How to Ship Expedited Oversized Cargo

Problem: You need to ship an oversized, irregularly shaped piece of equipment expedited to Shanghai. Now what?

Step 1: Build the shipment and prepare it for tendering to the carrier. The key question in building your shipment is: how will the carrier handle it? Forklift handling is ideal, so the cargo should be palletized. If your shipment weighs more than 2,200 pounds, you need a special heavy-duty pallet. The carrier will request the shipment weight and review your pallet choice to ensure the load doesn’t collapse. Secure the load to the pallet by banding, shrink-wrapping, or both.

When building an oversized shipment, keep in mind that the carrier will want to stack other loads on top of it. "Often, shippers don’t want their carrier to stack material on top of their shipment so they build the load in way that discourages this practice," says Carl Asmus, vice president international marketing, FedEx. "Shippers are better off building stackable loads. An awkwardly shaped load could become unstable, fall over, and incur damage. If a load absolutely cannot be stacked, place special notices on the pallet saying so." Also, whatever the cargo configuration, expedited shipments naturally travel by air, so they must be able to fit through an aircraft’s cargo door.

Step 2: Prepare the shipment documentation. For any single commodity in an international shipment with a value exceeding $2,500, you must file a Shippers Export Declaration (SED) with the U.S. Census Bureau. Verify with your carrier, integrator or broker that the destination country does not restrict the product you wish to import. After you file the SED, the Census Bureau will send back an SED shipment number, which you must note on all shipment documentation in order for your carrier to accept the shipment.

Your cargo must be accompanied by an air waybill and a commercial invoice that specifies quantity, price, and other details. The waybill data must match the actual cargo’s commodity, weight, and dimensions. Depending on the cargo’s destination, you may need a certificate of origin that states where the product was manufactured.

Find out if your product is considered a dangerous good. "If shippers unknowingly ship something that’s considered a dangerous good, they face penalties," says Asmus.

Once a shipment arrives at its foreign destination, it must clear customs. Brokers or carriers/integrators can handle these arrangements, as well as transportation to final destination.


Help From the Government


The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Customs Service jointly offer an electronic method for filing Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) information – the Automated Export System (AES). Participants in AES include U.S. principal parties in interest, forwarding or other agents, carriers, non-vessel-operating common carriers, consolidators, port authorities, software vendors, and service centers.

Once certified by the Census Bureau, participants may file shipper’s export data electronically using AES in lieu of filing an individual paper SED for each shipment. The Census Bureau also offers a free Internet service for filing SED information through AES called AESDirect. For additional information on AES and AESDirect, go to the Foreign Trade Division web sites at or

One note about commodity classifications: Assigning the correct commodity classification, formally known as the Harmonized System Code, is important. The classification determines how much duty and taxes you will have to pay on your shipment. An incorrect classification can result in you paying too much tax, or can hold up your shipment at point of arrival while Customs figures out how much more you owe in taxes, duties, and possible penalties.

Information on the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule can be found at

If you ship via commercial passenger airlines, you must be part of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s "Known Shipper" program. Passenger air carriers only accept cargo that has been verified and documented with "Known Shipper" status.

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