Whether you’re just starting out in the eCommerce world or already selling, there’s a bit of mystery to the freight industry.
Getting your products moved from your factory to their final destination, whether it’s a warehouse you own, your Third-Party logistics company’s warehouse, or directly into Amazon’s FBA warehouse, there’s a lot that needs to happen for your products to arrive at their final destination.
It’s so complicated, in fact, that no experienced eCommerce seller will ever try to get anything shipped from overseas by themselves.
What you need to ship products successfully is a freight forwarder.
Finding a freight forwarding company that works for you can be tricky as there are so many options.
This post will discuss ways to obtain freight forwarding for shipping your products overseas.
Option 1: Freightos
Freightos is a very unique freight forwarder in that they’re not really a freight forwarding company at all, but a marketplace of freight forwarders.
For new sellers, Freightos is a great option because it takes a lot of the industry knowledge required of the seller out of the equation and handles all the messy aspects of freight forwarding for you.
To use the site, all you do is enter the parameters of your shipment, things like what the volume and weight of your products are if you want to book a full container or a partial container, and if you want the product shipped directly to your warehouse, your port, or your Amazon FBA warehouse.
It will then take those parameters, do some calculations, and offer an estimation of how much everything will cost from different freight forwarders.
If you decide to use Freightos, you can provide them with information from your manufacturer and they will make contact and get the shipment of your products arranged.
The great thing about Freightos is they do the heavy lifting for you, they handle all the scheduling of drivers, Power of Attorney, insurance, and submitting of timely documents so you don’t have to worry about anything.
If you don’t end up using Freightos, that’s fine, but one good tip is you can use their system to estimate how much a shipment would cost, and compare it with any quote a different forwarder gives you.
If their rates are too high, you can ask them to come down or simply use Freightos.
Option 2: Use Your Manufacturer’s Forwarder
Most manufacturers overseas will have an in-house agent or freight forwarder they typically work with in case a customer wants to keep everything in-house.
While this can seem like a quick, easy, and appealing option, you have to make sure that you’re prepared to take on the various responsibilities and potential headaches associated with using an essentially random freight forwarding company.
Some things to keep in mind when using an in-house forwarder:
Learn essential documentation
Documents need to be submitted to certain parties for your products to flow smoothly from the factory to their final destination.
Having specific documents not in the proper peoples’ hands at the right time can delay your shipment, put holds on your container, and have costly fees.
Let’s look at some vital documents that you will need to have:
ISF Document. Some forwarders will need you to create an ISF document yourself and submit it to your customs clearance agent.
Some forwarders don’t handle this as they don’t establish any communication with customs agents until the end when sending your container’s arrival notice, so they leave it on you, the seller, to create and submit it.
Creating one is simple enough, some quick Google searching will find you a bunch of free templates, like this page from IncoDocs.
Original Bill of Lading. This document is the “original” bill of lading, not a copy, that your forwarder will hand over to the final Port for release of your container.
Commercial Invoice. This is the invoice your manufacturer will provide you with so you can pay for your products. This document is required to be delivered to customs so they can clear your shipment for release.
Arrival Notice. This is the document that indicates your shipment is about to arrive at port. Your forwarder should be able to pass this document over to the appropriate parties, but it also sometimes serves as an invoice you need to pay your forwarder.
Option 3: Use an Independent Freight Forwarder
Of course, if you have your own personal agent or freight forwarding company that you trust, you can certainly use them for all of your product shipments.
Depending on the forwarding company you use, they can offer complete white glove service where you don’t need to look at a single form, notice, or document and get your products to where they need to be, but premium companies come with premium prices.
Some like to pay for peace of mind and using a reputable companies to avoid problems like a late ISF filing that can cost you $5,000 in fees, it might be worth it to pick up a reputable forwarder.
Where can you find an independent forwarder? Check all the usual places, Google searching, Upwork, or get a referral from someone you know in the eCommerce industry (every seller has their own personal set of professionals they work with and trust and are usually more than willing to share who they work with).
With these three options, you should easily be able to find the source for a reliable freight forwarding company that you can use to help solve one of the most frustrating parts of selling online: logistics.
Learning a little about freight shipping and logistics can help you get your products where they need to be faster, as knowing some industry terms and understanding how things work can help get your container unfrozen or help remove a hold.