In international shipping, detail is important, assistance is available

Shipping products overseas can be hazardous, but there are steps you can take and assistance is available from the government to minimize any potential problems.


It is important to be concerned when shipping products abroad. In fact, anything can occur when the product is in transit. Two steps are crucial in this process:

  1. Defining the appropriate distribution channels.
  2. Issues relates to packing, labeling, documenting and insuring the cargo.

To begin, the U.S. government offers assistance and advice through different agencies to exporters in order to define convenient distribution channels, to meet with overseas buyers and to get export incentives. Following are the names of these agencies:

  • The US and Foreign Commercial Service (US+FCS) offers export promotion programs
  • The US Export Assistance Centers provides export marketing and trade finance counseling service
  • The National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) compiles export promotion and trade data
  • The Gold Key Service of the commercial section of the US Embassy, in most countries around the world, arranges appointments with agents and distributors overseas
  • The International Buyer Program gives exporters the opportunity to meet qualified foreign buyers of their products at trade shows in the US
  • Commercial News USA offers exporters the opportunity to advertise in a consolidated catalog of US products and services distributed in 155 countries

Step two involves several actions, the first being the correct packing of the cargo. Well designed crates help to prevent products from being shattered, damaged by dampness or stolen. The following are important points to take into consideration when packing:

  • Crates should be sealed to prevent humidity due to condensation or exposure to the elements
  • Crates must be sturdy to stand accidents during delivery
  • When in boxes, goods should be palletized and placed in containers
  • Wood pallets must comply with ISPM 15 (phytosanitary compliance) as per the International Plant Protection Convention
  • Bracing ensures an even allocation of volumes in the container
  • All packages and fillers have to be made of moisture resistant materials
  • Observe any product specific hazardous packing requirements

Labeling is another important action in the exporting process. All volumes have to be labeled correctly to ensure appropriate handling and on-time delivery to the right place. Avoid writing contents and brand names in the volumes. The overseas buyer must inform which export marks should appear on the cargo for easy identification. Also, the following export marks must be added on the domestic bill of lading:

  • The name of the exporting carrier
  • The latest allowed arrival date at the port of export
  • Instruction for the inland carrier to notify the international freight forwarder by telephone upon arrival

It is prudent that the exporter always uses the services of a freight forwarder. They are aware of overseas import and domestic export regulations as well as the documents related to foreign trade. Freight forwarders can help in the following manner:

  1. Reviewing all shipping documents to ensure its accuracy like letter of credit or bank draft 
  2. Preparing the bill of lading and any special required documentation
  3. Routing the documents to the seller, the buyer, or to a paying bank
  4. Coordinating with customs brokers overseas to ensure that the goods comply with customs regulations 

Finally, exporters are advised to consult with international insurance carriers or freight forwarders for appropriate insurance. Insurance provides protection to cargo against unsafe weather conditions, delay and rough handling by carriers. Coverage is usually placed at 110% of the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) or CIP (carriage and insurance paid to) value. The exporter or the foreign buyer should either obtain its own policy or insure the cargo under a freight forwarders policy based on the incoterm.

Ron Carvajal works in International Accounts for Yaskawa America, Inc.

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