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Preparing to ship your products outside of Canada: A Q&A with our trade experts

Doing business in new markets can be overwhelming, especially given today’s uncertain and evolving economic climate. As a result, common questions frequently may arise for businesses throughout the process of selling abroad. We sat down with our trade experts to address common questions posed by Canadian exporters in one specific (but important) part of the export process: preparing your shipment to physically get your products to your international customers.

Declaring your export

Question: Do I need to declare my exports, and how do I know if I need an export permit?

Answer: Unless you’re exporting to the United States, reporting your exports is mandatory under Canadian regulations. For details on how to do this, download or read online the Canada Border Services Agency’s Guide to Exporting Commercial Goods from Canada.

You’ll also need an export permit if:

Preparing your shipping documents

Exporter Solutions

If you’re looking for more tips on preparing to ship your products outside of Canada, you want to explore other common international business related topics, or require support for an urgent, export‑related situation, visit the Trade Commissioner Service’s new Exporter Solutions service.

Question: Who prepares shipping documents? What shipping documents do I need and what do they do?

Answer: You’ll need to deal with a lot of documents when delivering products to foreign countries. You don’t normally do it all yourself, however—use freight forwarders and customs brokers to help reduce the workload abroad.

Freight forwarders will help you improve your delivery times and customer service. These agencies will negotiate rates for you with shipping lines, airlines, trucking companies, customs brokers and insurance firms. They can handle all of your logistical requirements, or just negotiate your shipping rate; it’s up to you.

Key shipping documents include:

Packing your shipments

Question: How do I pack my goods for shipment? What labelling is necessary?

Answer: Always assume your products will have a bumpy ride, particularly if you are shipping overseas. Pack them to survive rough‑and‑ready cargo handlers and poor roads. During transit, handling, and storage, your products may be exposed to bad weather and extreme temperatures. If they need special temperature controls or other protective measures, be sure they get them.

The type of shipping may determine the kind of packing you should use. For example, if the goods are carried by ship, you need to know whether they will be placed above or below deck.

Labelling regulations vary widely from nation to nation, so verify the required labels before you ship.

Your product may not clear customs if labels do not conform to local requirements such as product weight or electrical standards.

Marking distinguishes your goods from those of other shippers. Marks shown on the shipping container must agree with those on the bill of lading or other shipping documents; they may include some or all of the following:

It is also recommended to provide a packing list that identifies and itemizes the contents of each container. These containers must also contain a packing list itemizing its contents.

Transportation insurance

Question: Do I need transportation insurance? What kinds of transportation does this insurance protect?

Answer: International carriers assume only limited liability and make the seller responsible for the goods up to the point of delivery to the foreign buyer. For this reason, you must have international transportation insurance.

Marine transportation insurance protects both ocean and air‑bound cargo. It also covers connecting land transportation. There are three main types of marine transportation insurance:

  1. “Free of particular average” insurance is the narrowest type of coverage. Total losses are covered, as well as partial losses at sea if the vessel sinks, burns or is stranded.
  2. “With average” offers greater protection from partial losses at sea.
  3. “All risk” is the most comprehensive insurance, protecting against all physical loss or damage from external causes. Once the documents transferring title are delivered to the foreign buyer, you are no longer liable for the goods.

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