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Transporting the Goods: Shipping from Canada to the World

By Michelle Collins |

One of the most crucial aspects of the exporting process is shipping. Chances are you don't own a boat or an airplane. Nor do you have the time to truck goods back and forth while trying to increase sales and manufacturing. Fortunately, a freight forwarder can help the small business exporter. These people are transportation experts. It is their job to know about any restrictions on shipments, what are the best methods for this shipment, and how long it will take to get them there.

Let the pros do it
A freight forwarder performs several duties on your behalf. In addition to handling all the necessary paperwork, they will find the best and most cost-efficient means to ship your particular goods. In fact, a wise move would be getting in touch with freight forwarders before making that final deal. You or your buyer could be unaware of certain limits on what the country can accept in terms of exports.

"A lot of people don't have time to research all of that. They're more involved in selling their product, and they rightfully should be. So they hire a freight forwarder and we co-ordinate everything and tell them the rules of everything they need for their product overseas," says Brenda Carberry, president of WHIZDOM International in Winnipeg, Man.

A freight forwarder differs from a customs broker. A freight forwarder will ensure that the goods leave the country problem-free, while a customs broker ensures that the shipment will get into the foreign country. Freight forwarding companies commonly employ an in-house customs broker.

Pick and choose
When you are certain that the goods will be allowed into the country, find the freight forwarder that best suits your needs. No hard and fast rules say you have to use the same freight forwarding company every time. Feel free to call around to different companies in your province to find the best deal. A good place to start is the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA). "The industry is actually very competitive. You won't just find one freight forwarder that's super expensive, and the other guy is super cheap," says Carberry.

If you only have a small quantity to ship, you'll want to inquire about consolidation. Most companies will take shipments from several smaller exporters and combine them to make one full-sized shipment. You pay according to the space and weight that you use. "We've bought so much space for a discount price from the carrier that we can actually offer the customer a better rate because we're putting everything together in one order," says Carberry.

By land, sea or air
Trucks, trains, airplanes, or boats can ship your goods. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, which can vary depending on your location.

If you're shipping across the border to the US, a truck can do the job in under a week, and clearing the goods is fairly painless. The possible drawback is that bad weather conditions could delay the shipment.

Trains are another option for transport within North America. If you can fill a lot of space with your cargo, then you can save money. As with trucking, train schedules are subject to bad weather. You'll also want to check that a train route services the area.

While transporting goods by air is definitely the quickest way, it's also the priciest. Since the events of September 11, fuel taxes and war surcharges have increased, which could drive up the shipment cost. Depending on where you are, such as Manitoba, a limited number of large carriers are available. For smaller shipments, however, using air transport could be less expensive then boat because you do not have to meet any weight requirements.

If you're sending goods overseas, shipping is probably the best and most economical way. Although, for some destinations, you'll want to give yourself plenty of time, as it can take more than two weeks for the shipment to arrive by boat. "Some countries it's not so far: eight days into the UK from Halifax. So that's not a bad transit time," says Carberry.

Last stop
Once the shipment reaches its final destination, the freight forwarder can also help collect payment by holding the goods until the collection comes through. You can also have them conduct a follow-up interview to ensure that everything was in order.

"If it's the first time you've ever done it, a lot of people are very nervous and scared that something can go wrong, and that's for both sides: some of the buyers overseas have never bought from overseas either," says Carberry. "We want to make sure that everything is done right the first time so that people overseas can see that it's not that difficult. For the most part, 99.9 per cent of the time everything works out."

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