How to Conduct International Shipping From the UK

No matter what industry you are in, or the size of your business, shipping internationally can be a daunting task. Yet as the world continues to “shrink” due to globalization, it is becoming more common for small and mid-size businesses to take advantage of the opportunity and expand their international shipping practices.

If you want to ensure that you are offering your products to a global market, then you need to be offering international shipping. To help you out, read on for everything you need to know about conducting international shipping from the UK.

1. Make sure you know what you are shipping.

While this may sound like an obvious pointer, there are plenty of companies that aren’t entirely aware of what they are shipping. Unfortunately, this can lead to unnecessary headaches when attempting to organize the shipping logistics. In most cases, the items that you are sending will be acceptable for international shipping; however, it is still essential that you confirm with the appropriate agencies before you move your goods.

Compared to other countries, the British government is not particularly prohibitive about exports. However, there are some items and classifications that are subject to regulations. These include military products, agricultural products, and processed foods, artwork and antiques, controlled substances and their component materials, and dangerous chemicals. Furthermore, there are additional items that are regulated through licensing.

2. Prepare the appropriate documentation before shipping.

The biggest mistake that exporters make is that they don’t prepare the appropriate documentation prior to starting the shipping process. Depending on the items you are shipping, they are going to require different paperwork. As this can be confusing for exporters, it is highly recommended that you work with an online freight forwarder (such as Shipa Freight) to ensure you have submitted the appropriate documentation.

Generally, you will have to include a commercial invoice that states the sender, receiver, and a detailed list of all the items being exported, as well as their value and where they were made. Additionally, you may need to submit a certificate of origin and an electronic export declaration.

3. Consider all forms of shipment.

Generally, the most common form of international shipping from the UK is by ship, as the UK operates a variety of ocean freight routes.

If you are looking to ship from the UK to the USA, then you will be happy to know that routes between the two countries are so popular that they are some of the busiest in the world. From London Gateway (UK) to Seattle (USA), the duration of the trip is approximately 23 days. Other options include Southampton (UK) to New York (USA), which takes around 15 days and Felixstowe (UK) to Savannah (USA), which requires about 18 days.

Of course, if you are looking to ship elsewhere, this is also possible through ocean freight. A ship travelling from London Gateway (UK) to Itapoa (Brazil) will be moving for around 34 days, while Southampton (UK) to Shanghai (China) takes approximately 43 days.

If you want your goods to move faster, or have higher-priced items that are light, then you may want to consider shipping by air freight. While this can be significantly more expensive than ocean freight, it dramatically reduces the time your goods are in transit. For example, London Heathrow (UK) to Los Angeles (USA) takes 11 hours, while Manchester (UK) to Singapore takes 14 hours.

No matter where you are sending your goods, you will be able to find an ocean or air freight route by speaking with online freight forwarders, as they have a variety of options available in their databases. Utilize them as a resource to ensure you are finding the right route for you and your business.

4. Work with an online freight forwarder.

Although international shipping is becoming a more common occurrence for businesses all around the world, it still isn’t necessarily smooth sailing – especially if you have never done it before. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you opt to work with an online freight forwarder who will be able to advise you every step of the way.

By working with a reputable online freight forwarding company, you can be assured that you are receiving up-to-date information about customs and regulations, as well as advice on the best way to ship your goods in accordance with your preferences and budget.

What’s more, you will have access to global logistics experts who can help you with any additional arrangements that need to be made. As they are based online, these types of freight

forwarding companies allow you to receive your freight quote and then book, pay, and track your shipment through one platform.

Are you considering starting shipping internationally from the UK this year? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts and any related insights in the comments below!


Paul Rehmet is the Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight. He is responsible for translating the company’s vision into an easy-to-use online freight platform for its customers. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways.