When it comes to global freight, freight forwarders have seen it all. They know what works – and what doesn’t- when it comes to shipping freight. We’ve put together some of the best tips from ChinaGlobalFreight.com China Freight Forwarders in a new blog post. Check it out to learn how to save time and money, how to make the most of your relationship with your forwarder, and how to avoid common pitfalls. Read the blog post:

Know Your Product Details Inside and Out

To breeze through international shipping, you need to know the nitty-gritty details about what you’re sending:

  1. Double check that none of the items are prohibited for import to the destination country. Some countries have strict regulations on things like food, plants or electronics.
  2. Note the quantity, weight, dimensions and value of everything in the shipment. Provide an itemized list with SKU numbers if applicable. Customs will want to verify this information.
  3. Take photos of the contents in case there are any questions. It’s also a good idea to retain copies of receipts or invoices as additional proof of value.
  4. Check if any items require special permits or licenses to ship internationally. Things like telecommunications equipment, medical devices or vehicle parts may need authorization first.
  5. Mark all boxes and pallets with the recipient’s full address, your company name and contact details. Include a packing list in each box.
  6. Choose a reputable freight forwarder and be upfront about everything in your shipment. Don’t leave out any details or it could lead to delays, fines or even seizure of your goods.

With some advance preparation, you’ll breeze through customs and your shipment will arrive safe and on time. Complete and accurate information is key to hassle-free international shipping.

Understand Incoterms and Who Pays What

When shipping goods internationally, it’s vital to understand Incoterms – the official rules for interpreting freight terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce. Incoterms determine who is responsible for what costs and tasks in the shipping process.

The most common Incoterms for international shipping are:

  • FOB (Free On Board):You’re responsible for costs until the goods are loaded on the ship. The buyer handles shipping, insurance, and import duties.
  • CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight): You pay shipping and insurance costs, but the buyer handles import duties and unloading fees.
  • DDP (Delivered Duty Paid): You handle everything – shipping, insurance, import duties and delivery to the final destination. Convenient but the most expensive option.
  • EXW (Ex Works):The seller’s responsibility ends when they make the goods available at their premises. The buyer is responsible for all other costs and risks involved in taking possession of the goods. Under EXW, the seller has no responsibility for loading the goods or clearing them for export.
  • DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid):With DDU shipping terms, the seller is responsible for delivering cargo to the agreed-upon destination, but the buyer assumes responsibility for customs clearance, import duties, and taxes.

Choosing the right Incoterm comes down to how much responsibility you want and your budget. Discuss options with your freight forwarder and determine what makes sense for the size and value of your shipment. The details of your sale contract should specify the agreed-upon Incoterm to avoid confusion and added costs down the road.

Get Accurate Weight and Dimensions

To avoid excess charges and delays, be sure to accurately measure and weigh your shipment.

  • Cargo Dimensions: Round each measurement to the nearest CM. Also, note any protruding parts like handles that add to the overall dimensions. Provide these details to your freight forwarder so they can select the properly sized container or cargo space. Underestimating dimensions can lead to costly re-packaging fees.
  • Cargo Weight: Weigh your packed shipment using a scale and record the weight in KG. If shipping multiple boxes, weigh and record each one individually. Make sure your freight forwarder weighs the total shipment again precisely to avoid balance charges at the port or airport. Even relatively small differences between the stated weight and actual weight can lead to fines. For heavy shipments, it may help to weigh each box one by one as you pack to keep a running total.

Communicate Clearly With Your Freight Forwarder

Once you’ve found a freight forwarder you want to work with, clear communication is key. To ensure a smooth shipping process, be sure to:

  1. Check If Your Forwarder Got Everything Right

Double check that your forwarder has the correct contact information for you and the consignee. Confirm via email to have a written record of the details in case anything gets lost in translation. Ask any questions you may have about the shipping process, fees, timing or specific requirements to avoid confusion. The initial conversation with your forwarder is the perfect opportunity to make sure all parties understand what is required for your shipment.

  1. Tell Them Your Concerns

Openly share concerns about any high-value goods or temperature-controlled cargo. Discuss how your items will be safely transported given their unique needs. Don’t hold back on information that could impact your shipment. It’s better for your forwarder to know sooner rather than later.

  1. Push for Transparent Pricing

When choosing a freight forwarder, you want competitive pricing and full transparency about potential extra charges like storage fees, so you can make informed cost-benefit decisions and even avoid some charges by working closely with your forwarder to optimize options. While truly unavoidable fees like customs exams vary unpredictably, your forwarder should disclose all associated costs upfront and provide documentation justifying any charges after the fact without trying to profit from unexpected scenarios.

  1. Clearly Communicate Your Requirements

It is important for importers and exporters to have thorough discussions regarding their specific shipping requirements. This includes determining:

  • The necessary data that must be available.
  • The key milestones along the shipping journey that should be tracked.
  • The documents that need to be accessible online.
  • The typical number of shipments you handle simultaneously.
  • Whether you are shipping to Amazon FBA.

Addressing these needs early on increases the likelihood of a smooth and successful shipment.

  1. Clearly Communicate Your Capabilities

Shippers must also be transparent about their capabilities within the supply chain. For instance, it is crucial to communicate warehouse hours and whether the warehouse can receive the expected volume and type of shipments.

Engaging in these discussions beforehand enables a freight forwarder to develop an appropriate operating procedure tailored to your specific requirements. This proactive approach helps prevent misunderstandings or complications down the line.

Be Flexible with Your Shipping Mode and Route

Rather than sticking to a preferred carrier or transit method, compare multiple options to find what works best for your needs and budget.

  • Sea freight is suitable for large, heavy shipments without time constraints.
  • Air freight is ideal for high-value, time-sensitive goods.
  • Consider air-sea freight as a combination of air and sea transport for cost and speed balance.
  • Land freight via rail or truck may offer cost savings in certain regions.
  • Explore shipping to neighboring countries with lower rates and fees.
  • Customs clearance and local regulations impact routing.
  • Discuss routing options with your freight forwarder.

The key is, to stay open to unconventional routes and mixed modes of transport for cost-effective shipping.

Take Peak Seasons Into Account

During peak shipping seasons, its especially important to plan ahead. The fall and winter holidays, as well as major shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, put extra strain on shipping carriers and freight forwarders.

Give your shipment a few extra days or even weeks to account for potential delays. Carriers may experience higher volumes, weather issues or staffing shortages impacting transit times. Its always better to send your items with plenty of lead time.

Double check cut-off dates for sending and receiving. Many carriers set earlier deadlines for accepting shipments during busy periods to avoid being overwhelmed. Make sure you know the final dates for sending and receiving in time for any holidays or events.

Consider alternative options if speed is a concern. Air freight, despite higher costs, may be needed to ensure on-time delivery when regular shipping lanes are congested. Or look at expedited shipping services which provide door-to-door delivery in 2-3 days for an additional fee.

Don’t Book Shipment Until Your Goods Have Been Packed

Why is this important? Booking too early can lead to logistical issues that delay your shipment. For example, say you book your shipment pickup two weeks in advance, but then run into issues finding enough boxes or packing materials to pack everything. Now your freight forwarder shows up on the scheduled date but you aren’t actually ready to ship. This results in fees for a missed pickup and having to reschedule.

Booking at the last minute isn’t ideal either, as it may delay your shipment if carriers don’t have availability. Aim for booking 3 to 5 business days before your target pickup date. This provides a buffer in case any unforeseen packing or scheduling issues arise, while still giving carriers enough notice to work you into their route.

When you call to book, be prepared to provide details like the number and sizes of boxes, total volume and weight, pickup and destination addresses, and any special handling instructions.

Include Taxes and Fees in Your Freight Cost Calculations

When budgeting for international shipping, don’t forget to account for the additional fees – they can really add up! Customs duties, taxes and surcharges are often assessed when your shipment arrives in the destination country. Make sure you understand the rates for the types of goods you’re shipping.

For example, if you’re shipping commercial merchandise, be prepared to pay import duties and value-added taxes (VAT) or goods and services tax (GST). The fees are usually a percentage of the value of your items. Some countries charge additional surcharges for clearing your freight through customs.

Don’t Forget Extra Licensing

When shipping internationally, certain goods may require special licenses or permits to legally export them. Double-check if your cargo needs any additional documentation to avoid delays or penalties.

Some common items that often need export licenses include:

  • Technology, weapons, firearms or anything that could be considered “dual-use”
  • Agricultural or food products
  • Animals, plants, seeds
  • Hazardous materials like chemicals, batteries or paint
  • Antiques, art, or cultural artifacts

Export licenses help regulate the flow of sensitive goods and ensure they are being shipped legally and responsibly. Requirements differ between countries, so do your homework on the rules of both your origin and destination nations.

Beware of Using Expired Amazon FBA Labels

Double check that any expiration or ‘best by’ dates on your product labels will still be valid when the items are sold and shipped to customers. It’s a good rule of thumb to make sure dates are at least 6-12 months out from when you first ship inventory to Amazon. That way there’s plenty of time for the products to sell through without the labels expiring.

When in doubt, you can speak to manufacturers who can provide guidance on true shelf lives or replacement labels with extended dates for more time in Amazon’s warehouses.


So there you have it, 10 tips straight from the pros to make your next international shipping experience as painless as possible. Follow their advice and you’ll be on your way to hassle-free shipping in no time. Remember, do your homework upfront, plan well in advance, choose a reputable freight forwarder, clearly mark and label everything, obtain the proper permits and insurance, and be available during transit in case any issues arise. International shipping doesn’t have to be complicated if you go in prepared. Now you can sit back, relax, and eagerly await the arrival of your goods at their destination.

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