How to organise international transport

Transport is an important part of your import or export journey. International transport involves extra costs and risks. Make sure you are clear about all aspects of transportation early on. Preferably when you make or receive a quotation. That way, the supplier, the customer, and the carrier all know where they stand.

Before you ship goods, you first choose the method of transportation. For example, by road, air or sea. You always need a transport document for this. Your carrier will also have requirements for the packaging of products. You agree with your customer or supplier who will arrange the transport. You record this with Incoterms®, for example. Finally, consider taking out transport insurance. Put the agreements about these subjects in your quotation.

Transporting goods 

There are several ways to transport your products to and from foreign countries. Road transport is fast and flexible. Transport by rail is inexpensive and sustainable. For long distances, transport by sea or air is the more obvious solution.

Mode of transport 

Which mode of transport you use depends on the type of product and the size or weight and quantity of the shipment. Also, consider the speed of delivery and the distance to be covered. Before choosing the mode of transport, make a list that sets out: 

  • the destination 

  • the particulars of the product 

  • the type of product packaging 

  • the delivery speed 

  • the accessibility at the destination 

  • the transport costs 

  • how reliable delivery is 

  • any specialist services required 

  • the available transport capacity of such a specialist 

In-house or outsource? 

Larger companies often arrange shipments with their own means of transport (in Dutch). This is bound by regulations, such as the Road Transport Act (Wet wegvervoer goederen) (in Dutch). 

Most business owners outsource transport for import and export to specialists such as freight forwarders, customs brokers, and international transport companies. International transport is a service. To deliver a service, you make arrangements and a schedule. You do this together with your customer, supplier, forwarder, customs broker, or carrier.  

Forwarding agent, customs broker, or carrier 

Forwarding agents are brokers. They have your goods transported in the most practical way and take care of everything involved. Besides the transport itself, they take care of, for example, the documentation, customs formalities, insurance, and storage. 

A customs broker can handle the import and export declarations for your products at customs. An international carrier only transports your goods. 

Do you regularly have full loads from or to foreign countries? Then use a regular carrier to transport the goods. Record the agreements you make with your carrier in a transportation document. 

Transportation documents 

For your transport to and from foreign countries, you need transportation documents. These documents contain all the information about the transport and the products. In addition, a transportation document proves who delivered the products, in what quantity and when. You must show this document if customs or the police carry out checks. So, make sure the document is complete and accurate. 

A means of transport is also called a modality. Each type of transport vehicle has its own transportation document: 

Do you want to discuss your needs with an advisor? Call the KVK Advice Team on 088 585 22 22.

Documents for import and export 

When you are doing business internationally, you need documentation. Some documents are mandatory for your import and export declarations at customs. Other documents allow you to pay less or no import duty. Having your documents in order ahead of time will help you get through customs faster.

Packaging requirements 

The packaging of goods must meet a range of requirements. These vary from country to country. For example, more and more countries are requiring that wooden pallets comply with the ISPM 15 international standard. This treatment kills unwanted fungi and pests in the wood. Discuss in advance with your carrier or shipper what the best packaging is for your product. Also ask if your carrier works with maximum dimensions or weights per pallet, for example.  

International delivery terms 

With Incoterms®, you can regulate the obligations of both buyer and seller concerning international transport. Agreeing on an Incoterm® means you know which of you is responsible for arranging transport and who will pay for it. You also agree who bears the risk of damage to, or loss of, the goods during the transportation process. 

Insurance on the transport of goods 

Goods may be lost or damaged in transit. International transport companies are not always responsible for these damages. By taking out transport insurance (in Dutch) you cover these risks. Whether you are the one to take out transport insurance or your customer or supplier, depends on the Incoterm® you have agreed on together. A freight forwarder or international transport company can help you with this.