December 2010 | How-To | Ten Tips

Cutting Costs When Shipping Perishables

Tags: Temperature-Sensitive Goods, Food Logistics

Timing is crucial when shipping perishable products because shelf life is at stake. Moving perishables domestically requires product to be inspected and released for delivery, and each state has its own agricultural regulations. Importing perishables involves a host of other issues, including clearance by three U.S. government agencies. To avoid costly delays when shipping perishables, follow these tips from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Crowley Maritime Corporation’s Nelly Yunta, general manager of Customized Brokers, and Kip Douglas, director of U.S. truck brokerage services.

1. Know the seasonality trend in your focus regions. Adjust shipping volumes and patterns to take advantage of excess and restricted capacity, which will reduce transportation costs.

2. Purchase an annual bond. Securing an annual bond shows Customs— and customers— you are a serious importer and plan to continue importing to the United States. You’ll also save money by avoiding expensive single-entry bonds.

3. Become a C-TPAT member. Joining the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program expedites the release of your cargo and reduces the number of inspections, which helps aid prompt cargo availability.

4. Include all the commodities to be imported on a single USDA import permit. Not having to file multiple USDA import permits saves time and money.

5. Ask carriers for extra time to load and unload cargo. Avoid demurrage and detention charges by negotiating additional free time.

6. File Importer Security Filings (ISFs) on time. Late filing can rack up $5,000 in penalties.

7. Make sure your carriers properly load cargo for airflow and secure it in the ocean container or domestic trailer. Lack of airflow can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to perishable shipments. Proper loading also prevents cargo from being damaged by shifting in transit.

8. Ensure pallets comply with the USDA’s wood packaging material regulations. Using untreated wood packaging materials violates the USDA rule. When loading ocean containers or domestic trailers, ensure the treatment stamp on pallets and cartons is visible when doors are open and inspections are done. If the stamp is not visible during the inspection, cargo will be marked for stripping and, if it is not in compliance, the shipment will be re-exported or rejected.

9. Instruct handlers to place sample boxes by the door when loading mixed commodities on a reefer. This step facilitates inspections and expedites releases, which means product spends less time in transit and more time on the store shelf.

10. Avoid loading produce at night. Insects and other pests can get inside containers and require treating and possibly re-exporting the shipment. If you must load at night, use mesh tarps during the loading process to reduce the risk of insects getting into the container.