Cargo can be shipped by air or by water, domestically or overseas. If you plan to ship cargo overseas, do yourself a favor and hire a freight forwarder-someone who does the packing, pick-up and/or delivery, and the paperwork-to facilitate the shipping process. There are several reasons why a freight forwarder is a good choice when you do cargo shipping overseas:
- A freight forwarder is familiar with how to label, document, and insure your shipment. This will prevent your cargo shipment from being delayed somewhere in foreign customs due to a documentation snafu. Don't underestimate the hoops that you have to jump through to meet the import laws of foreign countries.
- A freight forwarder knows the proper packaging and containers that can best protect your shipment. If your load is a large one, it will most likely be shipped in a cargo container. A freight forwarder knows how to secure your load for the changes in temperature, vibrations, and shocks of loading and unloading that your cargo will encounter. Most insurance does not cover any damage to your cargo if it wasn't packed properly.
There are several factors to consider as you choose a freight forwarder to help you ship cargo :
- Hire a licensed freight forwarder: Export freight forwarders who ship by air are licensed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and those who ship by water are licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission.
- Check references. Ask for a list of both credit and customer references, and check them.
- Ask if the freight forwarder is a member of a professional organization such as WorldCargoAlliance. While not a guarantee, the professional organization wants to keep its good name, and gives you someone to turn to should you have a bad experience with a particular shipper.
- Don't forget to factor shipping services into your cost if you are shipping a product. Freight forwarders normally offer their services for a stated fee plus any additional costs for documentation.
When shipping within the United States, you may still choose to use a freight forwarder or you can do the legwork-and the paperwork-yourself. All of the major airlines ship domestically, and have instructions on how to do cargo shipping on their websites. For a listing of airlines and their web addresses, check out IBike. Though this list was compiled for bicyclists shipping their bicycles, it is a comprehensive list of airlines and their web addresses and phone numbers.