Free Trade Agreements and globalization have contributed to the economies of Texas and the European Union because they are the basis for an easy exchange of goods and services.
Shipping from Port Houston to Europe does not take a miracle because a number of well-established shipping lines have been serving these routes for decades. In the early stages of developing your international strategy, however, you would not want to deal directly with one of these shipping lines. For those who are new to the export game, an international freight forwarder can arrange everything and secure all documentation to make sure your shipment is complete, correct and delivered in a timely fashion.
Once that shipment arrives at its port of destination, there are four steps to consider in making sure it lands safely in the customer’s hands.
Step 1: Customs
Import customs clearing is now a sleek and unbureaucratic process because nearly all processing is done online. Your freight forwarder will guide you through this process (if you like) and tell you what you need to have to get your merchandise cleared through customs quickly.
Step 2: Warehousing
Beyond clearing and expediting your shipment, you may need to warehouse your goods in the destination country and sell or distribute them in partial shipments. There are numerous warehouse facilities providing inbound storage within the port areas.
Most warehousing companies offer services where merchandise can be picked, packed and labelled for shipment. Local-language manuals and promotional material can be added to the packages, and merchandise can be merged with goods from other companies or suppliers.
Step 3: Airport
In need of an urgent spare part, or something missing from an ocean shipment? The safest play is to make sure there is an airport near the seaport with an on-site cargo center — just in case.
Step 4: Contact the Local Business Community for Help
Contact the local Chamber of Commerce for connections with importers or trading companies, just as you might do in the U.S. They can assist in connecting you with international traders, shippers and business partners. They also know the local rules, regulations and business habits. You can also look to see if there’s an American Club in the city you’re doing business in to make more local contacts.
Some ports specialize in certain types of cargo. For example, just as Houston specializes in energy in the U.S., Hamburg inaugurated a cluster system focusing on industries it is known for. These clusters include the business segments of life sciences, IT, electronic games and aviation. You will be better served if there is a strong industry connection in your port of entry.
Transporting your product from your U.S. warehouse to the recipient’s shoreline may seem like the bulk of the work. But there’s plenty still to come between the product’s arrival in port and its safe delivery to its final destination. With some careful planning, and help from a freight forwarder, you can ensure this last leg of the journey goes smoothly.
Bodo Liesenfeld is an expert in international logistics and for 27 years was CEO of a Hamburg-based global forwarding company. Today he represents the City of Hamburg as an Ambassador.