Your International Shipment is Too Important to Leave to the FORWARDERS or NVOCCs

Posted On 15th May 2017

You are used to booking with your NVOCC/forwarder from your door to the international port and so far, nothing has ever gone wrong with the domestic shipment between your door and the port. But that is where the greatest chance for damage lies, and your NVOCC, or international consolidator, usually picks a common carrier option. So, your freight is moved through at least one terminal, perhaps two, on its way to the nearest port. This means at least one forklift unloads it, another one moves it to the general loading area within the terminal, and a third loads it into the delivery trailer. At least three forklift moves and most likely three different forklift operators and two trucks are involved.

An export shipment must be handled with even greater care than a domestic shipment. If it is an ocean export, the lead time from door-to-door can be 3 weeks to 3 months. If the freight arrives damaged, it can inflict serious long term harm to your client’s marketing efforts in his country. If he becomes viewed as an unreliable supplier, he can probably never un-do that, and the efforts it took to develop this client will be lost, as well as your product’s reputation in that country. If you have an export salesman or staff, you have certainly wasted or dealt a serious blow to their selling efforts.

As the Export Traffic Manager, you have a real responsibility to not undermine the sales staff by focusing your efforts so narrowly on cutting costs that you forget about the Company’s overall reputation for supplier reliability. It is critical for your job security that you focus on freight security - by which I mean avoiding as many risks to damage and loss as is possible. Your goal should be that your freight arrives in “pristine condition” at your customer’s door overseas.

Your first efforts should be to provide extra heavy duty packaging, even wooden crating, if possible for the export shipment. Of course, wooden crating can be expensive but if the product value justifies it, it can protect freight better than corrugated. Be warned, most insurance companies will not pay claims if they judge that your packaging was not sufficiently rugged to withstand the trip. If anything, you want to overdo the packaging since it must travel thousands of miles on a swaying and bucking ship, endure foreign port handling, and a truck move overseas as well. To this end, make your packaging rain-proof and bump-proof. Make it high enough that nothing else can be put on top of it that might crush it, or, if that is not possible, make the crate strong enough to withstand an even heavier crate inside. Binding the goods to the export grade pallet, putting shrink wrap around and on top of the skid, and any other way to “bomb proof” your skid is necessary. A bit of extra attention and elbow grease with the initial packing job goes a long way to avoiding most claims. Here is an excellent article outlining the issues with international claims and packaging:

http://www.internationallawoffice.com/Newsletters/Shipping-Transport/Norway/Wikborg-Rein/Liability-for-cargo-damage-due-to-insufficient-packing

As already mentioned, another way to avoid a likely cause of damage is to move the freight from your dock in a direct truck to the port, not via common carrier. Usually this will cost more, but often only slightly more, if your broker or 3PL can find a trucker headed that way. You should be flexible and give the freight broker a few days to find the right truck, if the cutoff time at the port allows. Moving the freight in a direct manner rather than a common carrier with its terminal and hub system increases the chances the delivery will arrive as you shipped it.

The next thing to consider is the route your freight will take on its way to its final destination. For a shipment to Port Kelang in Malaysia, for example, one NVOCC might quote you a price 30% lower than another NVOCC. What you need to ask the lower priced NVOCC consolidator is if the initial container they are loading is going to be opened in some foreign port (Singapore for instance) and moved into another container. If your shipment is going to undergo such a transshipment and reloading overseas, carefully consider the risks to your freight and if the savings are worth it. It might be worth it, especially if your freight is “bombproof”. But keep in mind that extra transshipment and reloading also increases the risks of a delay.

Learn also about engine shipping containers.

We also strongly recommend every shipper or international export company buy its own marine cargo policy. First, it is less expensive and more comprehensive than a policy from a forwarder. Second, you can choose a higher rated carrier, such as The Hartford. If there is a claim, you will deal with a professional, experienced staff of claim experts who will treat you fairly and generally give you the benefit of the doubt.

We are certain that if you adopt these measures, you are much more likely to avoid claims and that your freight will arrive in a much more pristine condition, which will help make your company’s products much more competitive in that foreign market and more likely to secure re-orders. Email us if you have any questions.

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