Shipping 101

by David Molo December 15, 2020

Everything you need to know and more about overseas freight

Your product line is complete. The packaging is finished and ready to ship. It’s time to get your fabulous product into the hands of your customers. 

But wait—it’ll take  how long to get those tubes? 

And they cost how much, exactly?


Of all the factors you’re considering as you bring your products to market, overseas shipping is one of the more mysterious ones. When you work with us, you’ll never have to worry about picking apart the ins and outs of the commercial shipping world. That’s why we’re here—to break it down so you can rest assured that your product is delivered safely, efficiently, and as affordably as possible.

All of our paper tubes are designed at our studio in Chicago with mass production done overseas to provide you the best pricing. A variety of shipping options are available depending upon the destination, quantity, weight, and timing of the shipment. International ocean and air freight services are quite different from the small parcel shipping you are probably accustomed to. This type of small scale shipping is usually handled by companies such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS. These methods are relatively quick, are easily trackable, and use a dedicated fleet to fulfill shipment. However, they are not cost-effective when it comes to large or heavy shipments, andare typically not used for anything over 3-5 cartons or 150 kg of total shipment weight.  

The good news is that comparatively, freight shipping tends to be a much more affordable option. Unfortunately, commercial freight does not allow for detailed tracking, and delivery times can vary considerably. Even in the case of freight shipping by UPS and FedEx, contractors and partners are used to transport the goods in a complex series of hand-offs impacted by a long list of variables such as demand, capacity, fuel costs, customs, and even geopolitical events and weather. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Ocean Vs. Air

Say your paper tube order is complete and ready to ship from our factory in Asia to your warehouse in Los Angeles. If shipped by air freight, it will get picked up by a carrier such as UPS for transport to the airport. There it will wait...and sometimes wait some more for available cargo space on a commercial flight / airline like Cathay Pacific. Once the plane carrying your precious cargo leaves, it will likely make several stops, possibly even transferring between multiple airlines before it reaches its destination. Once it arrives at a domestic airport, it is loaded onto a truck for local delivery. This delivery method typically takes 7 to 14 days from pickup to final delivery.

If the same shipment is instead sent by ocean freight, it will also be picked up by an independent carrier such as UPS to be delivered to the port. This is where it will be loaded into a container. If your order is large enough to fill a container it is considered an FCL (Full Container Load) shipment. In this case, the container will be loaded at the factory and trucked to the port. Most orders are LCL (Less than Container Load) shipments which are smaller and don’t fill a container alone. Containers are loaded onto ships operated by a company such as Maersk or Hanjin and set sail for 3-4 weeks at sea. Once the ship reaches the United States, the containers are loaded onto freight trains operated by a company such as CSX. The train carries the freight to a hub, where it will get loaded onto a truck for local transport. This method can take anywhere from 5 weeks to several months, depending on sailing schedules, destination, cargo capacity, and customs clearance.

Inventory & The Supply Chain

As you can see, inefficiencies abound throughout the supply chain. Competition on speed and cost are fierce and not always guaranteed, which is why we contract with reputable transport companies to ensure the most efficient and successful delivery of your goods as possible. Of course, cost and travel time are your most pressing concerns. So what to do when so little lies within your control? The answer is simple: manage your inventory.

The key to making strategic decisions about the delivery of your paper tubes is managing your inventory so larger orders can be placed allowing for longer shipping times. Smaller orders that are needed ASAP will have a higher cost. Air freight tends to be 2-3 times the cost of ocean freight, all things being equal, simply because your product will arrive faster. Product dimensions in each carton and carton dimensions affect shipping costs. Shipping costs for paper tubes is billed as dimensional weight (how much space the units take up in the container or on the plane) instead of actual weight. Our shipping quotes always consider all known variables. 

Unexpected Challenges

What we can’t anticipate are the wild cards such as spikes in fuel prices, big brand product launches (think new iPhone being release), major weather events, or tariff rates and other unexpected global events(strikes at the port or global pandemics). These factors are not in our control and could affect your shipping costs. Transportation costs by land, air, and sea are directly affected by the price of fuel. As fuel costs fall, ships, trucks, trains, and planes become less expensive to operate and shipping prices naturally go down. These savings are passed on to the customer (that’s you). As fuel prices rise, the increase in cost is also passed on to you.

Costs also depend on the volume of the product being shipped. When capacity is limited, such as when a global brand releases a new product, transport operators are likely to sell space at a premium price. When traffic is slow, carriers are incentivized to offer more competitive pricing to fill their cargo space.

Final Thoughts

Each shipping method comes with its own liabilities and benefits. The trick is to choose the option that aligns with the needs of your business best. In the 2020 Safety and Shipping Review generated by Allianz, it is reported that the global ocean shipping industry is responsible for transporting up to 90% of world trade. While air freight is known for being safer, faster, and generally more reliable than ocean freight, it is considerably more expensive.  According to logistics and freight company Freightos, a $195 ocean shipment can cost $1,000 by air. Depending upon the balance of your budget compared to your timeline, suitable options can vary greatly.

The most important thing to know when it comes to overseas freight is that we are here to get the best deal we can on your behalf. We do the footwork to consider your best options so you don’t have to. We don’t mark up the cost of shipping your paper tubes to you and our goal is always to get your product delivered safely, on time, for a reasonable price. 


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