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How Does International Shipping Operate?

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

February 16, 2024

8 min read

In the years gone by, shipping a parcel to an international location meant spending a huge amount of money. Not many shipment companies provided international shipping service and only industrial goods were transported through freight services. Moreover, parcels took days to reach international destinations. However, with time, connectivity between different parts of the world has increased thereby reducing global distances. The freight service transports almost everything including food items. With a boom in trade between different countries, the demand for international shipping services has grown drastically. This has given way to many courier companies offering international shipping services. The service is majorly contributing to the growth of eCommerce businesses. The global trade growth is estimated to be 12.59%

In this article, you will learn about the international shipping process, charges, and other important information related to the topic.

International Shipping Procedure and more

International Shipping: Meaning

As the name suggests, international shipping involves transporting goods to different global destinations mainly using the sea and air routes. Shipping via cargo ships has become one of the primary means of transporting goods to different locations internationally. This means of transport is considerably economical compared to air and road transport and can carry huge quantities of goods. Reportedly, the first container carrier models were designed to carry around 1,700 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit). The latest ones can load a whopping 20,000 containers. The international shipping stakeholders aim to adopt sustainable practices to lower the emissions and overall impact caused to the environment by shipping through sea route.

Time Taken For International Shipment to Reach its Destination

The time taken for an international shipment to reach its destination varies due to different factors. Here is a look at the factors that make cross-border shipping a time-consuming process.

  1. Address Format

Each country has a particular address format that must be followed to ensure timely deliveries. The shipments that do not follow the prescribed international shipping address formats may take more time to reach their destination.

  1. Restricted Items

Different countries prohibit the entry of different items. If you do not read and follow the guidelines for prohibited items then your shipment is likely to stall. You must learn about the restricted items of all the countries your shipment will be passing through and not just the destination. If the country your shipment is passing through prohibits the items on board then your stuff will be grounded.

  1. Delivery Issues

There can be issues in delivery arising from unforeseen circumstances. To avoid these issues to some extent, it is suggested to seek services from a reputed shipping company. While unforeseen issues cannot be avoided completely, top shipping companies have the knowledge and resources to tackle them quickly and efficiently.

  1. Shipping Mode

The time taken for international shipping also varies depending on the mode of transport selected by you. Air freight is faster compared to shipping through sea routes. However, the expense involved in sending shipments by air is also quite high.

  1. Service Provider

Most importantly, different shipping companies accomplish the shipping process in different timeframes. They also provide varied international shipping services. The time taken to ship your goods also varies depending on the type of service chosen.

International Freight Shipping: The Entire Process

Here is a look at the various steps involved in the international freight shipping process:

  1. Export Haulage

The first step in the process is export haulage. As a part of this essential step, the shipping company moves the goods from the factory to the port. Research shows that around 80% of the goods are transported via ships. In the case of transporting the goods via road, it involves moving the items to the railway station. If they are to be sent by air then export haulage involves moving the goods from the factory to the airport. The goods are brought to the point from where they will move out of the country. There may be a need for warehousing during this transition depending upon the distance to be covered.

  1. Customs Clearance

Before shipping goods from one country to another, they need to undergo customs clearance which is the second step in the process. The customs department checks each item to determine whether or not it is eligible to enter its destination country. It also checks if the clearance fee for the same has been paid or not. Shipments might get stuck at this point due to improper paperwork or lack of certain documents.

  1. Loading and Transporting

After customs clearance, the goods are loaded in the chosen mode of transport and shipped to the international destination.

  1. Import Customs

The shipment should clear the customs on arrival as well. The destination country screens every item following a stringent process to assess whether or not they pass the customs guidelines. The process is time-consuming. Having the right contacts is necessary to speed up the process and sail through it smoothly.

  1. Import Haulage

This step involves the movement of goods from the warehouse or distribution center to the consignee. In some cases, the freight forwarder performs this step and in others, it is taken care of by a local transportation firm.

International Shipping Rates

International shipping rates vary based on several factors. These include the distance between the point of origin and destination, the weight of the parcel, the international shipping plan and the shipping mode. Besides, there is a difference between the charges levied by different companies. Thus, there isn’t any definite list of international shipping rates. However, you can get an estimate of these charges by entering a few details in this international shipping calculator. The details to be entered are as follows:

  • 6-digit PIN code of the pick-up and delivery area
  • Approximate weight of the parcel to be shipped in kilograms
  • Approximate dimensions of the parcel to be shipped in centimeters

Shiprocket X: Providing Cross-Border Shipping Solutions

Shiprocket X can be your trusted partner as you look for international shipping services. The company offers end-to-end shipping solutions. It facilitates shipping to more than 220 destinations around the world. It enables you to send B2B shipments without any weight restrictions. Global expansion of businesses becomes easier with Shiprocket’s X fully managed enablement solutions that offer a smooth shipping experience. It empowers you to serve your international customers efficiently by offering timely deliveries. You also get access to real-time updates of your shipments as they cross borders and move toward their destination. The company offers different international shipping services to choose from. Here is a look at these:

  • Priority – As the name suggests, it sends your shipments on priority, delivering them in just about 8 days.
  • Express – This service has specially been designed for urgent deliveries. Your package will reach its destination in just about 4 days with this service.
  • Premium – It delivers items in 10-12 days and is reasonably priced.
  • Premium Plus – It delivers shipments to the US and its charges are solely based on deadweight only.
  • Premium Books – It enables prompt delivery of advertising or editorial shipments or directories.
  • Economy – It enables deliveries to the United Kingdom within 10 days at a cost-effective price.


International shipping is on the rise and so are the companies offering this service. Seaborne trade has seen a drastic growth since 1990. The volume of goods transported via ships has more than doubled between 1990 and 2021. It increased from four billion tons to around 11 billion. You can ship your goods to various international locations by following a stringent step-by-step procedure. This includes export haulage, customs clearance, transporting, import customs and import haulage. Each step in the process is crucial and needs to be carried out as per the set standard to move to the next. It is recommended to choose a trusted company such as Shiprocket X to fulfill your international shipping needs. The company provides different shipping modes and plans. You may choose the one that fulfills your requirements and comes well within your budget.

Which items are prohibited in international shipping?

Many items are prohibited in international shipping. These include flammable items, toxic chemicals, paints, alcohol, tobacco products, weapons, and illegal substances.

Do countries define their own set of restrictions for international shipping?

Yes, countries define their own set of restrictions for international shipping. Thus, it is important to learn about the restrictions in your destination country as well as the nations from where your shipment will pass through to reach its destination.

Why is an itemized list needed during international shipping?

It is essential to create an itemized list of the products in your shipment as your packages are scanned as they reach the destination. The items in the shipment are then matched with the itemized list provided by you.

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