Co-authored by Ed Jacquest, director of logistical solutions at MG Design Associates Corp.
Whether you build your exhibit overseas or not, there is always something that seems to need to ship from the U.S. Maybe it is product or literature, but whatever it is, it is important to understand shipping outside the U.S. is different than shipping within the U.S.
The first thing to keep in mind is to give yourself enough time! Don’t wait until a week before the show to ship. Things get stuck in customs. It happens…a lot. Brazil, specifically, is extremely tough. Air freight takes less time but costs more whereas shipping by boat can save you a lot of money if you pre-plan far enough in advance. Either method, make sure you research the country you are shipping to in order to understand the recommended time it takes to reach the final destination.
You also must be mindful of the local laws where you are shipping. Each country has different laws and regulations for what can enter the country and how it must enter. One example is the type of packaging. If you are shipping a wooden crate, is it made out of the right type of wood or has it been heat treated to stop the transfer of bugs?
The next step is to make sure that all paperwork is properly completed. Having incorrect paperwork will only delay the customs procedures and may end up with things not being admitted into the country. Items like electronics are very particular. You need to make sure you have serial numbers, values, make and model, and the proper customs code filled out for most countries. Also make sure you note if this is a temporary or permanent import. They are different, needing different forms and carrying different fees.
Always make sure your items are packaged extremely well. Many hands touch your shipment and many people just don’t care if it’s fragile or not! Also realize that no matter how well it is packaged, once it hits customs, they can tear it open at anytime to really see what is in there. They may not package it up just as nicely to continue on. If you see damage upon delivery, make sure you note that for a claim when signing for it.
Using the designated broker for a tradeshow is usually the safest way to ensure your items get delivered on time. Yes, sometimes they are more expensive, but they know the local laws and customs and will make sure your paperwork is correct! They also know the delivery times of the tradeshow, etc., which makes that process less cumbersome.
In conclusion, don’t press your luck, or you may just hit a whammy and miss the show. Pre-plan, use the experts and make sure all your eggs aren’t in one basket.
Kelli Steckbauer is MG Design’s Director of Global Business, and for almost a decade she has been helping clients maximize their global trade show experience and find the best integrated marketing solutions for their brands. Kelli oversees the seamless flow of operations for MG Design clients as they exhibit across the globe as those international clients who need to exhibit in the U.S.