Key Considerations in transport and distribution when planning for international trade
Transport and distribution are key considerations when planning for international trade. Choosing the right mode of transport is essential to ensure your import or export operation is efficient and cost-effective.
There are four ways of importing and exporting – road, rail, air and sea – although you may need to use more than one type of transport. When making your choices, you will also need to decide whether to handle logistics by yourself, or outsource the work to a freight forwarder.
This guide examines each mode of transport and provides an overview of the issues you must address. It covers how to deal with customs, identifies which regulations must be complied with and explains how to manage a freight forwarder.
This guide explains the basics of international trade and distribution. For more detailed information see the guide on moving your goods.
Assessing your transport needs for international trade
Your choices for international transport and distribution include road, rail, air and sea.
Various factors will influence your decision on which type of transport to use – including your business’ requirements, the destination country, and the type of goods you are importing or exporting.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want to distribute? Size and weight will affect the cost.
- How quickly does the product need to reach its destination? This will affect which type of delivery service you use and the cost – sending goods by air is quicker but significantly more expensive than by sea.
- How would transport costs impact on your overheads?
- Where do the goods need to go? For example, Europe has a large rail and inland waterway network, but you may encounter problems if the destination is especially remote. whereas Africa especially Uganda relies on road transport mainly.
- How valuable are the goods? Get quotes from insurance brokers before deciding on the appropriate insurance level.
- Do your customers have any special requirements?
Consider all the methods of transport available. You should aim to balance service quality, cost, organisation and time. You will often use more than one mode of transport.
How your type of goods may influence your decision
Match the transport mode with the goods you’re moving. For example, if you import fresh fruit or other perishable items, speed is important. Transport by ship or road may not be quick enough.
Another issue is whether or not your goods need to be kept refrigerated during transport.
If you are transporting animals, you must follow specific rules and regulations. Find out about transporting animals on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website and see the guide on customs clearance for animals and animal products.
Other regulations or special requirements may also influence your transport choice. For instance, if the goods you are transporting are classified as dangerous, you must comply with special rules. Find guidance on transporting dangerous goods on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website. Also see the guide on moving dangerous goods.
You could use a freight forwarder to manage logistical issues for you. See the guide on choosing and managing a freight forwarder and see the guide on using brokers and forwarders.
Below are some considerations to consider with various transportation mechanisms
Using road transport for international trade
Using sea transport for international trade
Using rail transport for international trade
Using air transport for international trade
Warehousing and international trade
Choosing and managing a freight forwarder
Labelling and documents for international transport
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