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Air freight may be more expensive than ocean freight, but there are still ways to reduce freight costs further. International shipping can be full of hidden fees and unexpected costs from a variety of sources.

Cost savings can be hard to pin down, especially as fluctuating fuel costs and other charges take their toll. There are some best practices for reducing freight shipping costs, especially when looking at longer-term savings.

Avoid Peak Seasons and Days

Freight costs can jump up to 50% during peak seasons, which are typically during the months leading up to Christmas. Peak days vary by route and port, but the last few days before Chinese New Year tend to be a major peak time for Chinese exports.

Although one-time savings may not matter much to large companies, shipping on off-peak days and seasons can add up to significant savings over time. The best way to avoid peak times is to plan well in advance and consult with a freight forwarder to determine when peak times occur on your routes.

Know Customs Regulations

A customs broker or freight forwarder can help you with much of the customs process, but it’s in your best business interests to have a working knowledge of applicable regulations. Any delays at customs caused by inaccurate or missing paperwork can result in additional storage and administrative fees.

Demurrage or detention of goods can also disrupt your supply chain, causing delays that then affect your ability to fulfill orders. Since customs problems can have unanticipated costs on multiple fronts, customs paperwork should be a top priority for importers.

Avoid LCL Shipping

Less than Container Load (LCL) shipping consolidates multiple sellers’ shipments into one shipping container, allowing each shipper to pay for their share of the container. However, LCL rates include a small upcharge to account for the administrative costs of combining shipments.

Instead, try to use Full Container Load (FCL) shipping for larger shipments. FCL shipping charges the full cost of one container but cuts out the additional costs associated with combining shipments.

Maximize Your Load

Although FCL shipping is generally cheaper than LCL by volume, you can get an even better overall freight rate by filling the container as much as possible. Consolidating shipments into one FCL container helps cut costs by decreasing the cost to ship per item.

If you need goods by a certain date, plan carefully to make sure the container can be filled as much as possible by the cut-off date. You may need to order more in advance than you normally would, but the long term savings will add up.

Talk to your exporter about ways to reduce packaging and load products safely and more efficiently. They can likely work with your freight forwarder to schedule and pack shipments in a way that saves money for all parties.

Optimize Your Route

The shortest or fastest ocean route may actually have hidden costs. For example, an ocean freight route that delivers your goods to a major port may actually be more expensive than a less busy port. If the goods can still be transported quickly from the other port, then it may be worthwhile to use that one.

However, it’s important to look at overall costs including rail and haulage. An ocean route that uses a far-off port might end up with additional shipping costs for freight transportation to your destination.

Use a Reputable Freight Forwarder

A good freight forwarder has the professional experience and knowledge necessary to move your goods on a tight budget. When delays occur due to weather or port backups, freight forwarders can work with carriers to reroute your shipment as cheaply and quickly as possible.

Experienced freight forwarders also help minimize customs delays by doing your paperwork for you. There are over 20,000 U.S. import tariff codes currently in use, and even one misprint can delay your shipment. With their wealth of knowledge, freight forwarders can help you maximize your freight savings by avoiding fines and delays.

At Asiana USA, we know the importance of getting you the best rates possible so your business can handle any economic climate. We build long term relationships with carriers across the globe, so we can provide door-to-door service that’s reliable and affordable. Contact us today at (855)-500-1808 to learn more or to request a quote.

Dee Williams is a public policy advocate and professional writer. She specializes in international policy issues, including economic and trade issues. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in education and looks forward to receiving her teaching certification in social studies. She loves traveling and lived abroad for several years before returning home to the United States.
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