International Shipping Checklist

International Shipping Checklist

by FreightCenter Team

worker holding a International Shipping Checklist

Packing & Shippability

International shipping comes with its own set of rules and considerations, which are often stricter than domestic shipping. Whether you’re shipping goods via air or ocean freight, it’s crucial to understand the specific requirements for each mode of transportation, especially regarding packaging materials.

1. Packaging Materials

When preparing your cargo for air freight, you need to consider two critical factors: size and weight. Air freight is generally more expensive due to limited space, and the weight of packaging materials can significantly impact costs. Airline companies have set specific weight and size limitations for cargo shipments. To ensure that your cargo adheres to these restrictions, verifying the maximum weight and dimensions allowed for air freight is crucial. Please comply with these limitations to avoid extra fees or the rejection of the shipment altogether. If you require faster shipping times, air freight is the preferred option.

Ocean freight, on the other hand, offers a more economical solution but operates at a slower pace. If your schedule allows it, choosing ocean freight can be cost-effective, and you won’t incur additional charges for extra packaging.

Crates or Pallets

Many countries have stringent regulations to prevent the spread of pests and diseases through wooden packaging materials. Failure to comply with these guidelines can result in confiscating or destroying your goods and potential penalties. Before packing, it’s essential to understand your destination country’s shipping requirements thoroughly. Wooden materials that are not heat-treated, fumigated, or ISPM 15 compliant can be susceptible to carrying pests, which can severely threaten the destination country’s ecology.

ISPM 15, or International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15, is a standard set by the International Plant Protection Organization (IPPC) to ensure that wooden materials used for shipping are treated and safe for international travel.

Dangers of International Shipping

Untreated lumber risks the transference of invasive species (plant, insect, or otherwise) across international lines. While we have species that are native to the U.S.—like the pinewood nematode—such a pest could pose a huge threat to the ecology of the country of destination. These critters, no matter how microscopic, can decimate a country’s native flora and fauna. The Eastern European Gypsy Moth alone can defoliate 700,000 acres of the Northeastern United States a year, causing millions of dollars in damage.

2. Duties, Customs & Incoterms

There are four documents you should look out for. The commercial invoice, the certificate of origin, the NAFTA certificate of origin, and the electronic export information. What are those, you ask?

  • Commercial Invoice: This document lists the country of origin and details the products being shipped. It plays a central role in determining export tariff rates and importation control.
  • Certificate of Origin: The exporter must sign this document to certify the country of origin for each product in the shipment. Some countries require notarization for this certificate.
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin: The United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) has replaced NAFTA. Specific to trade between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., this certificate serves the same purpose as the standard Certificate of Origin.
  • Electronic Export Information (EEI): This was formerly known as a Shipper’s Export Declaration. It is required for shipments over $2,500 and those needing export licenses. It documents export statistics and can be filed by you or your freight forwarder.

Global parcel shipping has its own set of customs documents and clearances, with the customer typically responsible for duties and taxes.
To streamline international commerce, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) publishes Incoterms, which clarify the responsibilities of buyers and sellers in foreign trade contracts. Some common Incoterms include:

The Most Common Incoterms Are:

EXW (Ex Works) – The seller packages and prepares the goods for pickup, while the buyer is responsible for transport costs and risks. This favors the seller.
FOB (Free On Board) – Location usually follows the designation of FOB, and it’s pertinent to how you use the term. Its shipping point, or sometimes origin, means that the buyer is responsible for multiple things. For the transport costs (as well as risks) while the freight is in transit. FOB destination means the seller is responsible for transport costs (as well as risks) while the cargo is in transit.
CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight) – The seller is responsible for costs, freight, and insurance against the buyer’s risk of loss or damage to the goods while in transit.
CPT (Carriage Paid To) – The seller is only responsible for ensuring the freight arrives safely to the carrier. The seller pays the cost after the seller drops the cargo off at a carrier’s or a place agreed upon. Liability shifts from seller to buyer as soon as the freight is in a carrier’s possession.
DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid) – Here, the seller is in charge of safely delivering the freight to its landing place. They are responsible for paying transit costs and liability for damage. Once the cargo arrives safely, liability transfers to the buyer. This includes any subsequent transport costs.
DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) – The seller takes on all responsibility: costs, risks, export/import customs, etc., until the freight has arrived at its landing place.

Understanding these Incoterms is essential for successful international transactions.

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