Prepare for the unknowns when importing or exporting by getting the best possible team on the job.


I like to play on the word “virtual reality” when I talk about freight shipping, because there are two worlds out there: the one where everything goes according to logical planning (virtual), and what actually ends up happening (reality).

My job as a freight forwarder is to make sure we close the gap between the two.

In a virtual freight world, achieving a no-mistake shipment is a breeze if you understand processes and languages and customs from around the world. However, the reality of shipping carries more hurdles, because there are things that occur that we simply cannot predict. 

I find that the best way to narrow the gap and deal with unknowns when importing & exporting your freight is to have the most perfect “virtual” possible.

Start by understanding your terms & filling out a pro-forma invoice:

As a seller or a buyer, you will need to define the freight terms (incoterms) to prevent unwanted costs or delays (get the quick reference chart HERE) You may want to work your business transactions through a pro-forma invoice before the transaction is confirmed, so you can get your arms around costs prior to executing the sale.

Your pro-forma can include most of what the shipping company & clearing agent will need:

  • Pro-forma number
  • Item description
  • Price per item
  • Harmonized system per item
  • Incoterm (freight term) stated
  • Packed up dimensions & weight per box

Later, your pro-forma will facilitate the freight pricing of your future shipments.

(Download our free conversion calculator HERE)

Choose a respected & licensed international freight forwarder

Stick with the licensed and approved freight forwarders carrying IATA and FMC, and NVOCC bonded. If handling an air freight shipment, they must also be TSA certified. Your forwarders have to have errors & omissions policy.

To continue improving your chances for a mistake-free shipping experience, I also suggest you consider working with a US-based forwarder over a foreign one.

Freight terminals at the origins or destinations ports

Terminals work in association with carriers. When we book your shipment with a carrier, the terminal is determined outside your international shipping company. Carriers such as Evergreen, Maersk, Hanjin, Zim & the likes may or may not use the same terminals. They each fall under a different jurisdiction, which is controlled by the Union. Strikes, equipment issues will trigger delays & potential added storage fees, which is ultimately your responsibilities. There is not much your forwarders can do in that department to prevent or avoid occasional issues, so get clear guidance about what is normal. Somebody who is experienced will be very helpful in this regard.

Trucking companies

Although the choice of a trucking company is often made by your freight forwarders, they act independently & carry their own liability insurance. Failure to deliver or pick-up a shipment can happen. Not all truckers have access to the ports, for example, so your forwarders should be able to choose one carefully for you, & liaise between you & them to coordinate the move.

Customs clearance

If you completed the pro-forma, as suggested earlier, it would help your broker file the customs entry & figure out the duty rate when applicable. Using a freight network that handles the shipping and the clearance is always preferable to dealing with unrelated companies, so keep that in mind as well when choosing your forwarder. It’s just another way to more swiftly deal with unforseen circumstances.


When transporting goods from one country to the next, having the right team by your side is imperative. Nobody can see into the future, but working with experienced freight forwarders means having the best resources available when things inevitably go awry.

It starts with better planning.

Interested in getting a quote from a team of freight forwarders who understand this business backwards and forwards? Click HERE to get planning today!

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