Notes on Shipping Overseas

Shipping overseas is not very difficult, and not much more difficult than to send a shipment locally, except that there is a bit more paperwork involved (groan - isn't there always!), and a couple of simple things that need to be done to satisfy the shippers and the customs people at the originating and delivery ends.

Firstly, while you can do it all yourself, it is very highly recommended that you use the services of a professional shipping/freight agent. These are commonly located at or very near the major airport, or sea port in your nearest major city. While they commonly handle larger shipments, they also offer quite reasonable rates for sea freight for smaller shipments. It is probably more convenient that the buyer uses a shipping agent in their country, as they can pay the freight costs more easily in their local currency.

Packing. It goes without saying that shipping a usually large, awkwardly shaped and heavy model will probably require some sort of crate. The model must be packed on the assumption that it will receive heavy-handed treatment during transport, so it must be securely fastened inside its crate. Just assume it will be rolled on its side and rolled back up again to give you an idea what may be required. Metal or wooden crates are fine, and a custom made crate may be required.

Typical stampHowever, wooden crates in particular have a few special requirements. The most important is that they will not be accepted for shipment, or be able to be imported into just about every country, unless they are certified "pest free". They must be high temperature treated with methyl bromide or similar, and have the appropriate certification stamp on the woodwork (See photo). It is recommended that you get a box custom-made by a box/crate manufacturing company (there are plenty in the phone book) and ensure that only new timber be used, and that they treat it for pests. The box companies are used to this and do it every day, and place that stamp on the woodwork. They also add things like fork lift points etc where required. While not at give-away prices, they are not all that expensive either, about A$200-$250 per box plus approx. $250 per fumigation (1 or 20 boxes). [May 2009 typical prices]. Any internal packing wood should also be new, treated and stamped, and should be obtained on the same order from the box company.

There are some pieces of paperwork which are required:-

  • A Commercial Invoice - This must contain several important pieces of information:
    It must be headed "Commercial Invoice"
    Name and contact details of the shipper.
    Delivery address, name and contact details of the recipient.
    Name and contact details of the party paying the shipping account. May or may not be the same as shipper or recipient.
    The date
    A reference number/shipping mark. [# see below]
    The country of origin of the goods
    A description of the goods
    The price of the goods
    The currency used
    The freight terms according to Incoterms 2000 [% see below]
    The signature of the seller
    [Sample Commercial Invoice]
  • A detailed Packing List listing the following:-
    The shipping mark
    The shipping terms
    Destination of the shipment
    A general description of the goods
    A detailed list of contents of EACH of the package(s) in the shipment, with weights of each item
    The dimensions of EACH package in the shipment
    Total net weight and total gross weight of the shipment
    [Sample Packing List]
  • Shippers Letter of Instruction:-
    This will come from the selected shipping agent, and needs to be filled in with the details of the shipment (mostly those above) plus a few other simple items. The completed Letter of Instruction must be submitted to the shipping agent and approved before you will be permitted to actually ship the goods.
  • Each package in the shipment must have a Shipping/Address Label attached, containing the following information:-
    The shipping address (end destination)
    Brief description of the shipment
    Type of package (crate, bundle, box etc)
    The shipping mark
    Dimensions of that package
    Gross and net weight of package
    No of this package in total shipment (If only 1 package = "1 of 1")
    [Sample Address Label]

[#] Shipping Mark - this a mark which appears on everything in the shipment (invoice, packing list, address labels on boxes etc, and is a unique mark for that shipment. It doesn't really matter what it is, and you can just make one up, but it does appear on every piece of paperwork and shipping label to tie the various bits together and enable easier tracking. Just use characters that are easily machine readable (not special symbols), and something that may be meaningful to you. e.g. "SMEX01234" would be satisfactory.

[%] Shipping Terms - Incoterms 2010 are the international standardised codes for the different freight options, and define who pays for delivery to shipper, transit insurance, freight, import/export and customs costs, import duty, local delivery to destination etc. Look on the Internet for a description of the terms, but the most common and useful are FOB (place) or FCA (place), CIF (place) or CIP (place), DAP (place) or DDP (place).

FOB (sea freight only) and FCA (road, rail, air, sea) is where the shipper delivers the goods to the carrier, and the recipient pays for customs clearance, freight and insurance, import duty, local delivery etc.

CIF (sea freight only) and CIP (road, rail, air, sea) is where the shippers pays for everything up to delivering the goods to the international side of customs at the reciveing end. The recipient is responsible for paying the import and customs costs, import duties, local taxes and local delivery at the receiving end.

DAP (=Delivered at Place) is where the shipper pays for everything including delivery to the recipient's door, except import duty and taxes in the receiving country which paid by the recipient.

DDU (=Delivered Duty Paid) is where the shipper pays for everything, including duties etc and delivery to the recipient's door.

It is usual to put several identical shipping labels on each package, say one on each side and each end, so it can be read no matter which way the package is stacked. Plus they should be waterproof, or protected. It is also wise to put the UP ARROW marks marked on the package indicating "This way up".

The actual price paid is usually the value shown on the commercial invoice. If a different value is used for any reason, a very low value or very high value may attract unwanted attention. The value shown on the commercial invoice is the value used to:- determine the value of the shipment for insurance purposes, the value for customs, and the value used to calculate any taxes like GST/VAT etc, or any import duties that may be payable. It is also usual practice according to Incoterms to insure the shipment for 110% of this value for shipping/insurance purposes.

Example real costs for a 600kg shipment from Australia to the UK are (converted to A$) $250-packing crate, $250-pest fumigation, $150-local Aust. freight to depot, $900-ocean freight including UK delivery, customs charges and shipping agent fees in Aust and UK etc, $1,000-shipping insurance, 1.5%-UK import duty, and 15%-UK VAT, or A$2,550 total for shipping + 16.5% of invoice value UK taxes & duties (unavoidable). Overall, not too expensive for typical model values and very affordable.