Since its entry into the European Union in 2004, Poland has become a popular source of goods for American firms. If your company wants to enjoy the advantages Poland can provide, you’ll need to get up to speed on shipping containers from Poland to the USA.
Poland as a source of choice
As a former member of the Eastern Bloc, Poland used to be a risky bet for companies that needed to source goods. Its transportation network was poor, and manufacturers there were not always reliable.
When Poland joined the EU in 2004, that brought major investments and improvements, including upgraded roads and rail lines. These have made cargo transportation much more efficient. Also, Polish manufacturers today meet the same production standards as companies throughout the EU, and they rely on the same kinds of technologies.
Products sourced in Poland usually cost less than similar products from Western Europe. And you won’t have to wait a long time to receive them, as you do with goods sourced in the Far East. The average shipping time to the US from Poland is about 20 days, compared with 30 days, for example, from the Port of Shanghai to the Port of New York through the Panama Canal.
Planning the shipment
As you prepare to ship a container from Poland to the US, the first thing to keep in mind is that no port in Poland offers direct trans-Atlantic service. When you ship from a Polish port, a feeder vessel first takes the container to a major European port such as Hamburg, Bremerhaven or Antwerp. There, the shipping line transloads the container to a larger vessel for the crossing to the US.
As an alternative, you could transport the container directly to a Western European port, using truck or rail.
In all, there are four options for shipping containers from Poland to the USA. The best decision depends on your time constraints and your budget. Your choices are:
- Transport the container by truck directly to a port such as Antwerp, Bremerhaven or Hamburg for loading onto a ship.
- Truck the container to a Polish port, such as the Port of Gdynia, for transportation on a feeder vessel to Antwerp, Bremerhaven or Hamburg.
- Transport the container by truck to a nearby Polish rail terminal so a train can transport it to Antwerp, Bremerhaven or Hamburg.
- Ship the container by motor/rail to the Port of Gdynia and have it loaded onto a feeder vessel to Antwerp, Bremerhaven or Hamburg.
Option #1 is the fastest, but also the most expensive. Option #4 is the slowest, but it costs the least.
The right strategy could also depend on more subtle factors. For example, if the shipment originates in northern Poland, near the ports, it makes more sense to ship the container to Gdynia via truck than via rail.
Even if you’re shipping from Southern Poland, a local logistics partner could make trucking an economical option. Trucks that deliver containers from the Polish ports to manufacturing centers in the south are often looking for freight to bring back north. A freight partner, like I.C.E. Transport, with extensive carrier relationships in the country can probably match your load with a trucker who needs a backhaul, getting you a good rate.
Customs and paperwork
Before it leaves Poland, your cargo needs to clear export customs, based on the same rules and digitized processes you’ll encounter in all EU countries. You can take care of this obligation at an inland customs office (which don’t exist in the US) or at the port. Usually, it’s more convenient to clear customs at the port, since a trip to an inland office adds time and distance to the shipment.
The process for customs clearance in the US starts when a customs broker files the Import Security Filing on behalf of the Importer of Record (IOR). The ISF must reach US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at least 24 hours before your shipment leaves the main shipping port in Europe. If CBP receives the filing late, it will impose a $5,000 fine on the IOR.
In many cases, you will be the IOR, making you responsible for clearing the cargo through US Customs. But that won’t be the case if you purchase goods from Poland under Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) terms. Then, the Polish supplier becomes the IOR and needs to find a customs broker in the US to manage the customs clearance. If the Polish supplier doesn’t know the customs clearance landscape in the US, it could have trouble finding a reliable broker.
Where to find help shipping containers from Poland to the USA
Whoever serves as IOR, it’s often best to entrust the shipment to a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) whose services include customs brokerage in both Poland and the US. That partner can influence how your freight clears customs at on both sides, saving you time and worry.
A transportation partner with offices in Poland and the USA, and with deep experience in both countries, can also help you cut the cost of shipping from Poland in many other ways – for example, by arranging efficient, economical delivery to the port and to the final destination.