For some people international shipping is a no brainer however for some it might get really complicated. There are a lot of variables in the international shipping process. It is complicated and there are many different parties involved, such as local truckers, customs brokers, steamship lines, freight forwarders, rail companies and more. Communication barriers and cultural differences might present a problem, and rules and regulations can slow down your first shipments if you do not have the experience and knowledge to ensure that the process flows as smoothly as possible.

Although there is an ocean of information regarding the international shipping process, in this following article I will try to summarize the basics of international shipping, specifically from a new importers view.

The five basics steps you need to know before becoming an importer are as follows:

1. Decide the country

Different countries have different export/import regulations. While the material itself might be cheap to buy from a certain country, there might be other factors which might add up to the cost. Requirements for importing specific commodities depend on a wide variety of criteria. Some information, such as whether an item is subject to quota restrictions, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or restricted from entry because they originate in an embargoed country, can be determined only if you know the item’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification number.

2. Search for suppliers

If you are new importer, there are government agencies that are ready to answer your questions. The International Trade Administration and US Business Administration are few of the many organizations that are there to help you. Use online sources, consult trade and professional associations, and join domestic and international trade shows. Once you have made the contact with an overseas supplier, it is always good idea to go meet the supplier in their country.

3. Search the duty and taxes

Import duty can be calculated in a variety of ways, but most import duties are figured as a percentage of the declared value of the commodity. Import duty differs from product to product and is dependent on the commodity being imported, its declared value, its country of origin, and other factors like anti-dumping legislation and quota controls. Import duty values can be as low as zero or as high as 100% (or more) of the product’s declared value. Import duties are collected to generate revenue and to protect local markets.

4. Find a reliable freight forwarder and customs broker

You already have too much to worry about. Do not add shipping procedure and documentation to the list. Always work with a reliable freight forwarder or NVO that will provide you with daily updates from the moment you place the order with your shipper. This will give you time to concentrate more on your business.

5. Ship the goods on time

Do not ship your goods last minute. This might cost you more than you need to pay. However, by shipping early you may end up paying inventory costs. Always consider that delays might happen during the process, such as goods might not be produced on time, the vessel might not sail as scheduled, goods might be held by the customs both in origin country and here USA. Be prepared for all this and plan accordingly.

First, do your homework and go over the research that is available to you online. Then consult with a professional to understand the process of importing goods correctly. In today’s world international shipping is almost a must for all companies and you can save a lot by choosing the right transportation partner, making the right decisions and understanding the process.