Poland is a popular source of goods for US companies. The quality of Polish-made products is high, and shipping from Poland has become easier since that country joined the EU and upgraded its transportation infrastructure.
But how does the cost of shipping from Poland to the USA compare with transportation costs from other sourcing markets?
As you weigh the pros and cons of importing from Poland versus other parts of the world, two crucial considerations are average shipping time to the US and the cost of shipping.
Ocean cargo rates fluctuate over time, based on season and on numerous factors in the global economy. So it’s not possible to directly compare the cost of shipping from Poland with the cost of shipping from China, for example, or from other regions.
But there are some factors to consider about the cost of shipping from Poland to the USA, and strategies you can use to optimize the cost of transportation.
Ocean rates from Poland (and from Europe in general) are more stable than rates from the Far East. Today, you might pay about the same to ship a container to New York from Poland or from China.
But what if you were planning an import six weeks out? The rates you see today from Poland are probably good for the next two or three months. But rates from China are so volatile, there’s no telling what they’ll be by the time you buy the product. They could go $200 higher, or $100 lower, or do something else entirely.
If you’re looking for a transportation bargain right now, it’s a good idea to check the current rates from different origins. You never know which country will offer the best pricing. But if you plan to buy repeatedly from sources over time, and cost stability is important, you can source from Poland and look forward to consistent ocean rates for two or three months.
Peak season surcharge
In the past, as the world geared up for the holiday season, demand for space on vessels from the Far East usually surged so much that carriers added peak season surcharges of several hundred dollars to their regular rates. Steamship lines almost never add that surcharge to shipments from Poland.
In the summer of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s impossible to say what supply and demand will look like during peak season. We don’t know if we’ll see surcharges this time around. But assuming the world returns to “normal” in a year or two, when you make sourcing decisions, you might need to account for peak season surcharges on shipments from the Far East.
If you source from Eastern Europe, you’ll probably find similar rates for ocean transportation from different ports. But the point of origin could still make a difference in the total bill.
Ports further north on the Baltic Sea, such as St. Petersburg in Russia, ice up in winter, making it more expensive to operate there. So shipping lines add a winter surcharge of about $75 per TEU to shipments in and out of those ports.
Poland is far enough south to eliminate ice as a problem in winter. If you ship from Poland, you won’t face a winter surcharge.
Transshipping vs. direct shipping
Currently, there is no direct ocean service from Poland to the US. When you ship from a Polish port, the cargo travels on a feeder vessel to a major base port such as Antwerp or Hamburg. Then the shipping line transloads the cargo onto a larger vessel for the trans-Atlantic crossing.
If you want faster service, you can move your shipment by truck or rail to one of those major base ports in Western Europe for loading directly onto a trans-Atlantic vessel. The ocean rate from Poland, Germany or Belgium is roughly the same. But the long-haul land transportation will add to the total cost.
Essentially, there are four ways to transport cargo from an origin in Poland to the US.:
- Send the container by motor/rail to the Port of Gdynia for transportation by feeder vessel to a port such as Hamburg, Bremerhaven or Antwerp.
- Truck the container to a Polish rail terminal near the point of origin and let a train take it to the Port Hamburg or Bremerhaven.
- Truck the container to the Port of Gdynia for transportation by feeder vessel to Hamburg, Bremerhaven or Antwerp.
- Truck the container directly to Hamburg, Bremerhaven or Antwerp for loading onto a ship.
If you’re trying to reduce ocean freight costs as much as possible, and time is not of the essence, choose number 1. If you’re willing to spend more to get the shipment as fast as possible, choose number 4.
One more secret for cutting the cost of shipping from Poland to the USA
As you evaluate potential suppliers in Poland, a sure way to control the transportation part of that equation is to work with a partner that is deeply familiar with Poland-USA shipping. Even better, choose a partner that has offices in both countries, with native-speaking Polish staff who understand the nuts and bolts of doing business there.
To discuss your potential shipments from Poland, contact the specialists at I.C.E Transport.