International Shipping: 5 Basic Rules

International Shipping: 5 Basic Rules

Best practices for international shipping Preparing items for international shipping is a multi-step process, but the more you know ahead of time, the quicker your goods can arrive at their destination. To avoid necessary delays, follow these five basic rules of international shipping.

Check for restrictions Many countries restrict what can be shipped to or from their country. For example, Japan prohibits knives, toy guns and gun replicas, among numerous other commodities. Ammunition, fireworks and postage stamps are among the items UPS cannot ship outside the United States. You can check for restrictions with the UPS import/export tool for international shipments, or ask your carrier for help.

Use the correct forms You can’t send an international shipment without the necessary paperwork, which should always be accurate, legible and consistent throughout all documents. Here are the most common forms used in international shipping:

Commercial Invoice — identifies the products being shipped. It includes a description and value of the goods, as well as shipper information. Customs authorities may use this document to assess applicable duties and taxes.

Certificate of Origin — verifies the country in which the product was manufactured.

NAFTA Certificate of Origin — used by Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States to determine if goods imported into their countries receive reduced or eliminated duty under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Electronic Export Information — formerly the Shipper’s Export Declaration; required for commodities worth more than $2,500; information is reported to the U.S. Census Bureau for compiling official U.S. export statistics and to enforce U.S. export laws

Air Waybill — serves as a contract to ship goods; provides shipment details including destination, shipper, and type of delivery service.

Label everything Labels should be on every item being shipped — UPS even advises putting a duplicate label inside your package. All labels should include a contact name, complete address information, telephone numbers, and postal codes for both shipper and consignee. Package properly Your carrier can help with packaging, which is based on U.S. Department of Transportation standards. UPS suggests using new boxes when possible, protecting packages internally, and closing containers securely. Options for protective internal packaging include bubble sheeting, air bags, and polystyrene “peanuts.” Palletized shipments have separate guidelines:

–  Place heavy, bulky items on pallets for better handling.

–  Stack cartons on the skid vertically.

–  Secure cartons to pallet using banding, shrink-wrap, stretch-wrap or breakaway adhesive. Individual pieces over 150 pounds can be secured with metal or unbreakable plastic straps, UPS  says.

–  Stack cartons squarely on pallets, with no overhang. Top surface should be flat, and box flaps and corrugations should face up

–  Place single containers on an outside corner or ship them loose.

Assess declared value accurately Some items may be subject to duties, or taxes, based on their declared value (selling price or fair-market value). To avoid disputes, make sure the value is accurate and consistent with the air waybill and commercial invoice. If your shipment requires a duty, it can either be prepaid at the time of shipping, collected during customs clearance, or when the recipient takes possession, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. For more information on international logistics, visit