For shippers, managing international freight is a complex process involving multiple players and moving pieces. There’s a lot to consider, from choosing the right carrier and mode to pricing, contracts and booking, time in transit, and having paperwork buttoned up to ensure smooth customs clearance.
It’s also been a very dynamic space for the past few years, as disruptive conditions have become more of the norm. Supply, demand, carrier capacity, and pricing have whipsawed back and forth, from the pandemic shutdowns (major boom) to its aftermath (significant slowdown).
Labor issues also pose a constant source of potential disruption, with unions feeling empowered to push for more favorable contracts and threaten crippling shutdowns. While the West Coast dockworkers reached settlements after a contentious battle in 2023, the East Coast ports are up next in 2024, and the union is already making noise.
Geopolitics and weather can also play havoc with freight logistics planning. Conflicts, hotspots and shifting national alliances are always impacting supply chain flow. Also, extreme situations like the Panama Canal drought can cause long delays and rerouting.
Just booking transportation for international freight alone presents a variety of challenges to grapple with. After you’ve made the baseline determination that your goods aren’t subject to export restrictions from the country of origin, submitting a single booking to a freight forwarder becomes a multi-step process. Your booking request requires details such as consignee, transportation mode, pickup location, cargo type and dimensions, any special requirements, and whether it’s traveling as a single container or as loose cargo.
For all of these reasons and more, shippers need to find ways to streamline and simplify the international freight booking process, to ensure they don’t get overwhelmed and break the bank at the same time. In particular, we will consider three main challenges affecting booking and discuss solutions designed to address them.
Challenge 1: Regulatory Compliance and Documentation
The regulatory landscape governing international freight shipping is constantly changing and often overlapping. General rules govern all freight, and more stringent ones cover specific industries and products, such as chemicals and other hazardous materials.
One major change in 2023 was the European Union’s implementation of its Import Control System 2 (ICS2), a digital process for screening all goods in advance of importing to and through EU countries designed to enhance security.
Much of the recent regulatory change is concerned with decarbonization efforts being imposed on international freight shipping, as a result of gatherings like COP28. One case in point: China now requires that the cost of the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS) be part of the base rate of China-to-Europe sailings rather than a separate surcharge.
Keeping on top of all the regulatory requirements and updates, and providing paperwork and documentation to ensure compliance, can be a full-time job in and of itself. Failure to do so can result in fines or even seizure of goods by local commerce authorities.
COGISTICS Transportation takes the worry out of the complex tangle of constantly evolving international and country-specific regulations and standards. Their expert team, with years of experience in global logistics, ensures that all bookings comply with all regulations and standards across ocean, air, and land modes. The result is a quick, simplified documentation process for all your freight shipments.
Challenge 2: Varied Shipping Modes and Providers
International freight shipping invariably requires a variety of transportation modes. This means companies need to make prudent choices in terms of the proper mix of services to use, based on their business needs and the particulars of each shipment.
Beyond that, there are many carriers to choose from across all modes, both U.S. and foreign-based, with varying degrees of expertise and reliability. You also need to contend with the logistics and timing of dropoff and pickup points as shipments are handed off from carrier to carrier. Up-to-the-minute tracking is crucial in ensuring the shipment stays on schedule as it wends its way from origin to destination.
This all requires a high degree of coordination and sophistication to pull off and a strong knowledge of both the carrier landscape and the complex workings of cross-border logistics. COGISTICS Transportation has the technology and team to handle all aspects of your freight bookings for import and export by air, ocean, and land. Optimized carrier selection ensures the best possible pricing and coordination with your customs broker at every border crossing, helping prevent hiccups and delays. All of this together provides you with peace of mind that your freight logistics are in good hands, freeing you up to focus more energy on core business functions.
With a heritage in logistics that goes back to the 1980s, COGISTICS Transportation is licensed as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary (OTI) and a Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). Our ocean freight forwarding services utilize a streamlined process that provides precise tracking along the entire route. Options include full or partial container loads and roll-on/roll-off services.
The expedited air freight team handles time-critical import and export shipments, and is available 24/7. Experienced logistics planners help you meet your SLAs by managing every detail. Our network leverages assets strategically placed around the world to handle thousands of expedited shipments a year.
The final leg from port to destination via truck, be it truckload (TL), less than truckload (LTL), expedited freight, or using specialized equipment (flatbeds, step decks, Conestoga, etc.), is managed seamlessly with COGISTICS Transportation. Leveraging an unmatched carrier network, combined with an engineered solution built through data analysis and collaboration, precision and efficiency are the watchwords.
Challenge 3: Currency and Pricing Complexities
The constant fluctuation in currency and exchange rates makes pricing much more complex for freight booking, impacting them in several ways. Most obviously, operational expenses such as fuel, equipment, and labor are affected, leading to unpredictable costs. Also, freight rates are often quoted in foreign currencies, with exchange rates impacting what carriers charge, making budgeting more difficult.
Currency volatility can also impact long-term contracts, potentially leading to disputes or the need for renegotiation. Financial risks are introduced for carriers and shippers, affecting costs and reducing margins when currencies depreciate. While some companies employ hedging strategies such as forward contracts or currency options, they introduce their own costs and complexities, which are outside the scope of many.
Fluctuation in currency values impacts pricing transparency. Shippers and carriers must carefully communicate and negotiate to ensure mutual understanding regarding the potential impacts of shifting exchange rates.
Finally, currency fluctuations can influence global trade patterns. A strong or weak currency can affect the competitiveness of a country’s exports or imports. This, in turn, impacts demand for freight services and alters trade routes.
COGISTICS Transportation’s technology-driven approach provides transparent, predictable international pricing for all your freight shipments.
COGISTICS Transportation: Bother-Free International Freight Booking
COGISTICS Transportation provides a “ bother-free booking” process tailored for international shipments, leaving it in expert hands so you can focus on your core business. Our technology, team, and processes significantly streamline the international freight booking process through automation, visibility, efficiency, and data-driven decision-making capabilities.
Compliance, coordination, and communication are simplified on a global scale, and end-to-end management streamlines operations. A single “touch” (email, call, etc.) from the customer providing all shipment requirements is all that’s needed. COGISTICS Transportation then researches routes, equipment needed, flight schedules and pickup times as well as all required paperwork. The dashboard provides updates and full visibility on international freight shipments around the clock until delivery, providing full transparency and supplier/carrier accountability.
COGISTICS Transportation’s system simplifies the booking process by ensuring all documents are properly filled out and in compliance with government regulations. All relevant data is collected, and paperwork is easily accessible via a dashboard that visually represents each stage of the shipment journey. If errors are found, COGISTICS Transportation works with the relevant agency to correct them before it becomes a customs issue. Our in-house Transportation Management System (TMS) centralizes all aspects of the shipment creating a collaborative environment containing all details of the booking, shipment progress, tracking, paperwork, and next steps.
Freight Booking Is Extremely Complex, But You Don’t Have to Sweat It
Regulatory compliance and related paperwork, managing transportation across freight modes in a volatile environment, constant currency and pricing fluctuations—yes, it’s a lot to keep track of, all while managing your business with its constant demands.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Not with a trusted partner like COGISTICS Transportation in your corner. Hassle-free international freight booking is not only possible but a daily reality for shippers across industries. To find out more, contact COGISTICS Transportation today.