We’ve put together some of our most frequently asking questions to do with shipping and global logistics, which we receive via our clients and new enquiries. We hope these answers may provide some help to new exporters and those looking to start trading and selling overseas.
If you have any questions which are not answered here please feel free to contact us – our experienced freight team will be happy to help.
General Freight Forwarding Questions
Why do I need to use a freight forwarder?
We take the headache out transporting cargo – instead of you using multiple touch points between shipping lines, packing firms, customs, and hauliers, we act as your single line of logistics communication. Whether you are a new or existing customer, we get to know you and your company to fully understand your systems so we can integrate as part of your supply chain.
Importing and exporting goods can create complex processes, systems and documentation, but with our highly skilled team at Wallis and our in-house bespoke Exportease freight software we can take the time and hassle out of these logistics challenges for you.
What’s more we pride ourselves on speed of service (with cargo and communication), offering you the quickest transit times possible and excellent customer service, keeping in touch along the way with container tracking while your cargo moves from A to B.
What is Short Shipping?
On rare occasions shipping lines and airlines may have to leave cargo off the intended sailing vessel or flight. This can be due to a number of issues including needing to make the correct mix of cargo weights on a vessel, insufficient space on the ships deck for certain cargoes or incompatible hazardous cargoes.
What is a stowage plan?
A stowage plan is a map of containers on a vessel devised by the shipping line based on the weights and size of the containers.
You can also have a stowage plan for the contents of a container. A stowage plan is used to calculate how much space your cargo will take up in a container. The results will identify which type of container you will need. Wallis can help you organise this.
Ocean Freight Questions
What is the difference between LCL and FCL?
LCL is less than a container load, whereas FCL is a full container load. You would opt for FCL when your goods fill a whole container – normally either a 20’ or a 40’ container.
Will I need a 20’ or 40’ container?
This will depend on the weight and dimensions of your cargo. We can help you work this out, with stowage plans.
Is ocean freight cheaper than air freight?
Ocean freight, in general, is cheaper than air freight. Ocean shipping helps traders to reduce logistics costs significantly compared with air freight. If you are shipping less than a container load, your price is often determined by cubic meter. With larger and heavier shipments, it is often much cheaper to ship by sea. Of course air freight is a quicker form of transport.
How does a container get loaded?
We will arrange for your container to be delivered by the shipping line to your premises or your chosen collection address. You will then need equipment to load your cargo into your container. If you don’t have the necessary facilities to do this we can organise for your cargo to be packed, palletised and secured into the container should you need this.
What is VGM?
Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is the weight of the cargo including dunnage and bracing plus the tare weight of the container carrying this cargo for ocean freight. Since 2016, all shipping lines have requested the VGM weight to comply with the IMO’s (International Maritime Organisation) new SOLAS (Saftey of Life at Sea) convention.
Do I need to organise VGM myself?
If you are a VGM Approved Weigher by registering with Maritime and Coastguard agency, you can declare your own cargo weight. You will need specialist equipment to weigh the container and the cargo. Otherwise we will arrange for the exit port terminal to do this on your behalf. There are VGM port charges, even if you are a registered weigher.
What is a stowage plan? And do I need one?
Yes, you do need one because a stowage plan is used to calculate how much space your cargo will take up in a container. The results will identify which type of container you will need. We can help you organise this.
Is air freight better than sea freight?
For more urgent cargo, air freight can be an excellent option.
Here are a few advantages of using airfreight over ocean freight…
Short transportation time and tight controls over cargo reduce exposure to theft, pilferage and damage
Unlike ocean freight, easier consolidated and direct-to-consignee services are available
For smaller cargo airfreight, including courier services, is generally the easiest option
Insurance premium rate is generally lower for air freight than road haulage or ocean freight
High performance standards and the flexibility to meet your changing needs is offered by air freight solutions
We utilise premium air freight carriers with established routings because of an ever-increasing demand for shorter transit times internationally
What do I need to make an airfreight booking?
You need to specify what the cargo is (with a commodity code), the number of packages, weights and dims, a collection point and the final destination. You will also need to supply a copy of the commercial invoice for the goods with the EORI number, VAT number, commodity code and the good’s value for us to be able to do the export customs clearance.
The EORI number is based on the trader's VAT number. For help getting a EORI number to export businesses can call the HMRC Excise & Customs helpline on 0300 200 3700 or visit https://www.gov.uk/eori
How do you work out volumetric weight for airfreight?
For air cargo, carriers take the volumetric weight of the goods, rather than the gross weight. To work this out you use the following calculation…
length x width x height (cm) / 6000 = volumetric weight kg
120cm x 100cm x 80cm = 960,000
/ 6000 = 160 kg (volumetric)
Some airlines, especially couriers, divide by 5000, so please check with us first.
How do I pack my cargo for airfreight?
Packing requirements vary and depend on the type of cargo being shipped. There are very strict rules for packing hazardous material for instance. You can minimise the risk of any damage to cargo by making sure the packing is as tight and secure as possible.
There are also various rules about packing your cargo onto wooden crates and pallets. Take our advice on the type of packing requirements for your particular cargo and destination. Call us for more information.
How does my cargo get delivered to the airport?
Airline services are offered from airport to airport so it is necessary to arrange trucking from your premises up to airport. Who organises this and who pays the costs will depend on the INCOTERMS you are using for your sale. We can arrange the collection of your cargo with delivery to the airport
Do I need air cargo insurance for an air freight?
Cargo insurance is not an obligation, but it is recommended you protect your goods against loss or damage. This will cover your goods in transit and in storage. Providing we are arranging the air freight booking we can offer air cargo insurance. Call us a for a quote today.
What is an AWB (air waybill)?
An air waybill (AWB) or consignment note is the document airlines issue, for both domestic and international flights, on receipt of cargo and as evidence for the contract of carriage, but it is not a document of title to the goods. It serves as a receipt for the shipper, indicating that the carrier has accepted the goods listed therein and obligates itself to carry the consignment to the airport of destination according to specified conditions. The air waybill is non-negotiable.
It includes an 11-digit Air Waybill number you can use to track your goods in transit. There are also Master Air Waybills (MAWB) and House Air Waybills (HAWB) used depending on the terms the goods are sold on.
Project Shipment Questions
What is project cargo?
The shipping of a complete contract over a predetermined time period, often with oversize cargo, usually involving door to door logistics arrangements.
at are the oversize cargo shipping options?
Flat Rack containers, Open Top containers, cargo packed in cases on non-containerised vessels, mafi trailers on a Ro Ro vessel.
What is OOG?
It stands for out-of-gauge cargo which exceeds the dimensions of a 20’ or 40’ container. Depending on dimensions OOG cargo is loaded onto a flatrack or open top container.
What is an open top container?
An open top container is especially for over-dimensional cargo. The container does not have a top or a “roof” and instead consists of removable tarpaulin. This allows easy crane access to pack or unpack the container from above. Roof bows on an open-top container not only support the tarpaulin but also contribute to container stability. Flatracks are therefore more suitable for over height cargoes. An open top will usually have to be planned in advance with shipping lines stowage plans to ensure it is stacked last onto the vessel’s other containers.
What a is break-bulk shipment?
Cargo that is non-containerised shipped by sea on a Break bulk vessel.
When should we ask for help with a project shipment?
Our rule of thumb is as soon as you are even asked to tender for a contract, because we can help optimise the logistics solutions so that your own bid is cost effective for the elements that we can help you with. We can also advise upfront about some of the issues that may impact on your ability to deliver i.e. port locations and facilities, routes to site etc.
Road Freight Questions
How do we know which type of vehicle we will need?
We can make it easy for you by working it out. All you need to do is provide us with the weights and dimensions for your cargo and we will do the rest. We can help you by working out the exact type of vehicle you may need. Where your cargo is too wide or too high, we will source the correct low loader units and comply with all route and safety requirements.
What happens if I need my cargo unloaded form a truck to the ground?
We can provide tail lift vehicles that will deliver your cargo to the ground.
Can I ask to have my container moved by rail once in arrives in the UK?
Yes, it is often possible to arrange this, subject to routing and final destination. Along with many other aspects of moving cargo along the supply chain it is always better to organise in advance and make sure the transport providers have adequate notice.
How do I know if my cargo will be transported by road or rail?
If you know your final destination is near a railhead it is sometimes possible to request a rail movement in advance. Otherwise it is usually down to the shipping line to consider the logistics. Final destinations in the midlands and north of England and Scotland are often served by rail.
What do I need to export by truck to Europe?
This may well change with Brexit when the UK leaves the EU but currently an invoice and a packing list will suffice. More detailed documentation is required if you are shipping cargo such as hazardous material or bonded goods. Check with us in advance for advice.
Cross Trade Shipment Questions
What are Cross Trade Shipments?
A cross trade shipment is cargo that is shipped by either road, air or sea from one country to another country but not through the home business base. For example, Wallis Shipping will send cargo from China to Europe without the goods routing via our client in the UK.
Do I need freight insurance for a cross trade shipment?
Cargo insurance is not an obligation but it is recommended you protect your goods against loss or damage. We would recommend this more so with a cross trade shipment as you may not necessarily be viewing your goods from loading to arrival. Cargo insurance will cover your goods in transit and in storage. Providing we are arranging the freight booking we can offer cargo insurance. Call us a for a quote today.
How can Wallis assist with a cross trade shipment being based in the UK?
We can coordinate everything very easily from anywhere in the world. We carefully select our business partners around the world to assist with handling your shipments and we use our own documentation software Exportease to ensure a seamless communication chain to expedite shipments efficiently.
Is it more complex to handle a cross trade shipment?
No this isn’t necessarily true. By letting us know what your requirements are, we will research your potential routing options and the documentation detail that will be needed.
How can you make sure that the freight documentation is accurate?
Firstly, our freight management system means we only have to input data once and complex document duplicate sets are second checked before publication
How complicated is it to produce export documentation?
There are a number of very good resources that Wallis have access to which can smooth over the paper trail. Asking for assistance at the very early stages of a contract mean that the requirements of each country you are shipping to can be researched in advance.
How do I know if export or import licences are required?
UK Government website resource https://www.export.great.gov.uk/ will give you all the information that you need. If in any doubt ask Wallis and we can give you help in finding the answers or put you in touch with an international trade advisor from the Department for Trade.
What documents will I need to import cargo into the UK?
You will need a commercial invoice (HMRC require this to calculate the amount of duty and vat due on import) and a packing list. You will also need to an EORI number before importing. You can register for one with HMRC and it usually takes 3 days to produce. Depending on the nature of the product additional licences or certificates may be required. If in doubt ask before shipping.
Is it necessary to insure our cargo?
We will always recommend that you have marine cargo insurance. Wallis can provide you with this cover if you do not have your own policy.