Several modes of transportation are available to you when you want to import or export goods internationally. While the choice is often made based on the cost, timeframe, and safety of the mode of transportation, other criteria should also be taken into account, such as the rules that apply to international transportation.
International maritime transportation
Maritime transportation is the most widely used mode in international transportation and trade, because it’s usually the least expensive. It makes it possible to transport large volumes and high quantities of goods in containers at lower prices. Its main downside, however, is the delivery period, which is longer. Another limitation is that transportation is only possible via ports. This mode of transportation involves:
- The carrier: the shipping company or shipowner.
- The freight forwarder (shipper): organizes the main transportation and oversees the operations and formalities relating to the transportation.
- The sender, who entrusts their goods to the freight forwarder.
The types of contracts that exist for maritime transportation:
- A contract of carriage – that is, the shipper agrees to pay for a specific freight, and the carrier agrees to transport the goods from one port to another.
- A charter contract, whereby the contracting parties agree to rent a ship for a specific period of time.
The conventions to know
- United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (the “Rotterdam Rules”) (New York, 2008).
- United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea (the “Hamburg Rules”) (Hamburg, 1978).
International air transportation
If your company has a larger budget for transporting goods or they need to be transported more quickly, air transportation should be used. Its speed and safety make it a high-quality mode of cargo transportation. This mode of transportation involves different agents:
- The carrier: an airline that most often transports passengers and cargo, but sometimes only cargo.
- The air cargo agent / freight forwarder (shipper): organizes the main transportation and oversees the operations and formalities relating to the transportation and, if applicable, the import and/or export customs operations.
- The sender, who has entrusted their goods to the freight forwarder.
The convention to know
- United Nations Convention on the Liability of Operators of Transport Terminals in International Trade (Vienna, 1991).
International rail transportation
International rail transportation is governed by the Berne Convention of 1980. This consists of the Uniform Rules Concerning the Contract of International Carriage of Goods by Rail (CIM) and the Convention Concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF), dating from January 2010.
In contracts concerning international rail transportation, the most widely used document is the CIM letter, copies of which exist for normal and expedited traffic. When a contract is issued, the sender of the goods receives a sheet that they will need to partially fill out, but which will mostly be filled out by the railway company.
The cost of international rail transportation is harmonized in three forms:
- Multilateral tariffs: This tariff is valid in more than two countries but only concerns one specific type of good.
- Bilateral tariffs: These are tariffs applied between two countries that concern all types of goods.
- Welded national tariffs: If there is no common tariff between the countries, the tariff is calculated based on the rules specific to each country and then subjected to a currency exchange operation.
To be sure of your compliance with the international transportation rules, you can rely on a transportation and logistics consultant. This is an opportunity for you not to worry about solutions that will allow you to comply with the safety rules of international freight transportation. It’s a great way to address a whole host of reporting requirements and improve control over your compliance and shipping processes.