For small and medium enterprises, the possibility of branching out into international markets is an exciting step forward in the growth of your business. However, it also brings new challenges.
If you are exporting goods from the UK for the first time, working out how your product can leave your business and arrive overseas without a hitch can be a big headache. In this guide to international shipping from the UK, we explain the biggest initial hurdles and how to easily overcome them.
Being an island nation, UK exports must cross water either by sea or by air. Whether to send your goods by air or sea is often the first decision you need to make.
The UK has been an important trading nation for a very long time and is typically listed among the top 10 nations worldwide for the value and quantity of its exports. This means it has a very established and popular trade routes your business can easily utilize, both sea and air.
The UK is at one end of some of the world’s busiest shipping routes, meaning cargo ships leave it regularly. For example, sending freight to the USA is straightforward; routes out of Felixstowe to Baltimore, Savannah and Norfolk are amongst the busiest in the world. To mainland Europe, Southampton to Rotterdam and Le Havre are also very popular.
Inevitably, if your goods are traveling long distance, they may be at sea for quite some time. For example, typical transit times are around 15 days to the east coast of the USA, 26 days to Singapore and 50 days to Adelaide. Most northern European ports can be reached within a few days, although ports in southern Europe may take several weeks to reach.
If your goods are time-sensitive, then ocean freight may not be suitable. There are many air freight route options that can move your goods from the UK quickly. London Heathrow to New York, Frankfurt, Paris, Chicago, and Los Angeles are amongst the busiest routes.
Air travel is faster but more expensive. It is straightforward to get competitive online quotes for both air and ocean freight in one place through an online freight platform like Shipa Freight. You can quickly weigh up your options in terms of cost and speed and decide from there.
Again, this is something that an online shipping service can help you with. There are many air and ocean carriers traveling through various routes. Working out your best option can be a real headache, though.
Services like Shipa Freight are there to help small and medium-sized enterprises move their goods across borders smoothly. They’ll be able to provide you with competitive quotes from carriers and you can book through them with minimum fuss, too. They’ll even take the mystery out of the legal requirements of international shipping from the UK, thereby simplifying the whole process.
Before you make plans to export your goods, you must cross-check them against an up-to-date list of goods that are not eligible for export from the UK or are subject to extra controls. These are likely to continue to include:
- Military goods or those that can be used for a military purpose
- Agricultural products
- Processed foods
- Controlled drugs and medicines and their component materials
- Volatile or dangerous chemicals
You’ll find further information on these on the UK government website in the customs and export section.
For many entrepreneurs and business owners intending to export, this is the most intimidating part of the process. There are obligations to fulfill and paperwork to complete no matter whether you are sending goods on a short-haul flight or an intercontinental sea freight route.
Obligations depend on the destination of your freight. Exporting to the EU has generally been very simple. But as the UK prepares to leave the EU, export regulations are likely to change substantially post-Brexit. Exporters are being asked to stay up-to-date with regulations, and as the UK negotiates new trade deals and regulations change, this could become a stressful process.
This is another very good reason to use an online shipping service as they can take care of border formalities, and prepare and submit paperwork on your behalf. They can easily advise on any additional documentation you need to provide to fulfill all your legal and customs requirements. This helps take all the stress out of the process.
It’s vital to consider insuring your cargo for loss, damage, theft, and delay. Although incidences regarding these are not common, they do have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to your business operation.
Many carriers will provide liability insurance, but this should not be confused with cargo insurance. Carrier liability insurance will be limited to a very low sum, sometimes as little as $2 per kilo of cargo, and will have many exclusions. Unless your shipment is of particularly low value, it is prudent to obtain additional insurance.
Comprehensive insurance will cover you for the full value of your shipment in the event of loss, theft or damage, and can be arranged to include insurance against delays, too.
When you decide whether or not to purchase insurance, you should consider when the goods cease to be your responsibility. Each international sale or purchase made will have an incoterm, the point in the transaction where liability shifts from seller to buyer. The incoterm will determine whether you possess liability for the goods during shipping.
When purchasing cargo insurance, you can opt for single coverage or open coverage. The former covers one transportation, the second insures you for a specified period of time. If you intend to ship frequently, open coverage is likely to work out more cost-effectively.
Before you start shipping, the process can seem daunting. However, it is not as complicated as you may think. But you would still benefit significantly from the professional advice and smooth service that comes from using an online freight platform like Shipa Freight. They can get your goods to their destination as quickly and as inexpensively as possible, with none of the hard work needing to be done by you.
As Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight, Paul Rehmet is responsible for translating the vision of Shipa Freight into an easy-to-use online freight platform for our customers. Formerly Vice President of Digital Marketing for Agility, Paul managed Agility’s website, mobile apps, content marketing and online advertising campaigns. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways. Paul has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brown University. Paul is based in Philadelphia.