Perishables Shipping | 12 Questions Every Shipper Must Ask
Seldom do shippers or product owners know or understand the terminologies or intricacies of perishables shipping to ensure safe, and seamless passage of their goods. Without industry expertise, critical shipment details may be overlooked resulting in product damage or contract loss. Here are tips and tools to be a successful perishables exporter.
When we are contacted to move perishables shipments, the conversation may include the commodity trade name and that it must be kept at a specific temperature. It is packed in boxes, on skids, and is delivering to a foreign city, ready for pickup tomorrow. We then ask them the following questions:
- What are the Incoterms® (terms of sale)?
- Is there a letter of credit (L/C) involved?
- How many commodities (SKU) make up the shipment?
- What are the weights and dimensions of each shipping piece?
- Are any pallets used certified and does the product contain the required markings?
- Have the pallets been shrink-wrapped and were corners used?
- Are there temperature recorders on the freight?
- What export documentation has been prepared to accompany the shipment?
- Will your company file the B13A export document for Statistics Canada?
- Does your product require phytosanitary certificates and has the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) completed the
- What mode of transport is optimal: air, ocean, or highway?
- Has this shipment been pre-quoted - what is the quote reference?
TIP: Be ready to share your knowledge of the shipment to ensure proper handling and transportation to destination.
This list of condensed questions will start a conversation about a perishables shipment. It is important to note that although the client is familiar with their products and may not understand the need for these questions, we are not and therefore are required to ask in order to meet your specific shipping requirements.
This ever-changing field is a constant learning process for freight forwarders and carriers. The freight forwarder, the person in charge of the shipment, must have a clear understanding of the shipment to be able to react to any situation following pickup from origin door. This would include after hours and weekends when the shipper is not available.
TIP: Be proactive and start the discussion early.
From this list of questions the conversation continues until we have a complete picture of the shipment and knowledge of where, when and how it must move. From door to door any number of issues, security measures or documentation questions can arise that would cause a delay and/or negative result.
Conversely the carriers - truckers, steamship lines and airlines - have a similar list of questions when the freight forwarder is booking the shipment. If we are not able to provide a complete understanding of the shipment, those carriers may have doubts about a successful delivery, which could affect them supplying a booking confirmation and final freight rates as a matter of liability.
All parties involved in a freight movement want to deliver the shipment in its best possible condition, on time and as quoted. Carriers are bound by the information contained in the bill of lading and/or in the booking confirmation. Therefore, all questions must be asked, answered and understood, and itemized on the export documentation and on-hand with the freight forwarder.
TIP: Exporters must be as detailed as possible when organizing their shipments. Be ready and prepared to share all information with your freight forwarder so they can ensure the documentation is correct and in order, as well as being your conduit to the carriers. If your freight forwarder does not ask all these questions or is not available 24/7, you will require a freight forwarder that better meets your needs.
Finally, do not hesitate to ask any and all questions of your freight forwarder. They may not have all the answers exactly when you ask them but they gain the knowledge and reply as promptly as possible, as to put your mind at ease that you are receiving the best possible service.
We hope you will drop in again as this series on perishables shipping continues. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the movement of perishable commodities, please do not hesitate to call us at 888.538.1566.