Volume 35, Number 9, September 2000
Do You Know Where Your Package Is?
steering clear of those shipping mishaps
by Rene Bergero
One of the few variables over which you, the exporter, can exercise total control is the method by which your customer will receive his or her goods. This may seem like Im stating the obvious, yet it amazes me to see how many good deals go awry when an avoidable problem with the shipping company or shipment method rears its ugly head, and everyone comes out a loser. Most freight carriers can tell you lots of horror stories, and I could certainly chime in with a few of my own. Hopefully you have a knowledgeable individual or group of people that can quickly climb the learning curve once you start exporting. However, if you have to fend for yourself, let me share some insights that will, hopefully, help you avoid some major pitfalls.
We dont need no stinking badges!
A great line from a great movie (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) deserves to be used whenever possible. The reason why its in this article is to draw your attention to the reality of document overload for certain shipments and destinations. The level of complexity can be overwhelming. Do you need a consular invoice? Is pre-shipment inspection required? Are trans-shipments allowed? Unless you want to spend countless hours pouring over export regulations, this is best left to the experts. If you handle this in-house, my advice is to get a sharp person to review your export documents, or work through a knowledgeable freight forwarder. It only takes one missing or incomplete document to stop a shipment in its tracks. My experience is that once the customs agents get involved, you or your customer will be paying some hefty fees to get everything in order.
Whose freight is it anyway?
Youve heard the jargon: FOB, CIF, FAS, CNF, EXW, etc. Does it matter? You bet! In a perfect world, shipments arrive on time, complete and without damage. Fortunately, this is almost always the case. Should there be a problem, knowing your rights and responsibilities as the shipper are absolutely crucial to resolving the matter. These responsibilities are mostly determined by your terms of delivery, i.e., the jargon. Know these terms backwards and forwards, because you will have to explain them to your customer. I like nothing better than pointing the finger at the guilty party, especially if its not me or my customer!
Does it go boom?
One of the most difficult issues regarding shipments concerns whether or not the shipment contains hazardous materials. It may surprise you to learn that how the items are shipped can in some cases determine their hazardous condition. As an example, lets use a tube of our best selling mirror mastic, Super Gum Grip II (I love this name!). This can be shipped by UPS Ground Service without any complications, but sending the same item via UPS Express involves a lot of repackaging and special documentation. Why? Because in the first instance the goods travel exclusively by ground, and in the second they travel a certain portion by air. As long as you know the nature of what youre shipping, there should be no problem. Complications can and do arise when a third-party is involved. Suppose your customer wants you to send the mirror mastic to a freight forwarder, which you do via ground transport. Unbeknownst to you, this forwarder then ships the mastic to your customer via air transport, and gets caught shipping hazardous materials without following the rules for such shipments. Who gets nailed? You, of course. If you are shipping any materials that potentially can be classified as hazardous, make absolutely sure everyone is on the same page of the game book.
Lastly, a few words of encouragement. If international shipping were a no-brainer, then you would probably be competing against a much larger number of companies in export markets. You can even use your expertise in international shipping as a selling tool! Know the pitfalls, but dont let them intimidate you.
For more information on exporting, consult the Official Export Guide. To order the book, go to www.usglassmag.com and click on the amazon.com link. Community colleges also offer classes on exporting and seminars are offered by the World Trade Institute of Pace University in New York and the Global Training Center Inc. of Dayton, Ohio.
Rene Bergero serves as export sales manager for Sommer & Maca Industries in Cicero, IL. His column appears bimonthly.
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