Small businesses that need to ship goods by sea face a confusing array of options, vendors and regulations. Ocean shipping also carries an equally baffling array of insider terminology. Many businesses use an agent or a freight shipper to coordinate freight shipping. Finding the right information and ocean freight companies to guide you through these murky waters is essential. Some preliminary questions to consider include:
- How much cargo do I need to ship?
- How often will I be shipping freight by sea?
- What's my transportation budget for ocean freight?
- Where do I need to ship my goods?
Get your feet wet in ocean shipping
In many cases, shipping cargo by ocean transport means understanding the ins and outs of import/export and logistics. Take some time to learn the freight shipping lingo and basic facts before deciding whether and how to ship goods with a freight shipper.
Export.gov contains a Basic Guide to Exporting with a good intro to shipping issues and an explanation of what a freight shipper is and does.
Locate a freight shipper to ship your goods
Ocean freight companies act on behalf of your company by coordinating shipping overseas. A freight shipper compiles the costs of ocean shipping into a single quote encompassing items such as freight shipping costs, customs fees, insurance and handling.
Know the relevant rules and regulations of ocean freight shipping
Whether or not you'll need to obtain special permission to ship your products by ocean transport depends upon the type and amount of product and the country or region.
guide to export regulations and licenses and a listing of government departments that regulate exports. To get a feel for international conventions and freight shipping regulations, visit World Customs Organization. Los Angeles law firm Countryman & McDaniel provides an extensive listing of links related to maritime law and regulation of ocean freight companies.
- Also make sure your freight shipper carries "errors and omissions" insurance in the event a carrier's insurance policy doesn't cover loss or damage during ocean transport.
- Be sure to ask ocean freight companies whether they’re licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission for ocean shipping as required by law.
- Ask for and verify credit references from ocean freight companies.
- Make sure your freight shipper is willing to explain all freight shipping terms and conditions in a non-technical manner so you're clear on all aspects of your transactions.