How Shipping Works

Whether it is shoes being shipped from China or electronics from the US, here is a step-by-step overview of how goods make it from one side of the globe to the other – from shipper to shopper.

1. Export Haulage

The first step of the journey begins with the shipper and a freight forwarding company. The goods are loaded into a container at the shipper’s premises (e.g. a factory) for transport to the freight forwarder’s origin warehouse. Depending on the distance and geography, the container is transferred by truck, train or a combination of both.

2. Export Customs Clearance

Before goods can be sent out of a country, they must be cleared by customs. This involves submitting a declaration and supporting documents to government authorities detailing the cargo, importer, exporter and transporter. Given that requirements often vary from country to country, this process is normally handled by the shipper.

3. Origin Handling

The cargo is unloaded and then placed in a staging area where it is counted and inspected. After the cargo has been validated against its booking details, the freight forwarder issues their receipt to the shipper to document that the goods have been received and are ready for shipping.

4. Shipping

The cargo is loaded onto a ship bound for international shores. Although it may be delivered directly to the destination port, it may also pass through several ports along the way. A few days before arriving, the captain provides a report to the government of the destination country containing information about the ship, its crew and its cargo.

5. Import Custom Clearance

Having received the proper clearance to enter the port, the ship docks at a berth to unload its cargo. From crane operators to clerks and cargo equipment operators, a whole team of dockworkers arrive to unload and work on the ship. The destination country’s customs officials then evaluate the documents of each container and issue any duty payments necessary.

6. Destination Handling

Once all the documents have been checked and given the all clear, the cargo is transferred from the port to the import distribution centre for onwards transportation.

7. Import Haulage

Finally, the container is opened so that the goods can be separated and prepared for the last leg of their journey via truck, train or a combination of both. And voila, just like magic, the goods are delivered to their final destination – the shopper’s address.


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