An international shipping company’s job is to make sure your cargo gets to its destination. Also known as a freight forwarder, a shipping company handles logistics for you. Like any other industry, some shipping companies are better than others at providing freight forwarding. Likewise, the rates and reliability of shipping services vary.
As the customer, you want to get the most reliable freight forwarder that your budget will allow. The most effective way to do this is by performing due diligence so that you can identify safe, timely and affordable shipping services. Here are 11 questions you need to ask a shipping company before you hand over your consignment.
Work only with licensed and bonded shipping companies. Licensing authorities require shipping companies to adhere to strict regulations regarding shipping rates, safety standards and other aspects of the shipping process.
Working with a licensed freight forwarder ensures you have an avenue for recourse in case your cargo is mishandled. Likewise, bonded shipping companies give you protection and may reimburse you in case your shipment is lost.
Established shipping companies have reliable international networks that provide you with a smooth end-to-end shipping process. Generally, shipping companies with more extensive networks are more likely to meet your needs.
If you plan to ship door-to-door, it helps to have an international shipping company physically present in your country and the destination country. If the freight forwarder isn’t present in either country, it should have reliable agents there.
Technological advancements in the global shipping industry have made shipment tracking a standard feature. This feature lets you know where your cargo is at any moment. It improves logistical planning and lets you know in time if you need to consider alternative plans.
Moreover, shipment tracking gives you peace of mind as it streamlines your supply chain. Find an international shipping company that offers a tracking service with automated real-time notifications for changes in your shipment status.
Customs clearance is an essential aspect of the international shipping process, and it affects the reliability of your supply chain. Most established shipping companies handle customs clearance for you.
However, some shipping companies may not handle every aspect of the shipping process. They may offer only logistics, transportation or forwarding services. If the freight forwarder doesn’t handle customs clearance, you’ll need to find a reliable third-party broker.
Let the shipment company know if you need to ship urgently so that they can plan appropriately. Note that they may charge you a higher rate to bump up your shipment to the first-available vessel and soonest sail date.
In some cases, paying a slightly higher rate for direct service or faster transit may be worth the increased reliability. Let the shipping company know whether you prioritize affordability or speed.
Countries’ import requirements vary, even for the same cargo. This is especially the case when you relocate to another country because some countries restrict certain personal items.
Find out from your freight forwarder or destination agent if the country you shipping to has special requirements you should know about. Some countries require additional documentation or special licenses for your cargo. Others allow citizens or diplomats to move there.
Some shipping companies provide packing services. They may have an in-house team or outsource these services. Other companies may not offer packing services, meaning you’re responsible for packing and loading your cargo into the container.
You can do it yourself or hire professionals from moving companies to help. If you plan to pack your own cargo, learn how to properly pack your cargo and load your container to minimize the risk of damage.
Several factors determine the rates the shipping company charges you. These include the carrier, sail date, merchandise quantity and more. The sooner you receive quotes from prospective shipping companies, the sooner you can start to plan the shipping and meet your deadline.
With most established shipping companies, you can get instant quotes online. They should also have an intuitive booking process that takes a few minutes.
Shipments always have destination costs, which vary from one shipment to another or one port to another. Some common destination costs that you may encounter include:
Established shipping companies typically work with a global network of agents who handle destination costs. If you prefer, you can use your own agents at the destination.
Traditionally, the operations of the shipping industry have been largely opaque. Thankfully, a growing number of established shipping companies are taking steps towards achieving price transparency. When you contact prospective shipping companies, request a breakdown of the services included in their shipping rates.
For example, some shipping companies include customs-related services and documentation in their charges, while others don’t. Shipping companies with larger, more reliable international networks tend to offer more cost-effective shipping services than their counterparts.
The final cost of shipping depends on several factors, such as the cargo, seasonality and destination. In the last minute, Emergency Bunker Surcharge (EBS), General Rate Increase (GRI) and other surcharges may be announced and applied to your consignment.
You need to consider these and other potential charges. Learn how to assess shipping quotes and identify uncommon freight charges to avoid getting caught by surprise.
You need to ask the right questions to find an established freight forwarder that can reliably transport your cargo to its destination with minimal hassle. The questions listed in this article will help you identify the right shipping company.