Overwhelmed by export paperwork and complex custom clearance procedures? You’re not alone, but there are plenty of people happy to help.
Although international shipping is a daunting task , the reality is that you can sometimes make all the arrangements for shipping to and from an overseas exhibition yourself and save a lot of cash in the process. But the other reality is that most exhibitors find the difficulty of doing so to be mind numbing and far too time intensive. The bonus of cutting out intermediaries is that you will save on shipping costs when you are not paying fees to companies that make arrangements for you. The downside is that you will need to become an expert in the nuances of shipping goods to every country you want to exhibit in, and the rules are different for each. Still, if you have a sense of adventure and time on your hands, it can be done. For everyone else, there are exhibition freight forwarders.
Simply put, an exhibition freight forwarder is an expert who can handle all the ins and outs of getting a shipment to an international venue. A good start would be to seek out a well-regarded exhibition freight forwarder in the destination country, then determine its Irish affiliate. Using the show’s official freight forwarder can simplify the shipping process too as we have a particularly vested interest in getting your items to the show. When not using the show’s official supplier, there are as many freight forwarders to choose from and levels of service available from them, and it’s up to you to decide just how much help you need and what you can afford.
Exhibition Freight forwarders don’t move your freight themselves. Rather, they make arrangements with shippers, customs-clearance agents, freight movers in foreign countries, and any other service providers you require on your behalf. Some freight forwarders offer one-stop shopping for your shipping needs: They can arrange to have your shipment inventoried, packaged, shipped, cleared through customs, brought to the venue, and set on the floor of your exhibit space. They will advise you on what can and can’t be shipped, do all the paperwork, and negotiate all the contracts — all you have to do is give them your freight and pay the bill.
Most international exhibitors engage the help of an exhibition freight forwarders for at least some of these services, finding their expertise with a particular country is worth every penny. In fact, there are countries around the world, Brazil for example, where the customs process is so complex that we advise to never to navigate it without an experienced exhibition freight forwarder. On the other hand there are other countries like France, where the process is simple and straightforward enough that many exhibitors find they manage without assistance.
Whether exhibitors choose to use an exhibition freight forwarder or not, many find themselves in need a customs-clearance agent skilled in moving a shipment through the entire customs process. The official supplier will always have an experienced broker in place. Interflow have customs clearance agents in over 190 agents worldwide handling exhibition freight every day so we are always happy to recommend someone.
When selecting a freight forwarder it’s critical to choose a company who are part of a strong global network such as the International Exhibition Logistics Association (IELA) as well as having shipping expertise to the specific country where you will be exhibiting. Verify references and make sure they are from clients who also shipped to your destination country.
No doubt, there is a lot to take in to become a savvy international exhibitor, or at least one whose stuff shows up where it is supposed to and when — and for a price you can live with. The terminology alone can be confusing, much less the processes, paperwork, and people you will need along the way. But don’t be daunted, because once you find the right information and the right partners, it will be smooth sailing when you pack up your exhibition stand and go searching for that global pot of gold.