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How to Manage International Shipping and Delivery

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 31 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Shipping International Shipping Courier

One of the most important components of your online business to get right is shipping and delivery. If you can install world-class delivery services, your business will be rewarded with a loyal customer base. As your website could have a global audience, you need to carefully consider how your international shipping will integrate into your overall delivery mechanisms.

International Shipping

As an order could come from any part of the world, you need to consider which type of shipping service is right for the goods your online business sells. You have four basic choices of transportation to use for international shipping:

  • Air. This is the fastest and most expensive form of international shipping. If your business sells perishable goods, this could be the only form of transport you can use.
  • Rail. Not all countries have a well established rail network that you can use. You may for instance have to use a combination of road and rail to get your goods to their destination city.
  • Road. This is the most popular form of transport to use for shipping. Road transport can be highly cost effective. But as with rail, some countries may not have a well developed motorway system you can use.
  • Sea. This is the slowest form of transport you can use. However, it’s great advantage is that it can offer your business superb value for money if you need to ship large amounts of smaller items in one consignment, or very large and bulky items.

International Courier Services

Shipping your goods to global destinations can quickly become a time consuming chore if you handle these deliveries in-house. Courier services can offer your business an alternative as they have well developed infrastructures that can have your customers’ order in their hand the next day.

Services from FedEx and UPS are good examples. However, the cost of these services can be very high. Before you commit to a contract to use international courier services as your main overseas delivery system, consider the overall costs.

Many online businesses offer international courier services only as an alternative to other cheaper delivery services. However, some of your customers may be prepared to pay a premium to use these services, so offering them as a delivery alternative makes good business sense.

Legislation and Paperwork

International shipping will require that your business complies with all the relevant legislation. In addition to dealing with international shipping legislation you must also ensure your consignments are properly insured. Different types of insurances are available depending on what type of transport you use. If your online business needs to ship dangerous goods, then you must comply with specific legislation. You can download a complete guide to shipping dangerous goods from the Health & Safety Executive website.

For businesses considering international shipping for the first time, customs can seem like an incredibly complex system to negotiate your consignments through. You not only have to comply with export controls as your goods leave the UK, but import controls when they arrive at their destination country. You also have to consider how VAT and any other taxes could impact on your consignments. Consult HMRC as they have comprehensive guidance on every aspect of customs and international shipping.

No matter which type of transport you use for your international shipping, you will need to complete certain forms that must accompany your consignments. The basic forms you must include are:

  • Export Cargo Shipping Instructions (ECSI)
  • Standard Shipping Note (SSN)
  • CIM Consignment Note. If you are shipping dangerous goods, this document should be replaced with the Dangerous Goods Declaration
  • Insurance documents
  • Bill of Lading and/or Waybill

Completing these forms can be a daunting task. This is where the services of a freight forwarder can come in very handy. Using the services of a freight forwarder can enable your business to navigate what can be the complex waters of international shipping. Freight forwarders are experts in international shipping and can become a trusted partner in this important area of your business. You can locate a freight forwarder via the British International Freight Association (BIFA) website.

Help with International Shipping

It is important to ensure you understand in detail the regulations and legislation you must comply with when shipping goods overseas. All formal customs procedures must be observed to ensure your consignments are not delayed getting to your customers. Organisations your might find it useful to contact for help and advice include: British International Freight Association: 020 8844 2266. The Freight Transport Association (FTA):08717 11 22 22 and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK: 01536 740 104.

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