How Long Does International Shipping Take?

business cargo cargo container city
Photo by Pixabay on

International shipping is a complex process. It requires knowledge, contacts, and experience across various industries and freight sectors. 

No two clients are the same and the challenges of delivering freight across the state and international borders require companies and personnel to exercise the utmost skill and tenacity to ensure products are delivered intact and on time.

Delivery times are subject to the vagaries of weather, congestion, equipment failure, and human error. Factoring all this into your planning will help you to estimate how long international shipping takes.

Military Specification (MIL-SPEC) Packaging

When delivering cargo to the United States military, it is of vital importance that both the manufacturer and shipper understand the unique requirements of delivering secure cargo that adheres to Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) guidelines as laid out in the MIL-STD-2073 document.

Fulfilling these guidelines positively impacts delivery schedules. 

Companies such as Kaiser & Johnson, have many years of experience packing goods per military specifications. This includes the very specific container markings and labeling requirements that all DOD contracts contain.

Kaiser & Johnson does not, however, handle any type of hazardous shipping.

Here are some of the key issues facing clients:

Long-term Packaging

Military contracts require long-term packaged products to last up to 4 years or more before being opened. 

Items such as machinery parts as well as dry goods, equipment, electronic, and electrical components need specialized crating and packing material to protect cargo in extreme conditions over extended periods.

Packaging materials also need to meet or exceed the ASTM standards to adhere to military specification contract terms.

Bar-coding and Labelling

All military cargo is labeled with bar codes with standard layouts for ease of receipt and dispatch. This impacts customs clearances, shipping services, and other inspections which could delay delivery if not correctly adhered to.

Dependent on which agency you utilize and taking into account port of origin, lead times, and size of cargo, a shipment can take anything from 1 to 10 days when shipped internationally using air-freight and as long as 6-12 months when utilizing road and sea freight services.

The Right Combination of Freight Forwarding Services

Each country’s port of entry needs a combination of courier and freight forwarding services to successfully meet international shipping requirements. 

The best shipping solution balances affordability with a client’s delivery deadlines. To achieve this, a network of reliable companies and personnel, built up over years of experience within the freight forwarding industry, is an absolute necessity. 

International Shipping

Understandably, international shipping procedures are much more complex than shipping locally.

Several key factors determine how long it takes to ship to international destinations.

The following elements should be borne in mind when calculating how long it takes to ship internationally:

Customs Clearances and Trade Agreements

When you ship from one country to another, there are various trade agreements, such as those agreed upon within the World Trade Organization, which govern all aspects of the exporting, importing, and freight clearing process.

Customs officials peruse all the required paperwork to determine whether the goods that make up the shipment are allowed to either leave or enter their ports of entry and exit. These ports of entry can be either by sea, road, or air.

After confirming payment for the various clearance, inspection fees, and taxes, customs officials may or may not require that amendments are made, or additional inspections be undertaken.

Delays are usually caused by freight forwarders who are not familiar with the rules and regulations. It is vital, therefore, to ensure that you utilize only those firms with a good track record and who employ experienced staff.

Inadequately prepared paperwork results in many delays and ensuring that the harmonized tariff codes and product descriptions are accurately filled out on all forms will make the process a lot smoother and quicker. 

Coronavirus Pandemic Protocols

Many industries and services have come to a halt or been drastically curtailed due to the threats posed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

To curb the spread of viruses, the international shipping industry has been one of the worst affected by constantly changing border controls and no-fly mandates.

Coupled with that, personnel in many freight forwarding industries have either become ill or are isolated due to track and trace protocols. Despite working from home, the staff is not able to fulfill their duties as efficiently as they once could, resulting in extended or even canceled freight shipments.

As long as travel restrictions are in place, freight delivery times will be open to unexpected delays.

Not all routes will be open to you and your shipping company will need to stay on top of the ever-changing situation to be able to provide you with up-to-date scheduling information.

Shipping Service Alternatives

The medium of transport you use will have a dramatic impact on both the cost and the time it takes to deliver your cargo.

Sea and air cargo are the most common international shipping mediums. However, before making a decision on the most appropriate option, you need to consider your delivery deadlines, the nature and type of product being shipped, and the anticipated costs involved.

There is no ideal way to ship freight. Everything is a compromise, as the faster you need something delivered the more expensive it will be. Likewise, the size, weight, and handling requirements of each shipment will either add to the cost or limit your options in terms of which shipping method you can use.

Sea Freight

Sea freight is more affordable, especially for larger items. But, shipping by sea takes more time and is affected by weather and port conditions. We are currently experiencing huge delays in ports around the world with some shipping delayed for weeks at a time due to insufficient resources at the various ports.

Air Freight

Airfreight, on the other hand, is very expensive and is restricted in the types, sizes, and weights of cargo carried. It is, however, perfect for smaller, high-value items and cargo that require more delicate handling.

Items Prohibited by Specific Countries

Many countries restrict shipments of cargo that are deemed to be dangerous or form part of an embargo. Before sending your shipment, confirm that your cargo does not breach any international agreements or country-specific guidelines on restricted, prohibited, or dangerous goods.

Up-to-Date Tracking and Information Systems

As international shipping is affected by a multitude of factors that are outside of a freight forwarder’s control, it’s imperative that you make use of the services of a company that has a comprehensive tracking and information service.

Knowing where your shipment is and being made aware of possible problems ahead of time gives you much more control over your cargo. You can also avoid potential problem areas which will prevent your shipment from arriving on time.

The time it takes to ship cargo internationally varies considerably and we hope that the information contained in this article assists you in ensuring your cargo is delivered on time.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.