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Home » Importing & Exporting » Shipping to the USA? You Need to be Aware of These Things.

Shipping to the USA? You Need to be Aware of These Things.

Import and Export Trade with the USA

The USA is a global powerhouse economy and one of Australia’s most important trading partners. If you are planning on shipping to the USA for import or export, there are a few things to keep in mind.

From Australia to the USA, there are only direct shipping routes to Long Beach, California. Most shipping traffic will pass through the Long Beach port and be forwarded as required from there.

And whilst America is obviously a nation prominent on the international platform there are sometimes areas where they differ with international standards. As such, there are a number of important elements to consider when shipping to the USA.

Shipping Regulations in the United States of America

When it comes to state law and regulation, the USA is not always united. There can be considerable differences between one state and another, more so than in many other countries. In fact, there can sometimes be differences in rules between individual counties.

As such, it is essential to know the rules and regulations for the destination of your goods.

How USA Geography Affects Freight Shipping

The USA is a land of beautiful and varied geography. This geography is something that can easily be overlooked when it comes to freight shipping, especially for international freight shippers.

When shipping within Australia, weight restrictions for shipping containers are generally pretty reasonable and consistent. Australia has plenty of flat, open space and no really large mountains. If you are shipping to the USA, however, especially to any inland destination, container weights are a serious concern.

Different destinations throughout the USA will have differing shipping container weight restrictions. Whether loaded on to truck or train, many of these containers will need to make it over the Rocky Mountains. Due to the sometimes steep grades of track or road, the weight allowances are carefully managed.

Whilst this is less of an issue for destinations close to the port or some areas along the coast, it is best to be prepared. Be aware of any weight restrictions that may apply for the location you are shipping to or from. Don’t overfill your containers as it could end up costing you.

Metric vs Imperial – and Shipping Containers

The USA holds great influence in worldwide trade. This can clearly be seen with the standardisation of shipping containers.

Although the majority of the world uses the metric system for measurement, the standards for shipping containers are still imperial. International shipping uses 20-foot and 40-foot shipping container sizes as the standards even as they measure the contents in cubic metres. Of course, within the USA they almost solely use the imperial system for measurement.

An awareness of this can help you from getting caught out. When dealing with shipping quotes, costs can be provided as a “per pound” or “per 40 cubic feet” figure. You will need to consider the conversion to metric in order to properly gauge the costs.

And whilst the 20ft and 40ft containers are primary for international shipping, some tradelanes with the USA allow other sizes. These shipping routes allow 45ft or even 48ft shipping container sizes as these are used reasonably frequently within the USA. Whilst this does not apply to any of the Australian routes, if you are shipping between the USA and another country, please check.

Similarly, any products you export to the USA should be appropriately labelled with imperial measurements. Any products purchased from the USA and imported to Australia should be labelled with metric measurements. Ensure your supplier over there is aware of this.

Freight Shipping Terms – Incoterms vs UCC

Worldwide freight shipping uses a standardised set of shipping terminology known as Incoterms. The Incoterms standards were first published in 1967, and for the last 40 years have been updated each decade.

These Incoterms are a set of 11 commonly used abbreviations that represent internationally recognised rules. These rules help to define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers when it comes to freight logistics.

The USA originally developed its own set of terms and meanings originally published under the Universal Commercial Code (UCC) in 1952. Whilst in most cases the terms and meanings of the Incoterms vs UCC align, there is a notable exception.

The commonly used term “FOB” meaning “Free On Board” has a varied meaning in the USA than is accepted internationally. Internationally, the “On Board” portion refers to loading onto a ship. In the USA it refers to loading onto any mode of transport. This can have serious repercussions if this was not clearly understood and something happens during transportation. Please view our glossary of shipping terms for a description of other commonly used terms and acronyms.

Be Clear on the Terms of Shipping

The most important thing when shipping internationally, not only with the USA but anywhere, is to be clear on the terms of shipping.

Ensure that you understand the obligations and potential liabilities to yourself and other parties involved in the freight transportation. This is regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller.

Having a professional freight forwarding company on your side helps avoid many of the potential traps in international shipping. We have years of experience with worldwide shipping, including with the USA. Contact us to discuss your requirements.