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What is International Shipping and How Does It Work?


Expanding your customer base is an essential step when a business is growing. Many companies start on a local scene, but if the product sells well, going global is just a matter of time. International shipping lets you access thousands of potential customers and significantly extend the potential of your company.

What is international shipping?

International shipping is the process of importing and exporting goods between different countries via ocean, air, or over the road. International shipping is a complex process of moving freight over borders, accompanied by many rules and regulations. To successfully import or export freight, businesses have to know and follow specific policies of international shipping and collect paperwork so your freight passes the customs clearance.

Unlike domestic shipments, international transportation is more intricate since every country has its own regulations and laws. Some countries have stricter policies than others and completely forbid importing certain products. For example, Canada has a list of prohibited items to import and has specific tax regulations. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly learn the regulations or use professional freight forwarding services.

How long does international shipping take?

Depending on the size of your package or freight and the shipping mode, international shipments can take anywhere from two days to four weeks. Essentially, air cargo is notorious for its fast international delivery, while moving freight over the sea on cargo barges can take more time. Usually, the international shipping process consists of 5 essential components:  

  • Export Haulage. The freight is moved from its origin-destination to the next warehouse, port, or facility firm where it will depart to the border.
  • Export Customs Clearance. When the freight reaches the border of the exporting country, it passes the process of clearance before moving to the next stage.
  • Transportation. After your load has successfully left the origin country, the process of transportation begins.
  • Import Customs Clearance. When the freight reaches the border of the importing country, it passes  another process of clearance. This is the most important part of the shipping process since you ensure your freight complies with the customs policies.
  • Import Haulage. After successfully clearing the importer country’s border, your freight is moved from the border to its final destination.

How to ship freight internationally?

It is complex to arrange international shipping, especially if you are doing it for the first time. That’s why most businesses turn to freight forwarding companies to ship their freight. Here are some tips to successfully ship freight internationally.

Collecting information

A crucial step to completing your international freight shipping is gathering all the shipment information and presenting it in the required form. Filling in the documentation and providing required paperwork can be challenging since a single error can result in a failure.

Customs clearance

The customs clearing process is a critical stage of international shipping. To complete it successfully, you will need a customs broker. These professionals have expertise in arranging and executing international freight movements. You can rely on them to gather paperwork and execute the customs clearance process properly. If you use a freight forwarding company, they will most likely recommend a customs broker or even provide one.

Tracking the result

After the most important part of the process is completed, you should track your shipment to make sure it reaches its final location. Transparent and real-time tracking is crucial for international shipments, so make sure to choose a transportation partner that provides seamless and timely updates on your freight.

International shipping rates with PLS Logistics

PLS Logistics has relationships with 45,000 carriers throughout North America. Combined with our freight brokerage services, we can arrange international shipping through truck, rail, ocean, or air. Compare thousands of international shipping rates and choose the best option!

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