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The hurdles you have to clear don’t end with the sale and the website. You still have to get the goods to the buyer, who is often located thousands of miles away, where different rules may apply. When shipping a product overseas, you must be aware of packing, labeling, documentation, and insurance requirements and regulations. Make sure that the merchandise is:
- Packed correctly so it arrives in good condition
- Labeled correctly to ensure that the goods are handled properly and arrive on time at the right place
- Documented correctly to meet U.S. and foreign government requirements and proper collection standards
- Insured against damage, loss, pilferage, and delay
Because of the multitude of considerations involved in physically exporting goods, exporters often receive assistance from their air carrier or freight forwarder to perform those services.
An international freight forwarder is an agent that ships cargo to an overseas destination.
These agents are familiar with foreign countries’ import rules and regulations, the U.S. government’s export regulations, different shipping methods, and necessary documents for foreign trade. Freight forwarders are licensed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to handle air freight and by the Federal Maritime Commission to handle ocean freight.
Freight forwarders assist exporters in preparing price quotations by advising on freight costs, port charges, consular fees, costs of special documentation, insurance costs, and the freight forwarders’ own handling fees. They recommend the packing methods that will protect the merchandise during transit, or they can arrange to have the merchandise packed at the port or put in containers. If the exporter prefers, freight forwarders can reserve the necessary space on a vessel, aircraft, train, or truck. The cost for their services is a factor that should be included in the price charged to the customer.
Once the order is ready for shipment, freight forwarders should review all documents to ensure that everything is in order. This review is of particular importance with letter-of-credit payment terms. Freight forwarders may also prepare the bill of lading and any special required documentation, including electronic filing in the Automated Export System (AES). After shipment, they can route the documents to the seller, the buyer, or a paying bank. Freight forwarders can also make arrangements with customs brokers overseas to ensure that the goods comply with customs import documentation regulations. A customs broker is an individual or company that is licensed to transact customs business on behalf of others. Customs business is limited to those activities involving transactions related to the entry and admissibility of merchandise; its classification and valuation; the payment of duties, taxes, or other charges assessed or collected; and the refund, rebate, or drawback of those charges.