International Shipping

Regulations and standards checklist for overseas cargo

When it comes to shipping an item overseas, at both a considerable distance and expense, the little details become very important. International freight shipping is notorious for being full of bugs, glitches and complicated paperwork. To make the process easier, we’ve got a few guidelines on handling international shipments from start to finish:

Parceling and Packaging

In an international shipment, your cargo might pass through numerous hands and various types of loading machinery. To prevent damage to the exterior of the parcel, you’ll want to make sure you use the best and strongest materials that are allowed.

  • Cardboard boxes. Use thick, corrugated or double-corrugated cardboard, and be sure that the bottom and sides of the parcel are secure. If you’re reusing a box, remove any identifying labels that could confuse shippers.
  • Wooden crates and pallets. Wooden containers are extremely durable and hold up well to scrapes and bumps from loading machines. Remember to look for crates that are foam-lined, or pad them yourself to ensure your goods arrive safely.
  • Padding. Padding materials are usually the same you would use to ship any item, no matter how far – packing peanuts, foam pads, shredded paper or bubble wrap are all suitable.
  • Inspection. Remember that your item is subject to inspection when passing through customs. Do not over-seal the box to the point where it is difficult for inspectors to open – for example, tying with rope or sealing all edges. In most instances, a thick strip of packing tape down the top fold is all that is necessary.
  • Perishables. Expiry dates on perishable items must allow for an additional 24 hours beyond delivery date.


Your cargo is going to need a mountain of paperwork to get through customs, and it will have to comply with the regulations of various countries. Here’s a quick look at what you might need:

  • Licensing. Proof your shipping company is licensed to ship goods across state borders and from country to country.
  • Bill of lading. Required for any type of shipment, domestic or international.
  • Consular invoice. Used by customs officials to verify quantity, value and type of cargo.
  • Certificate of origin. A document signed by a semi-official organization verifying the origin of the merchandise.
  • Insurance. To make sure your items are covered in event of loss or damage during transportation.

Depending on the details of your shipment, other necessary documents could be required. A freight broker or freight forwarding company can help you stay on top of the legal issues and handle most of the paperwork for you.

International Shipping Rates

Overseas shipping rates may vary from company to company, but there are a few basic calculation points that are standard. These include the country of origin and destination, weight and size of shipment, outbound shipping rates and method of transportation.

Always ask your freight company to prepare an estimate for you, and don’t be afraid to shop around for the best deal.

Need more details on getting your shipment underway? See our Freight Shipping outline and make sure your goods are safe.

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