import and export goods with a freight forwarder

 Importing and exporting goods internationally can be tricky, especially if you have little to no experience. The process gets even more complex as the size of your shipment grows.

To effectively ship your goods overseas, you must be sure that everything is in order from packaging to paperwork, or you might just find yourself dealing with the issue of delayed or even damaged goods. Working with an export partner, like an international freight forwarder, can help save you the stress of worrying about whether your shipment will arrive on time and intact.

Here are the top reasons why working with a freight forwarder can make your shipping experience a smooth one. 


One of the first and most important rules of importing and exporting is to always know how to pack for import and export, a conversation with your freight forwarder or the manufacturer can prevent shipping and damage issues. Large shipments may require you to ship your freight on pallets. You must use heat treated wooden pallets or plastic pallets only. 


Proper paperwork is also key to a smooth shipment. You must have all of the required information clearly listed and documented in the proper place or else you could face costly customs inspections, delays, or even loss of your package.  

First you must clarify your incoterms (Join us for our upcoming webinar!). Incoterms make it easy to identify important responsibilities delegation, and will help determine the manner in which the shipment is transported. More specifically, the use of the correct Incoterms will tell you where to pick up your goods, who is to pay for and schedule delivery, and when exactly responsibility changes from one hand to another. 

For example, if you import you should request FOB departure port or airport. If you export from the USA, specify CIF destination port or airport, I recommend that you work through a pro-forma invoice. A proforma is essentially the deal preview before ordering. If one is redacted, ensure that your forwarder gets a copy.

You will also be required to document the manufacturers have your Harmonized (HS code #) number. This number is an international standard maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO). WCO classifies products by these numbers so they can be easily recognized by participating countries. If you’re unsure of your product(s) HS Code, contact your international freight forwarder for a link to the site hosting the harmonized system. 

Documenting the proper dimensions of your shipment is also of upmost importance. Provide your international forwarders with the exact 3 dimensions (length, width, height) and weight per box that you are shipping. All of this information should also be listed on your packing list as well as the commodity (product) name, the harmonized system number, the value per item, origin and destination addresses, and your freight terms. You should also provide your forwarder with a copy of your proforma invoice or commercial invoice as well.  

Choosing Your Freight Forwarder

Shippers should work with licensed freight forwarders only. Aside from being TSA certified, you need to work with an international agency transportation administration (IATA) & federal maritime commission licensed as these forwarders are held to higher standards laid out by each organization.

We at ETC International carry these licenses and cargo insurance as well as error an omission policies. Working with a non-licensed can be costly with no recovery in sight. When choosing the right freight forwarder for you, it is important to also note the differences in working with freight conglomerates versus small to mid-size freight forwarders.

Having experienced working for both a freight conglomerate and our family owned freight forwarding company, the fact is that customer service and attention to detail vary greatly between the two. When shipping with a conglomerate, shippers work with a clerk that is trained in one area of shipping.

So, if you import or export, and you have delays due to customs or a claim, every little detail will be passed along to a different department. You may feel isolated and frustrated. ETC International Freight System is a small, although very experienced shipping company. Our shippers will have one go-to freight expert in operations from start to finish who will act as a liaison with all parties involved (supplier, trucking, warehousing, packing, shipping, clearing) closing any gap, avoiding unnecessary costly delays and frustration.

Should an issue arise, you will know exactly who you need to contact to sort the issue out quickly. We are happy to provide you with expertise. Feel free to contact us with your shipping scenarios and questions. 

Learn More about the Incoterms That Matter

This is something I cannot stress enough. You MUST know your Incoterms if you want to avoid messy complications involving insurance and generally timely delivery. Because of this, we put together a webinar to go over this topic in detail. Sign up today!

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