Overseas Shipping

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What is Overseas Shipping?

Overseas shipping is a process of moving freight across borders after complying with several rules and regulations. Businesses should know and follow the exact international shipping policies for successful shipping overseas. Moreover, they should collect the paperwork to ensure the freight passes customs clearance. 

Overseas shipping is more complex than domestic shipments because each country follows a specific set of shipping regulations and laws. Certain countries have strict policies and completely prohibit importing certain goods.

This shipping takes place via cargo planes or ships. The choice of transportation carrier relies on the situation and the organization you are working with. Let’s go through the working of overseas shipping.

How Does International Shipping Work?

The international shipping process involves seven steps described below:

1. Export haulage

The cargo is picked up from the shipper in this first transportation step. Usually, the pickup is done via train or truck. The time it takes to reach the warehouse usually ranges from a few hours to a few days.

2. Origin handling

This step entails handling cargo from its reception at the warehouse to loading the flight/ship. Several parties are engaged in this process. But the freight forwarder is responsible for managing these activities and guaranteeing a smooth process till the freight gets loaded over the ship.

3. Export custom clearance

Export custom clearance defines the processes the goods follow before they are exported. Typically, the custom house broker or the freight forwarder chosen by the shipper will accomplish this. Moreover, the export customs clearance completes before the cargo leaves the country.

4. Air/Ocean freight

The freight loads on an airplane/ship according to the cosigner’s agreed shipping service. It will assist in quickly transporting the freight from the shipper’s country to the destination country. Usually, the freight forwarder has established contracts with the carriage.

5. Import custom clearance

Import custom clearance hands the clearance declaration with documents to the concerned authorities. Import custom clearance occurs before the cargo leaves the destination warehouse for shipping. This step is completed before the cargo leaves the destination warehouse for shipping.

6. Destination handling

Destination handling is one of the most critical steps of the overseas shipping process. The reason is that it includes all the cargo handling undertakings in the destination depository. Also, it provides cargo unloading and makes the cargo ready for the consignee to pick up.

7. Import haulage

The last step when shipping overseas is import haulage. The delivery administration delivers the freight to the specified address. Generally, the receiver will manage to avail service from a local transport corporation to fulfill this step.

Types of Overseas Shipping

The four types of overseas shipping are:

i. Freight Shipping

ii. Freight Forwarding

iii. Couriers

iv. Container

i. Freight shipping

These days, freight shipping is related to commercial shipments. Freight shipping is a process in which a company ships a massive quantity of freight globally. Generally, this type of shipping is supplemented by land transportation via a truck. After the consignment is dispatched to trucks, it is divided into two categories, i.e., LTL (Less than a truckload) and FTL (Full truckload).

LTL freight shipping is the most economical way to transport freight overseas. It uses the prevailing freight carriers’ network. Conversely, when using FTL freight shipping, you’ll pay per truckload.

ii. Freight forwarding

Other names of a freight forwarder are forwarder, forwarding agent, and non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC). A freight forwarder is an individual or company that manages deliveries for individuals or businesses and brings freight from the manufacturer to the market/customer/distribution endpoint.

Freight forwarding doesn’t move the freight but works as an expert in a particular logistics network. Such carriers can use various shipping modes like trucks, rail, airplanes, and ships. They usually use multiple modes for a single consignment. Freight forwarding is also expert at organizing and processing customs and other documents.

iii. Couriers

A door-to-door service, this type of overseas shipping is usually the quickest and most efficient if your freight weighs under 20 lbs. 

iv. Container

This form of overseas shipping comes with explicit requirements on the size and material type. You can even ship cars in containers. Since there is a space limitation, you must carefully place items in containers.

How Long Does International Shipping Take?

International shipping is complex because various countries have unique product acceptance rules. Every delivery route needs a different duration based on the distance and import and export rules. So, you must know how long shipping overseas takes.

Providing customers accurate information about the delivery time is challenging. But shipping software offers an estimated delivery time before buying a label.

Usually, express international shipping takes 2 to 3 business days, whereas standard shipping takes 1 to 4 weeks. If the customs clearance is sluggish, the shipping may be completed within six weeks.

Shipping mode and distance influence the shipping duration. Other influencing factors are duties, customs, and taxes.

How to Ship Freight Internationally?

Overseas shipping may be complex if you are doing it for the first time. Therefore, most businesses adopt the freight forwarding method to ship their goods. It is better to choose a freight forwarding corporation specializing in shipping products between the locations. 

Whether you want to outsource the shipping needs or do it in-house, you need to consider the following aspects for successful international shipping.

  • International shipping needs the services of a leading international freight forwarder. The process demands proper documentation since multiple custom checks are involved.
  • A freight forwarder assists in managing your international shipment, handling and book-keeping, and ensuring that your freight reaches the destination on time.

Let’s understand how to ship internationally with an example.

Suppose you order a product online in the Philippines from Thailand. A freight forwarder is appointed to plan everything from container collection to delivery. Subsequently, the product will be collected from a Philippines factory via truck, loaded, and packed into a container. Finally, it is conveyed to the port. Occasionally, long shipping routes use the train.

The authorities should have the documents before loading the cargo on a designated shipping vessel. Subsequently, the container travels over the ocean to reach Thailand. Before performing docking and unloading, the authorities must allow the vessel’s entry. Before sending the container to a distribution center, customs will check the container. After confirmation, the product will be ready for delivery at the center and finally sent to the online shopper through the post.

What to Charge for International Shipping

The key factors that determine the overseas shipping cost are:


Packaging is an expenditure, so you must include its expenses in the total shipping cost. The packaging cost can range from $1.5 to $6 each, depending on the product quality and dimensions. This cost depends on the number of boxes required to hold various-sized orders. Moreover, the packaging materials like stuffing and bubble wrap may also impact the packaging and total shipping costs.

Cost of shipping

You can understand how much overseas shipping costs if you thoroughly analyze the cost of shipping. Calculating the cost of shipping includes the following expenses:

  • Shipment charges
  • Insurance
  • Duties and taxes
  • Customs fees, tariffs & taxes
  • Package consolidation
  • Change in shipping rates
  • Liquid clearance charges
  • Different payment methods
  • Additional charges

Consider and compare

Not comparing the overseas shipping costs means that you may incur a loss. It is recommended first to compare the international shipping costs offered by various freight forwarders. Go through their prices and the services they offer. Make sure to choose a freight forwarder company that suits your budget and offers all the necessary services you need for your international shipment.

Structure your pricing

The shipping costs will increase if you want extra supplies for shipping your freight. For instance, if your goods require bubble wrap, envelope, or box, you must pay additional charges. So, you need to structure pricing carefully after considering all the charges involved.

Handling charges

When you want to ship overseas, handling charges must be considered. This is because quality shipment is guaranteed if your freight is packed and handled well. You need to determine the minimum hourly wage for international shipping in your country. Depending on the hourly wage, you may have to add a handling charge to your product price structure. Also, you need to check the time required to make an order ready for shipment. Subsequently, you need to use the minimum wage benchmark to determine your handling charge.

Let’s understand handling charges with an example. Suppose it takes 10 minutes to make an order ready for international shipping, and the hourly wage is $11. You can add $3 for the handling charge to compensate for your effort. Usually, international customers are happy to pay higher for safe shipping and will have no issues paying for handling charges.

Duties and taxes

You need to use the duty calculators to calculate the duties and taxes for shipping to the destination countries. Once calculated, you have to factor them into your product price structure. Instead, you can assign customers the responsibility of paying duties or taxes. It is known as Delivered at Place (DAP). DAP needs the customer to pay charges before receiving their order.

To deliver a hassle-free shopping experience, paying the fees by hand and delivering items as Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) is recommended. For that, you must request customers incorporate these charges in advance.

Whether you use DAP or DDP, deal honestly with the customer regarding extra fees.

A Step-by-Step Guide to International Shipping

Various factors must be considered, from collecting the freight to be shipped to freight packaging. Let’s look at the step-by-step guide to international shipping.

  • Ensure the item can be shipped as intended 

Various rules are involved in the process stating the types of things you can ship overseas. It is easy to find these details. You simply need to visit the specific country’s government website and go through the export guidelines. The website lets you know the type of things you could ship to other countries. You may also require an ECCN or export license number based on the type of product to ship.

  • Select a customs broker and determine the terms of sale 

You must choose a customs broker and decide the terms of sales. Usually, custom brokers assist a lot in clearing your shipments without delays. If there is an issue, your customs broker will resolve it.

Both the buyer and seller must decide the terms of sale, also called the International Commercial Terms (incoterms). These terms specify where proprietorship transfers from the seller to the buyer throughout the transportation.                    

  • Gather important information 

Gathering necessary information ensures hassle-free international shipping. Before creating your international shipping label and customs documents, you must ascertain that there is sufficient information. So, you need to amass information like what the shipment’s purpose is, whether you are shipping documents or commodities, what the commodity’s value is, what the commodity’s country of manufacture is, the commodity code within the Harmonized System (HS), and more.

  • Determine which customs documents are required 

The commercial invoice is the most important international document for non-document commodity-centered shipments. You get custom authorities information from the commercial invoice. It also mentions the mode of freight transportation, i.e., regional or global.

  • Create an international shipping label 

It is vital to prepare an international shipping label. Your shipping service provider will help you to create it. For example, you are using the Ninjavan service for shipping. You can contact their customer service, which will help you create an international shipping label and also guide you on your shipping needs.

  • Complete and submit customs documents 

Without submitting customs documents, overseas shipping is incomplete. Customs clearance is a contract through which a declaration is made, and essential documents are put forward to authorities. Consequently, it allows authorities to register and impose customs duties on the consignment.

Only those freight forwarder companies possessing legal customs licenses or an agent hired by the freight forwarder can do export customs clearance. A customs house broker directly employed by the shipper and not participating in the shipping procedure can also perform export customs clearance.

  • Package your item 

The last and the most significant consideration for international shipping is the packaging. Without proper and safe packaging, all the efforts are futile. Ensure the freight is adequately packed with suitable packaging material considering the expected delivery duration.


Determining the shipping cost is inevitable when considering overseas shipping. International shipping turns hassle-free if you determine the rules and regulations of the destination country. Make sure to consider all the charges as discussed above to ensure effective international shipping.


What does domestic and international shipping mean?

Domestic shipping means documents or goods are shipped from the shipper to the destination inside a country’s borders. Several shipping companies use domestic shipping due to its quick delivery speed. The standard delivery options are two-day and three-day. Nowadays, many shipping companies provide the same-day delivery option too.

International shipping means documents or goods are shipped from the shipper to the destination outside a country’s borders. In this method, there may be delays in the import/export process during the customs review or unexpected delays at the border. International shipping involves logistical considerations, various taxes, and extra book-keeping items.

What do I need to know to ensure effective international shipping?

For effective overseas shipping, you need to consider the following aspects:

a) Know the customers

You must know who you are shipping to. These days, frauds and scams are pretty rampant.

b) Know the destination

Different countries permit different materials. For example, certain countries prohibit goods prepared from specific manufacturing processes and ban some products. Make sure to know these, or else your efforts will be futile.

c) Know the product to be shipped

Certain products may be safe in domestic shipping as some carriers may not transport them to a few countries.

d) Know the shipping cost

When you ship your package, you must know the price structure. All shipping services don’t offer international tracking. Customs taxes can vary based on the shipping mode.

e) Know the required documentation

The freight needs a commercial invoice. This document is a detailed list that summarizes the details of the sender and receiver and an all-inclusive list of the freight being shipped with their value.

What is the difference between shipping and delivery?

Shipping is the specific day, date, or time when the goods are dispatched from the shipper’s warehouse. If the seller mentions that your order is “shipped”, it means it is on your way. If your product status is “shipped”, it doesn’t mean that the product has been sent to the specified address. It only means that the parcel has been dispatched from the warehouse and is on its way to the customer.

Delivery is when the ordered goods reach their final destination. It denotes the day, date, or time the customer receives the goods they bought.

What are the key factors determining international shipping rates?

The following factors are significant when shipping overseas:

i. Your freight’s origin and destination

The international shipping cost is directly proportional to the shipping distance.

ii. Choice of carriers

The international shipping rates depend on whether you choose express or postal carriers. Express couriers provide better shipping service, and so they are expensive.

iii. The product type

Different countries levy different charges of duties and taxes on various products. So, know the product to ship and check out its associated costs.

What is the significance of providing transparent shipping details?

For successful international shipping, detailed and transparent shipping details are inevitable. Most e-commerce stores, particularly dropshipping stores, may offer long delivery times. All shipping details must be mentioned on each product or a shipping information page. It must include information regarding countries to ship to, the shipping duration, whether customers can track orders or not, etc.

Providing transparent shipping details saves you time in two ways. Firstly, being a shipper, you don’t need to answer these questions repeatedly. Secondly, you need not handle refund requests from customers who don’t know where their freight is.

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