By Ella Mason | May 1, 2014

For some businesses, shipping products internationally can seem like a daunting prospect. Navigating customs, commodity codes and protocols for the countries you’re delivering to and from, whilst managing scheduling, weights, costs, packaging, restrictions and various other factors can seem a bit overwhelming. Over the past few years, Airblast AFC, a joint venture between UK-based Airblast Ltd and US-based AFC Finishing Systems, have been getting to grips with the international delivery process, shipping items from the UK to the US and from the US to Canada. Below, the company have shared some of their experiences in a bid to help others who are just starting along this path. There are two main methods of transporting goods overseas – air freight and sea freight –each with their pros and cons. If you have items that need to be delivered quickly, then air freight is usually your best bet as it typically only takes a few days for goods to arrive, while sea freight can take weeks depending on the destination. In terms of pricing, sea freight is generally more economical for large or bulky items as prices are usually based on container size. However, air freight can work out cheaper for smaller items.

2014-05-01-ella-mason-source-freightetc-comAirblast AFC ship a wide range of products, from smaller items like motor drive wheels, scraper rubber and wheels to four tonne vacuums, 30ft long auger screws and cabinets. Consequently they now use a combination of transport methods, sending the large bulky items by sea freight provided that there is plenty of time, and small or urgent items by air freight. This ensures that costs are kept to a minimum but all items arrive at their destinations in a timely fashion.

When shipping from the US to Canada, they tend to use road truck freight as this is the most economical method of shipment; however, you may choose to use rail freight or air freight depending on the type of product you are intending to ship and the time frame you are working to.

You should also think about the types of restrictions imposed by different shipping methods. There tend to be more restrictions on the types of items you can ship by air freight while sea freight is more flexible. However, both have their restrictions so it’s worth investigating both options thoroughly to determine which is best for your product.

The company found that some of their larger items caused problems when using air freight. For example, when shipping a 1250 blast cabinet, the light box component had to be removed from the top or else the machine would have exceeded height regulations. The company experienced a similar difficulty when shipping their vacuum system by sea freight as the machine required a 40ft container with an open top so that it could be loaded by crane. It is important to identify whether your products will fall outside of regulations early on, whatever shipping method you choose, to ensure that there will be no delays. You should also consider other types of restrictions beyond size and weight. For example, if you are shipping pharmaceutical, agricultural or food items you will need to ensure that you have the proper certification. Most countries place restrictions on dangerous items but many also have more specific restrictions based on other factors like political standpoints.

It is possible to navigate your way through the shipping process alone but most people prefer to turn to a freight forwarder to simplify the process. Using a service like this takes the hassle out of international shipping as the freight forwarder will organise all the arrangements with shipping companies and customs on your behalf.

Airblast AFC use a company called Precision Cargo as they offer a door-to-door service. They were chosen as they have over two decades of experience and the directors are fellows of the Institute of Freight Forwarders. Working with an experienced and qualified freight forwarder has greatly simplified the process, removing the need to worry about customs arrangements, commodity codes or the other complexities of international shipping. Of course, you can save money by cutting out the middle man but this is only possible if you have a full knowledge of customs and protocols for the country you’re shipping to. If you are new to international shipping, then a freight forwarder is really the only option.

Hopefully, this has provided a few insights into the shipping process and given you at least a rough idea of what to think about and where to start. The key thing to remember, when thinking about shipping internationally, is timing. As long as you give yourself plenty of time to make decisions, order components and make arrangements, the process should run smoothly whichever route you choose to take.

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