A Guide to International Shipping & Customs Brokerage

In the last ten years, shopping via the internet has become easier and easier. This has led to the rapid development of online shopping and e-commerce. For certain goods and items to reach different sides of the globe, global shipping needs constant improvement with different techniques and methods. This all has led to the familiarization with international shipping & customs brokerage. To make their services readily available to customers, Four Winds KSA has also accepted the use of customs brokers. The help you understand what exactly customs brokerage is, here’s a brief guide.

The process is different for different kinds of shipment

First of all, different types of shipments follow different routes when you transport them abroad. Secondly, you can ship goods by air or by the ocean, depending on the type of cargo. Freight forwarding companies in Bahrain can help you choose which overseas shipping initiative is the best for you. Here are some freight shipping options:

  • Smaller cargo weighing 150-15,000 pounds
  • Sending a part of your cargo¬†on a shared vehicle with another shipper
  • Expedited delivery option
Person using a forklift
Use different methods of shipment for different sizes of cargo

Three shipment category

As for the first category, this includes any cargo that doesn’t need a full truck’s container. A preferable method is LTL shipping. To make international shipping & customs brokerage clear, let’s get familiar with the terms. LTL is short for less truck load. The main advantage to LTL is when shipping smaller cargo. The customer is charged only for the place which is needed for his goods.

On the other hand, the second category includes sharing a vehicle of transportation. This means you will be sending a part of your cargo on the same vehicle as another customer. Shipments weighing up to 5,000 pounds are perfect for this method. For cargo of greater weight, you should use other types of shipment. The second category is also intermodal, which means that you will be shipping cargo via both truck and rail.

And finally, the third category is used for instances where your package needs to be delivered on short notice. This type of shipment has seen the biggest rise in popularity when shipping to Saudi Arabia as online shopping developed. Sending a shipment with this method will ensure that it arrives at the desired location in no more than three days. To achieve such fast travel time, these cargoes are sent via trucks or planes, with the latter being more prevalent.

The packaging on cargo is of great importance for international shipping & customs brokerage

This goes without saying. A successful shipment requires appropriately labeled cargo. Bahrain customs clearance requires all your items to have required labeling. Otherwise, if your labels aren’t up to standards, freight rates and charges can’t be consistent and fair. Furthermore, having unsuitable labeling can cause your shipment to arrive later, or to be delayed. This can also easily spiral out of control, and in no time, you will end up with fines and tickets. In some cases, lawsuits were filed against the customers.

Fitting packaging is also important for international shipping & customs brokerage. Appropriate packaging and packaging material keep your cargo and goods safe. Aside from that, certain types of packaging are a must when shipping different types of goods. Logistics companies in Middle East follow strict laws and regulations when it comes to types of packaging. Some cargo contents can be marked as potentially hazardous, so they require certain regulations.

This must seem like a lot of DOs and DON”Ts for choosing types of packaging and labels. However, you can remain calm and be sure of your cargo’s safety if you follow these steps. Always triple-check the contact information on packages. Also, make sure that labels on goods are crystal-clear and down to the point. Packages should also have precise information on them about the contents and the date of shipment.

Before sending out a shipment, find out exactly what packaging you need for which type of cargo. This will also help you keep the goods safe and sound. To help you with the labels, you can seek help from National Motor Freight Traffic Association. NMFTA will help you classify and label all your goods appropriately, so you won’t have any problems at the customs.

A man in a warehouse
The type of packaging is important for international shipping & customs brokerage

When shipping globally, customs brokerage can be of great help

First of all, let’s get familiar with what exactly is customs brokerage. Custom brokers or Customs House Brokerages can be seen as “third parties” when doing a shipment to another country. Any person can represent customs brokerage, which means that they will directly deal with customs for the customers. They conduct and oversee imports, exports, storage, and movement of the cargo. When working with Riyadh customs clearance, hiring customs brokers is recommended for a quick shipment.

Customs brokerage represents a service that has experience with regulations and customs laws. They will make sure that all the processes, from import to export, are handled appropriately. You can also count on them to successfully do freight delivery. Services that you can expect from your customs brokerage are:

  • Provision of all important documentation (licenses, bills, purchase orders, etc.)
  • Identification of tax declarations
  • Management of daily reports
  • Updates on cargo data
  • Regular updates to customer databases
  • Compliance with customs laws
Man and a woman talking, holding papers that are crucial for international shipping & customs brokerage
Consider hiring customs brokers

Advantages of customs brokerage

Customs clearance can quickly get overly complicated and time-consuming. No matter what type or size of your cargo, customs clearance will take time. Many people don’t have that much time to waste, so hiring a customs broker is a must. In this fast and technology-driven world, customs brokerage processing uses software, experience, regulation knowledge, and innovation to quickly get your goods into the country. With international shipping & customs brokerage, many problems will certainly appear, so you’ll be glad to have someone with expertise to handle them.

With Saudi customs clearance, many setbacks, like documentation errors, missing paperwork, and false tax estimates, can happen. Customs brokerage will successfully deal with them and overcome any potential language barriers. Both companies and individual customers prefer that their packages arrive at target locations and in time. Many also prefer not to hire customs brokers, thinking that they will save up on costs. This has, again and again, proved false, as dealing with the customs problems in person can require a lot more money than just hiring brokers.

All in all, customs brokers and freight forwarders in Riyadh will improve the productivity of the process. They will remove any potential mistakes. This all leads to the company’s continuity and better competition in the marketplace. So, all in all, not only are customs brokers time-efficient with their work, they are cost-efficient as well.

Customs brokerage’s use of technology

Many customs brokers have certain technological systems in place that help them with their job. Of course, not every customer requires the same application of technology with which to conclude the customs clearance. But you have to keep in mind, that certain technological aspects will improve the aspects of the process. As a result, this can lower the costs and reduce the delay time, remove potential errors and make the whole process more visible and easier to follow.

Customs brokers also use software technology. This is most helpful when finding and reading the appropriate HS or HTS code of shipment. Instead of wasting time looking through documents and files, this software can find the HTS code in no time. This also reduces errors as well as manual workload. We’ll discuss the meaning of HTS codes later in the text. International shipping and customs brokerage greatly benefit from the use of technology. It can help with the optimization of the processes. The use of automation technology can also save time, but also estimate potential costs and requirements down the road. The technology is usually followed by extensive databases, providing you with information about customs regulations.

What exactly is HTS

To make customs clearance faster, international shipping & customs brokerage use the HTS system. This system allows the quick identification of goods that are being imported. This not only helps with the time costs but is of great importance for temperature controlled shipping companies. Sometimes, cargo is susceptible to elements, so it needs to pass the border quickly. HTS is an abbreviation for Harmonized Tariff Schedule. These codes are used for the classification and identification of cargo. Their main utilization is for global and international shipping.

A man carrying properly labeled boxes, which are important for international shipping & customs brokerage
Double-check that all packages are properly labeled

HTS consists of ten numbers. The first six are the HS or Harmonized System code. These six numbers are universal, meaning they will be identical, no matter what is the country of import. The last four digits are there for further classification of the cargo. They aren’t universal, like the first six, and are specified by the country of import. If you apply a false to an incorrect HTS code, certain legal actions can be taken against you that can result in fines and penalties. Furthermore, you can expect a delay or a seizure of your goods.

Paperwork needed for international shipping

International shipping and customs brokerage require suitable documentation for a successful customs clearance. All global shipments are legally obliged to have just the right paperwork. The two biggest pieces of paperwork are the commercial invoice and bill of lading, among others. The commercial invoice is a document that the customer provides to the importer. This acts as proof of sale. This document needs to have data on freight value, the number of goods being transported, and pricing. The commercial invoice is crucial when it comes to dealing with tariffs and taxes.

On the other hand, the bill of lading is a file that has information on the location of the shipment. Besides that, this document also further explains the quantity and type of the cargo. The bill of lading is always with the shipment and it is signed through the shipping process. Each and every person involved in the process, like carriers, shippers, and receivers, need to sign this paper. When it arrives in the desired country, the bill of lading can easily tell in which hands the cargo was and who was responsible for it throughout the process.

Apart from these two most important documents, there are other certificates that you need to hand over to customs. Some of them are certificates of origin, packing lists, and licenses if there are any hazardous materials in your cargo. Before you start the process of shipment, be sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and documentation.

A file with paperwork, important for international shipping & customs brokerage
Be sure to have all the necessary paperwork

Duties and taxes are a big part of international shipping

You can’t pass any customs clearance without having to pay some duties and taxes. That is just how the modern world works. These additional costs vary from customer to customer. The main variable is the type and value of cargo. Different countries have different laws that mandate the exact charges, so be sure to pay attention to that. Upon importing, the customs officers will see what taxes you need to pay and whether those same charges are paid.

As for duties, they can be done in two different ways:

  • DDU – Delivered Duty Unpaid
  • DDP – Delivered Duty Paid

As the name suggests, DDP cargo’s duties have already been paid. On the other hand, for packages marked with DDU, you will have to pay taxes and duties upon delivery. DDU can quickly spiral out of control and gather a lot of charges. To avoid overpaying for shipping services, choose DDP. It is a cheaper way of paying duties. And this way, there won’t be any unpleasant surprises at the customs.

A cargo ship near a dock
International shipping includes many duties and taxes


Global shipping has made moving goods from one side of the globe to the other much easier. However, international shipping & customs brokerage still remain unclear and complicated. A great way to make the process simpler is to rely on the help of customs brokers. It will not only remove any potential errors and setbacks, but it will make the process faster and more cost-effective.

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