How to Ship Freight Internationally?

Updated: Feb 15

Basic Shipping Information

Like domestic shipments, international shipments require an origin address as well as a destination address.

Unlike domestic shipments, depending on the country you’re shipping to, that destination address may look nothing like an address format that you’re used to. Shipping to locations in China, for example, may not have the most straight forward address, especially if it’s to a district that’s not in a major city.

Even shipping to Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, starts to become difficult – some addresses are conveyed as intersections or just a street with no number. Looking up a hospital – Hospital Auxilio Mutuo – on Google Maps shows only the street the hospital is on, no number. The street listed is a large one, as well, traversing much of the city, so you better hope if you’re shipping supplies to the hospital that the carrier, you’re using knows which hospital that is!

This type of insider knowledge for the best carriers for various countries is just one major reason to utilize the services of an outsourced International Logistics provider such as Diversified Transportation Services.

Airfreight, or Ocean?

There are two major methods of shipping freight long distances, to and from different continents.

Ocean freight takes longer, and more exposed to heat and cold during transit. If your freight is sensitive to temperature, or even humidity fluctuations, you may want to talk with your international logistics provider on the best solution for your products.

Airfreight is significantly faster, but with that comes a price increase. Understanding the cost vs benefit analysis of speed vs low price is essential to deciding if air freight is the appropriate shipping method for your products.

When you’re shipping smaller quantities with higher profit margins, it can make more sense to have expedited air freight handle those shipments.

But when it comes to large quantities of low-profit margin items, especially those that aren’t perishable, ocean freight can be an exceptionally cost-effective way to ship large amounts of freight.

The general rule of thumb is that for shipments under 200 kgs or so shipping via some air method, as opposed to sea freight, is almost always cheaper and far more convenient. Air shipping rates generally range from $5/kg-$10/kg but do not have the same high fixed costs common with ocean freight.

When Should You Ship Full Containers (FCL) and Less than Containers (LCL)?

When should you use LCL ocean freight and when should you use FCL ocean freight? The obvious answer would appear to be that you should ship full containers when you have enough stuff to fill the container and LCL, otherwise. This isn’t quite true.

From a financial perspective, a full container 75% or greater full is normally cheaper than shipping LCL (in other words, LCL has around a 25% pro-rated surcharge). However, there are two other important considerations as well. First, LCL has transit times around 1-2 weeks longer than FCL. That’s because the freight forwarder has to pack your items and unpack your items with other people.

Second, LCL cargo is more prone to make loss and damage (although it’s very rare) because of this additional handling. If time and care are important for you, shipping even a half-empty container can sometimes make sense.

Ocean Freight is Very Different from What You Are Used To (Sort Of)

Most of us are accustomed to shipping things via USPS, FedEx, etc., and other small parcel carriers. Ocean freight at first seems very different from these types of services, but when you think about it more deeply, you’ll realize they are actually very similar.

If you are shipping something via USPS, you know that you have to drop the item off at a post office. With Ocean Freight it’s the same way: someone has to drop it off at