If you’ve ever had qualms about selling into Poland, or sourcing from that country, it’s time to stop worrying. Shipping from the US to Poland, or vice versa, has grown much simpler since Poland joined the European Union in 2004.
As you consider opportunities in Poland, here are some facts about shipping to keep in mind:
1. You can use a Polish port, but you don’t have to.
Some shippers who do business in Poland like to load or receive their cargo in a local port such as Gdynia or Gdansk. Others would rather use a European base port such as Hamburg or Rotterdam. The choice is purely a matter of personal preference and the economics of your situation. Variables to consider include the drayage distance and the value-added tax (VAT) you incur when your cargo lands in a specific county.
Since Poland belongs to the EU, trucking a load, for example, from the Port of Hamburg to a customer in Warsaw is simple. Once you clear Customs in Hamburg, your container rolls over the German-Polish border without any formalities. It’s just like trucking a load from the Port of New York to a customer in Pennsylvania.
2. If you do use a Polish port, build in a little extra time.
The steamship lines mostly use smaller cargo ships, known as feeder vessels, to serve ports in Poland. Feeder vessels don’t make the trans-Atlantic crossing. Say you book a container from Norfolk to Gdynia. The line loads your cargo on a trans-Atlantic container ship bound for one of the large European ports. There, your container is transferred to a feeder vessel for the final leg of the trip. The same happens in reverse when you ship from Poland to the US. The trans-shipment adds a few days to the trip, so you’ll need to account for that in your planning.
3. Poland is rich in options for landside transportation.
Poland’s freight rail network reaches all parts of the country. Wherever your Polish origin or destination may be, it’s likely to be a reasonable drive from a rail ramp. Poland also boasts a high-quality highway network. This wasn’t always the case: before Poland joined the EU, poor roads there posed a serious obstacle to freight transportation. But over the past ten years or so the EU has invested heavily in improvements to Polish highways.
4. If you truck your freight, watch the calendar.
Unlike the US, many European countries restrict heavy truck traffic on certain days. The rules vary from country to country, even within the EU. Poland, for instance, bans truck traffic during certain periods before and on public holidays. In the summer, it adds restrictions every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you don’t keep these rules in mind, unexpected delays could catch you off guard.
5. It pays to have a partner in Poland.
A freight forwarder that manages a lot of volume going into a particular country negotiates better rates with steamship lines than a shipper—especially a smaller shipper—could on its own. Also, steamship lines usually negotiate rates with brokers’ offices in the country of origin. So, when you ship from the US to Poland, you’ll usually get the best rates with a forwarder that has an office in the US. If you ship from Poland to the US, you’re best off working with a forwarder that has an office in Poland. The ideal solution is to partner with a forwarder that maintains offices in both countries.
Expert help for shipping from the US to Poland
When you work with a US-based forwarder that has a strong presence in Poland, you gain other advantages as well. A broker with knowledgeable staff on the ground in Poland understands the geography and the highway network. It has good relationships with trucking companies and freight rail carriers there, ensuring capacity when you need it, at a fair price. The forwarder’s close working relationships with staff at marine terminals in Poland might help you get a container in at the last minute if need be, or help you get it out of port quickly.
If your forwarder has staff in Poland dedicated to customs clearance, that will help your cargo move in or out of Europe without unnecessary delays. And, of course, it helps to have people on your team who are native Polish speakers. While much of Poland can conduct business in English, some people there prefer to use their own language. A thoroughly bilingual staff will make sure that communications flow freely, without any costly misunderstandings.
For more guidance on successful shipping from the US to Poland, or from Poland to the US, get in touch with the Poland shipping specialists at I.C.E Transport.