International shipping: What security precautions apply?

International shipping requires a much more involved approach than its domestic counterpart. Waybills, prohibitions and customs checks mean that exporters will need to make sure their processes are top notch before even thinking about handing goods over to the courier.

So with this in mind, here are some of the most pressing security consideration for exporters, as well as the ways in which they can be addressed.


Anyone sending items across international borders will need a waybill to accompany the load. These official documents will detail both the consignor and consignee, as well as the point of origin, destination, route and consignment contents. These vary depending on mode of transport (air waybill or sea waybill, for example) but need to be included with the consignment so customs can be provided with all the information they need.

Dangerous goods

Prohibitions have been set up that make it illegal for dangerous goods to be shipped without having gone through proper procedures beforehand. Whilst the rules are somewhat relaxed for smaller quantities, anyone shipping dangerous goods will need to have taken care of the relevant paperwork well in advance.

Items deemed to be dangerous include: explosive substances, flammable substances (gas, liquid or solid), organic peroxides, toxic substances, infectious substances, radioactive material and corrosive substances. For these, it is the responsibility of the consignor to package and label them accurately and effectively.

Individual restrictions

Courier companies will often set their own restrictions on what can and cannot be transported, based upon the risks associated with each. Thus, it is worth finding out any possible restrictions before making enquiries to guarantee the parcel can be sent. In addition, it's also not worth fibbing or bending the truth where this is concerned, as it could have serious implications in the long term.

Some of the more commonly restricted items include aerosols, alcoholic spirits, rechargeable batteries, perfume, firearms, pornographic material or personal documentation.

Expensive items

Many items that people wish to send will be perfectly fine on a legal and restrictive basis, as they are rather innocuous - paintings, tickets or jewellery, for example. However, their higher-than average value means that a courier company may wish to write up an agreement stating that any damage which befalls the goods in transit will not be covered on the standard policy. In this case, the consignor may wish to take out a specific insurance policy tailored for exactly this situation.

Many of these rules will not apply to those shipping domestically and - as noted in the 'dangerous goods' section, could be avoided by sending small quantities. For those shipping sizeable quantities to international locations, however, it certainly does pay to know the rules and regulations before goods need to be sent.

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