When shipping a product overseas, the exporter must be aware of packing, labeling, documentation, and insurance requirements.

Is the metric system required for export labeling?

The International System of Units, universally abbreviated SI, is the modern metric system of measurement. Every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States, prefers the metric system for weights and measures. Thus, the United States' trading partners require at least dual labeling (U.S. units and metric units), if not metric-only measurement units on product labels. For example, the European Union (EU) currently allows dual product labeling (metric units and U.S. units), but on January 1, 2010 all products sold in the EU will require metric-only labeling.

How can I learn about metric labeling requirements and other labeling standards?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) administers the U.S. Metric Program and provides information about metric requirements and foreign labeling standards. NIST operates a free Internet-based service that automatically notifies interested businesses when foreign governments propose changes to labeling, metric, and other standards that might influence the treatment of U.S. exports. For additional information about this program, contact NIST at (301) 975-4040.

Who pays customs charges?

The responsibility for paying customs charges ultimately depends upon the trade terms that you have established with your buyer. For more information on shipping and trade terms, please see Incoterms.

Should I insure my shipment?

If the terms of sale stipulate that the exporter is responsible for insurance, the exporting firm should either obtain its own policy or insure the cargo under a freight forwarder's policy for a fee.

If the terms of sale make the foreign buyer responsible for insurance, the exporter should not assume (or even take the buyer's word) that adequate insurance has been obtained. If the buyer neglects to obtain adequate coverage, damage to the cargo may cause a major financial loss to the exporter.

Shipments by sea are covered by marine cargo insurance (see a sample certificate).

Air shipments may also be covered by marine cargo insurance or insurance may be purchased from the air carrier.

What does export insurance usually cover?

Export shipments are usually insured against loss, damage, and delay in transit by cargo insurance. Carrier liability is frequently limited by international agreements. Additionally, the coverage is substantially different from domestic coverage.

Although sellers and buyers can agree to different components, insurance coverage is usually placed at 110 percent of the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) or CIP (carriage and insurance paid to) value.

Exporters are advised to consult with international insurance carriers or freight forwarders for more information.