The In’s And Out’s Of International Shipping

The In’s And Out’s Of International Shipping Banner

Many of the most successful businesses don’t limit themselves to attending or exhibiting at trade shows in their home country. We live in a world that is globalized to an unprecedented degree and that means that once your business grows to a certain point it almost always makes sense to search for new markets and often times those markets are international. Since trade show exhibitions are an important part of promoting your company in a particular location, it makes sense to exhibit at trade shows in the emerging markets that you are trying to expand your business into.

cargo ship
CC Image courtesy of sarflondondunc via Flickr

And when you decide to start exhibiting internationally, you will quickly realize that the logistics involved in planning an international exhibition are a bit more complicated. That’s especially true when it comes to shipping. International exhibitions will require you to ship the components of your trade show display overseas and there are all kinds of hurdles and issues that you can run into when attempting international shipping of these items for the first time.


Avoid The Most Common Hurdles When Shipping Across Borders

When you are shipping internationally, you will want to make sure that your trade show booth components and materials arrive on time, in one piece and with a minimum of hassle. This means that you need to take a number of things into account:


1. Choose the best shipping method

When shipping internationally you typically have a choice of two types of shipping method: air or sea. Shipping by air is much quicker and usually provides a more controlled environment but also can be significantly more expensive–especially for large, heavy items like trade show display components.

 Shipping via sea is usually significantly cheaper and has less restrictions on size and heft of items, but it also means items could be exposed to a wider variety of environments (bigger temperature and humidity ranges). The biggest concern when shipping via sea is that it is much slower than air. To ship transatlantic you will be looking at 2-3 weeks in most cases. Make sure to factor in this time for both directions. So, you will need to plan out your shipping in advance and be able to do without those trade show display parts for a month after the show as well.

 2. Do your research on customs restrictions in the destination country

International shipping also comes with the added burden of dealing with foreign customs agents and agencies. Customs will require you to provide information on the contents of everything you ship and if there is anything questionable about the packages, you may be looking at delays. It’s important to do some research on restricted items and custom processes in the destination country to avoid unpleasant surprises. Keep in mind that customs usually will add a couple days (perhaps more) to the overall trip of your trade show display components. Customs agents will oftentimes need to open packages to examine contents so keep this in mind when packing your items as well.

 3. Pack for durability and avoid breakage and other damage headaches

 When you ship items thousands of miles around the globe, they may very well experience a bumpy ride in many situations. Your items also will likely need to be loaded, unloaded, loaded and unloaded again several times in the duration of their trip to the destination. This means that you will want durable packaging and materials to reinforce your trade show booth components. Just slapping a ‘fragile’ label on the box isn’t going to save you. You should invest in high quality crates and packing materials to prevent breakage and that last minute scramble to find a replacement part before the show.

4. Know about and utilize ATA Carnets to save money on import duties and other fees

An ATA Carnet is a documented agreement which allows one to temporarily import items and merchandise that will eventually return to their country of origin (within the year). Importing and exporting your trade show display components and any other materials which you may want to ship internationally for your trade show exhibition with an ATA Carnet can save you some serious coin because these documents are accepted in 80 different countries and usually exempt your packages from import/export duties, VAT (value added taxes) and other fees.

 Don’t Forget The Bottom Line: Do Your Research Before You Ship

 The most important part of international shipping is doing your due diligence on customs processes, free-trade agreements and other regulations, requirements and shipping methods before you make the plunge. Good planning can avoid delays or other hiccups that could cost you thousands of dollars.

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