Inside Look into International Parcel Shipping Process


By Ernesta Ranonyte, freelance writer.

Have you ever wondered what happens when you order goods for international parcel shipping? Or what steps you need to go through if you wish to ship internationally as an eCommerce business? Sounds pretty complex, no?

Many of us would indeed agree that shipping overseas is a complicated process. But part of it might be because we simply don’t know how international package shipping works. Let’s take a quick look at what actually happens when someone wants to send an international package.

Means of international parcel shipping

To get a better understanding of how packages are carried from one point to another, let’s see what means of international package shipping can be used. There are 4 main types of transportation for international shipping:

  • ocean freight (when parcels are transported by ships)
  • air freight (when parcels are transported by planes)
  • rail freight (when parcels are transported by trains)
  • road freight (when parcels are transported by trucks or automobiles)

Which one to choose depends on where from and where to you're sending a package. Imagine that you’re shipping from the US to Romania. You’ll be limited to either ocean or air freight because the distance between these two countries cannot be covered by land alone. And if you’re shipping across the continent of North America, you can choose between road, air, or rail freight based on the length of the distance.

Picking the right means of transportation is important. It affects both the delivery time and the shipping cost. You can always check the approximate prices in the shipping calculator provided by the shipping company you’re working with. It’ll help you to get an idea how much different means of international shipping might cost.

Stages of the international parcel shipping process

Now we know how international packages can travel to their destination. It’s time to move on to the step-by-step look at the international parcel shipping process. While there might be some changes depending on the parties involved, the main procedures remain the same.

Order placement and fulfillment

Everything starts with a person placing an order. Then, the retailer processes it by verifying the information of the order and the stock. If everything is correct, the order is packed and prepared for international package shipping.

Order shipment and export

When the parcel is handed to the shipping company, the process of shipment begins. The first step in this process is export haulage. During it, packages prepared for international parcel shipping are taken to the warehouse.

This stage is followed by origin handling, a step where packages from the warehouse are loaded to a plane or ship, depending on the freight type. Before they can be dispatched, goods must clear export customs procedures. Only then they can be exported and leave the country of origin.

Order import

When international packages reach the destination country, they must go through the customs procedures again. The local customs officers investigate the parcels and calculate the required fees. It’s usually the recipient who has to pay the taxes.

It’s also important to note that customs regulations differ from country to country. For example, if you’re shipping to Poland from the USA, you must check the laws valid in the destination country. You may need to provide more documents than during the export customs clearance.

Order delivery or return

Once import customs clearance is completed, international packages go to the stage of destination handling. Here the parcels are unloaded from the transportation vehicles and are taken to the local warehouse.

The final step is import haulage where the packages are prepared for delivery and brought to the recipient. If the recipient doesn’t pay the required taxes or the delivery attempt fails several times because the person is unreachable, the parcel is returned to the sender.

As you can see, international parcel shipping involves many stages which makes it a complicated process. But once you get to look inside the procedures, shipping overseas won’t seem as hard to grasp.

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