Eastern Europe Shipping Blog

Expert tips on smarter shipping between the U.S. and Eastern Europe, including shipping of heavy goods.

International door to door shipping: a single source is best


An international shipment goes through many stages. There’s loading, drayage, maybe a ride on the rails, and then the ocean crossing. On the other side there’s Customs, more land transportation and then, finally, unloading.

So many chances for something to go wrong!

international door to door shippingIf you’ve seen a trapeze act, you understand the importance of a handoff. Acrobat A hooks her knees over the bar and swings toward a second swinging bar and the outstretched arms of Acrobat B. The two grab hands and continue along the arc as one unit, high above the circus ring.

When the handoff goes well, it’s a thing of beauty. But if the hands don’t quite connect—well, you’d better hope there’s a net.

It’s the same with international door to door shipping. Ideally, your load should pass seamlessly from the care of one service provider to the next. But every transition brings opportunities for a poor handoff and a painful fall.

For example:

  • No one tells the drayage carrier that your supplier can load a container only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. When the driver arrives with the container at 3 p.m., he’s told to come back tomorrow, wasting time and creating extra costs.
  • Your supplier doesn’t communicate clearly about the dimensions of your load. When the trucker arrives, the load is too tall for the 40-foot container he brought. He’s forced to return that container to the steamship line while someone re-books the cargo to secure a 40-foot high-cube, which the trucker brings the next day.
  • A document required for Customs clearance hasn’t arrived by the time your vessel reaches port. Your load sits in the terminal while you, your supplier and the Customs broker hunt for the missing paperwork.
  • You rely on the steamship line to arrange for drayage at the destination. At the last minute, the line informs you that this won’t be possible. While you scramble to arrange transportation yourself, you run out of free time and start incurring storage charges. You also pay a premium for the truck.
  • Your cargo arrives ten days late, creating costly problems for your supply chain. Someone owes you an explanation. But everyone you call—your supplier, the overseas trucking company, the steamship line, the Customs broker, etc.—points a finger at someone else.

Read our Ultimate Guide to Shipping   Heavyweight and Oversized Freight

A better solution for international door to door shipping

To avoid missed connections, the surest strategy is to eliminate the handoffs. That is, put one service provider in charge of the shipment from start to finish.

An experienced international freight forwarder will manage every stage of your shipment, including ground transportation at the origin and destination, ocean transport and Customs clearance.

When you rely on one company to manage your international door to door shipping, you gain:

  • Someone to sweat all the details: You don’t need to stress over who gave the trucking company which information, or whether the Customs broker is doing its job. You still rely on different service providers to execute different stages of the shipment. But your forwarder oversees every transaction, making sure nothing slips between the cracks.
  • An expert who asks all the right questions: An experienced international freight forwarder knows all too well what can happen when you’re missing crucial pieces of information. Do the freight dimensions you provided include the crating? When is the dock available for loading or unloading? Did you double-check the specs your trucker will use to get a permit for an oversized load? A forwarder who’s seen it all knows just what to ask to keep you out of trouble.
  • More leverage with carriers: When capacity gets tight, you might struggle to find a truck. But a forwarder who does business every day with an extensive network of carriers can usually find the space you need. And because that forwarder moves so much volume, it gets lower rates than you could on your own, and passes the savings along to you.
  • Logistics expertise that can save you time and money: There’s usually more than one way to a move a load from Point A to Point B. A knowledgeable partner that manages your shipment door to door can recommend various alternatives and help you analyze the tradeoffs. It can, for example, offer strategies to reduce total transit time, or reduce international shipping costs, depending on your priorities.
  • A single point of contact: Need a quote right now? Or an ETA? Have a question about Customs clearance in Norfolk? Need to reroute a shipment from Warsaw to Krakow? Work with a single source, and there’s never any doubt about where to turn for help.

How much stress can you handle?

It is possible to manage international door to door shipping on your own. But you’ll have to watch every single detail, from before the cargo is loaded until it reaches its destination. You’ll coordinate with multiple service providers and then pay their individual bills. And when something goes wrong, you’re the one who will have to fix the problem. Do you have the time, staff and know-how to take all that on?

The safest, most cost-effective way to manage international cargo is to put one trusted source in charge of the shipment, from door to door. For more on the advantages of this kind of partnership, contact the international shipping experts at I.C.E. Transport.

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