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Types of International Shipping |Freight, Courier & Container

Types of International Shipping Explained

international shipping terms

The terms can be confusing-

When it comes to international shipping, there is a lot of verbage and jargon you have to learn. Knowing the difference between the various types of international shipping will save you money in the long run. Besides, it is good to know exactly what you are looking for. Having good knowledge about a subject will protect you from purchasing more than you need or being pressured into buying something that is not relevant to your specific situation.

In regards to the terms we will cover in this article  – it is important to be weary of people who use these terms interchangeably. Although they are all related, each type of international shipping has its own unique characteristics which greatly effect shipping time and shipping costs.

FREIGHT SHIPPINGTypes of International Shipping: Freight Shipping

In today’s market, freight shipping  almost exclusively relates to commercial shipments. Freight shipping usually entails a company shipping a very large quantity of goods over seas.  This type of shipping is generally accompanied by some sort of land transport in a truck.  Once the shipment hits trucks, it is  split into two classifications: LTL: Less than a Truck  load. and FTL: Full truck load

LTL freight shipping, which taps into existing networks of freight carriers, is the most cost effective way to transport shipments regionally or cross country, because you are effectively sharing the cost of the trucks cargo bay with other clients who have similar destinations and only paying for the space you take up. Conversely, in FTL freight shipping, you pay per truck load.

Freight Forwarding:

A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution.  A forwarder does not move the goods but acts as an expert in the logistics network. These carriers can use a variety of shipping modes, including ships, airplanes, trucks, and railroads, and often multiple modes for a single shipment.

International freight forwarders typically handle international shipments. International freight forwarders have additional expertise in preparing and processing customs and other documentation.

Information reviewed by a freight forwarder includes the commercial invoice, shipper’s export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, and/or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.

COURIERTypes of International Shipping: Couriers

A courier service would be more like a door-to door service. Companies which fall into this category are FedEx, DHL, UPS etc. This type of shipping is often the fastest  and most efficient service if you have items under 20 lbs to send. Despite the faster time,  a courier does not guarantee the non-occurrence of wear and tear of the things sent to the other country or destination.  (which is why insurance is so important!)

Normally couriers supply door-to-door services and they operate in their own systems or connect to specially organized systems. This networks, are integrated and in-separable as processes. That is why couriers are often called integrators.
Once your shipment gets in this network it is delivered to the address shown on the airwaybill and the customer has no control on it. This appears to be very economic and efficient way for smaller shipments because there is no accumulation of all minimum rates which the forwarder should charge if the same service is offered through forwarder. This type of service isn’t exactly the best choice for moving your entire house over seas. For that you will want this next option.


Container-Shi545pTypes of International Shipping: Container

The main difference between freight shipping and container shipping is that container shipping has very specific requirements regarding the size and type of material you can ship. Container shipping is how most international shipping of personal items is accomplished. Cars are shipped in these containers as well.

In freight shipping, you can ship basically anything you want as long as it is in approved packaging and has any necessary declaration. Container shipping is limited to the space inside of the container, and you have to be really careful about the types of things you put into containers (you can read our full article on what is prohibited in a container here).

In closing-

There are 3 major types of international shipping:

  • Cargo Or Freight Shipping (Best suited for commercial needs)
  • Container Shipping (The most common type, best for shipping home contents)
  • Courier Shipping  (best suited for personal items less than 20 lbs.)

Each type of international shipping comes with its own unique set  of problems and strengths. Your agent should be able to help you determine which is the best for your specific situation!


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