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Home » Freight Forwarding Information » What are the Fees, Charges and Costs of International Shipping?

What are the Fees, Charges and Costs of International Shipping?

­­An Overview of International Freight Shipping Charges

One of the most common questions we are asked is, “How much does international shipping cost?” Calculating international shipping charges can be an extremely complicated process as there are so many moving parts (often quite literally). This is one of the challenges freight forwarders can help solve.

Usually, when people think of international freight shipping they imagine a global network of co-ordinated organisations working together. Whilst in the broad sense this is, of course, true, the reality is much more confusing and fractured.

Each freight shipping company will have its own way of doing business; its own list of shipping charges and fees. There will be many fees that are standard, however, you may find elements on your shipping invoice you are not sure of. Some of these may simply be common shipping costs named differently to what you have seen before. Other times they will be something different entirely.

Additionally, each country in this global network of freight companies will have their own set of rules and regulations. There are some international conventions around freight shipping, however, many countries add their own sets of rules to these. Often these rules incur their own sets of charges – customs clearance fees, documentation fees, inspection fees and others.

Typical International Shipping Charges

If you are shipping goods internationally for import or export, or even relocating overseas, there are many costs involved. The cost of shipping will depend upon numerous factors;

  • The type of goods to be shipped.
  • The weight and volume of the goods.
  • Shipping line schedules.
  • The origin and destination countries (and ports).
  • The timeframe required for a shipment to be transported.
  • Random factors such as weather or geopolitical events.

The range of shipping fees and charges can seem overwhelming and confusing.

We’ll help break some of them down.

Packing expenses

It is important not to forget the basic expenses of preparing your shipment for export. Expenses such as packing materials can add a sizeable cost to transporting goods.

The other important aspect to remember is; time. Cost your time, and always remember to leave enough, both for shipment preparation and for the shipping itself. Not leaving enough time for various stages or freight shipping can become a costly mistake.

Similarly, if you are importing goods, don’t forget the time element of simply unpacking your shipment from the shipping container.

Especially in the world climate since Covid-19, gone are the days of “Just In Time” shipping.

Transportation costs (other than sea freight)

Other than the shipment of goods between ports, transportation needs to be arranged to move the goods to and from the ports themselves. This will be the transportation from the point of origin to the loading port and then again from the destination port to wherever the goods will be stored.

This will generally be road transport by trucks and can be a considerable expense in itself.

Port Fees

There can be a whole range of port-related fees that are charged. Sometimes they will be bundled together under a single label to reduce confusion.

Port fees can be charged at either end of the journey, i.e the port of origin and the destination port. Some of the typical fees charged include;

  • Port Service Charges.
  • Terminal Fees.
  • Terminal Handling Charges.
  • Port Service Fuel Surcharge.
  • Documentation Fees.
  • Bill of Lading (B/L) Fee.
  • Terminal Weighing Fee.
  • Vehicle Booking System Fee.
  • Equipment Maintenance Charges.
  • Hazardous Lodgement Fee.
  • Port Storage Fees.

Whilst there are some expenses which are common across the board, each port may also have its own distinct set of services it will charge for. Even with common expenses, the specific naming of the fee or charge may differ.

Additionally, shipping fees and charges are controlled in some countries, such as in Australia, but not in others.

Welcome to the world of international shipping.

Maze of confusion with freight shipping charges

The Maze of International Freight Shipping

Shipping Line Fees

Freight costs are at the heart of shipping, however, as you can see they are only one of the number of charges and expenses payable.

Additionally, freight shipping fees have their own breakdown of costs plus additions and surcharges. Some of these will be standard whilst others will depend upon the origin, destination and route taken.

  • Freight Charges.
  • Bunker Adjustment Fee.
  • Surcharges for Controlled Waterways such as canals.
  • Low Sulphur Fuel (LSR) adjustments.
  • Bill of Lading documentation fee. A separate fee to the B/L Port Fee.

Shipping or freight fees will also depend upon the routing of the shipment, so speak with you freight forwarder about this.

Customs Clearance and Inspections

Once a delivery arrives at the port of destination it will typically require clearance through customs before proceeding onwards.

There are a number of charges that are associated with customs.

  • Customs Clearance Fee.
  • Quarantine Charges.
  • Inspection Fees.
  • Customs Agent Fees.
  • Customs Electronic Fee.
  • ACS Compliance Fee.

Customs charges are related to the country of import and its laws. These charges are also often related to the contents of a shipment. For example, there will commonly be additional fees payable on shipments such as alcohol, tobacco, or animal origin products.

For some goods with a shorter shelf-life, it may be beneficial to pay priority inspection fees to expedite customs clearance.

Other Shipping Charges and Fees

There are other expenses or fees which are optional or are only charged under certain circumstances.

  • Detention or Demurrage Fees (late fees for container returns to the shipping lines).
  • Insurance
  • Currency Adjustment Fees.
  • Shipping Container Purchase.

The decision to buy a shipping container will depend upon the end destination as well as personal preference.

With regard to insurance, whilst we always recommend purchasing shipping insurance, the end choice is up the customer.

Why Use an International Freight Forwarder?

What is always vital when arranging international shipping is that all documentation and contracts are read and clearly understood. Ensure that you know what is included and more importantly, what is not included with a shipping quote. This way you can avoid costly and time-wasting surprises.

Freight forwarders, also known as a freight forwarding service or freight forwarding agent, can take the headache out of arranging international shipping. A freight forwarding service will understand the complexities of international shipping. They will make recommendations for getting your shipments delivered as smoothly as possible.

Whilst there are numerous freight forwarding companies around the world, here at SPLS we believe we’re one of the best. Our breadth of knowledge, experience, freight industry contacts and personalised service all help to navigate you through the rough waters of international freight shipping.

Contact us now for a shipping quote.