Freight
Though you might not normally use air freight for international shipping, it pays to think differently about pre-Christmas logistics.
In fact, if you are reading this article now and have not yet dispatched your 2018 pre-Christmas shipment, air freight may be your only option, unless you are using a very short ocean trade lane.
Even when you seemingly have plenty of time, it can be worth using air freight to hedge against the unforeseen. Consider shipping a portion of your overall cargo by air, so that if your ocean freight is delayed for a long period, you will at least have some of your products available to fulfill orders.
5. Buy Insurance for Your Pre-Christmas Shipment
As mentioned in tip #3, containers occasionally get lost overboard while at sea. In reality, the likelihood is slim, but there are other ways to incur losses while your freight is en route. For instance, during busy shipping periods, the risk of cargo theft increases. Indeed, your shipment is more likely to be affected by theft than it is to fall overboard.
Theft is not the only issue though. When the pressure is on dockside, airport, and logistics teams to handle large freight volumes as quickly as possible, the risk of damage is ever-present.
Transshipments and rolled containers increase exposure to the possibilities of theft and cargo damage, and given that cargo insurance premiums are typically less than one percent of total shipment value, you will be doing your business a favor by investing in comprehensive cover.
Of course, insurance won’t help with fulfillment if cargo theft or damage leaves you with an inventory shortage, but it will at least allow you to recover your financial losses.
All of the tips above, if followed, will help ensure a timely arrival for your Christmas inventory, or that of your B2B customers. The most noteworthy among them though is to plan ahead and act early. There is no place for just in time at Christmas time.
It will also help to have a reputable and responsive logistics partner to manage your pre-Christmas shipment. An online freight forwarder can speed up the shipping process by delivering fast quotes that you can quickly convert into freight bookings. At Shipa Freight, we add the benefits of online payment, shipment tracking, and sophisticated compliance technology to keep you on the right side of the customs authorities.
If your business has made the mistake of leaving pre-Christmas shipping to the last minute, visit Shipa Freight now. If it’s too late for ocean freight, we can give you a competitive air freight quote in moments.