Selecting transport modes for selling overseas

How to ensure your product gets from A to B as quickly and conveniently as possible

There are four principal routes to overseas customers: road, rail, sea and air. When you’re mapping out a strategy for transporting your goods, you’ll need to choose one of these four avenues, or a combination of them.

Each form of transport has its own pros and cons, and you need to be sure that you’re taking the right route every time you ship a product out of the country.

Here are seven key considerations to help you decide which is best for you:

Customer wishes. Before you decide how to transport your product, ask your customer which route they’d prefer – and find out if they have any special requirements. It’s crucial that you comply with their wishes.

Weight. If you’re transporting bulky goods, you’ll have to tailor your strategy accordingly – it’s quite difficult to transport vehicles, heavy plant or machinery by air. This might seem obvious, but people often overlook it!

Simplicity. To keep track of your shipment and avoid logistical nightmares, it’s important to keep your transport plan as simple as possible. For example, if it seems too complicated to transport your product by sea because of the number of stoppages and transhipments involved, you may want to make things simpler by choosing airfreight instead.

Speed. Some types of product, such as perishable foods, need to reach the customer quickly; in such circumstances, a quick plane journey may be preferable to a long sea voyage. Think about the type of goods you are transporting before you decide how to send them.

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Handling. Some forms of transport can involve rough handling; for example, products transported by ship may be hauled aboard the vessel in a net or sling, stacked beneath dozens of other goods, and subjected to moisture condensation. Before you select a particular mode of transport, you need to be sure your product can handle it.

Price. As well as looking after your products, you need to look after your profits. If you can’t afford to transport your goods by air, then don’t bother doing it; try shipping them by road or ship instead.

Local conditions. Take a look at the country your shipping to – are there any risks and weaknesses in its transport infrastructure? If the local ports have a bad reputation, or the road network isn’t up to scratch, you’ll need to tailor your strategy accordingly.

Freight forwarders

Many businesses use a freight forwarder when shipping products overseas. These people are experts in all aspects of overseas transport, and they can offer specialist advice on the right form of transport for your product.

This is particularly crucial if you need to use more than one form of transport in shipping your goods overseas. Freight forwarders can advise you on the simplest, quickest, safest and most cost-effective plan for your product, saving you hours and hours of research.

To find your nearest freight forwarding specialist, check out the members’ section on the British International Freight Association website ( 




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