This section will take you through the basics of shipping terms, pricing and documentation, and whether you should use a freight forwarder.

Planning Your Exports

Planning Your Exports

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Research Markets

Research Markets

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Find International Clients

Find International Clients

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Adapt to the Market

Adapt to the Market

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Get Paid

Get Paid

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Get Financed

Get Financed

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Ship Your Products

Ship Your Products

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International logistics are more complicated and time-consuming than domestic logistics due to greater distances, increased risk during shipment and more complex paperwork. Using a freight forwarder can be an effective way to outsource your shipping needs, but it is still essential to understand the basics of shipping terms, pricing and documentation. Alberta exporters should become familiar with the target market’s import regulations including labelling, product standards, documentation, insurance and licensing requirements. If you are a service exporter, you may need to obtain professional accreditation from your target country. 

Trade regulations, declarations, permits

It is important to fully understand the regulations that apply both domestically and internationally as this knowledge will help your business run smoothly.

Under Canadian regulations, all exports must be reported using the B13A Export Declaration, along with any appropriate permits and licenses (except for exports to the USA.) Optionally, you can use the Canadian Automated Export Declaration (CAED), which is the electronic replacement for the manual reporting form. Note: the CAED program will be replaced by a new export reporting system, the Canadian Export Reporting System (CERS) by January 2020.

Export Permits and Controlled Goods
You may require an export permit for your goods if your destination country is on Canada’s Area Control List or your product is on an Export Control List. Some examples of controlled products include munitions, some agricultural products, textiles and clothing, softwood lumber, vehicles, steel, and some advanced technologies.

Trade regulations can be complex and changing, so in order to ensure regulatory compliance, you should obtain professional help. 


Exporting goods from Canada: A handy guide
Canadian Border Services Agency
This export guide focuses on the exporter’s reporting obligations when shipping goods.

B13A export declaration
Canadian Border Services Agency
B13A is the Government of Canada’s form for reporting export goods shipped from Canada.

The Canadian automated export declaration
Statistics Canada
CAED is an application enabling exporters or their agents to electronically report their goods to the Government of Canada, thus eliminating the
manual reporting process form (B13A).

Export and import controls
Global Affairs Canada
This guide will help you determine whether you will require an export permit or any additional authorizations, licences, permits or certificates.

Freight forwarders and brokers

Freight forwarders

A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution. They provide transportation, arrange for packaging, storage, handling, export credits, insurance and trade documentation – which may include customs clearance.

Customs brokers

A customs broker is someone who clears shipments of imported or exported goods and is responsible for knowing all of the rules, regulations, laws, packing and other requirements mandated by law in order to streamline the process of shipping goods. Customs brokers are responsible for obtaining and filling out all the paperwork needed to present to government agencies including calculating and paying duties/tariffs, tracking cargo and interacting with customs officials.


Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) member directory
Use the CIFFA member directory to help find a freight forwarder. 

Methods of shipping

There are four main methods of getting products to your customers: road, rail, ocean, and air. The first step in selecting a mode of transportation is to analyze the capabilities of each mode in relation to your proposed shipment (getting your product there on time and at the lowest cost.) Criteria to consider include: 

  • Efficient distances the mode can cover without damaging the product and with regard to costs and transit time
  • Maximum unit load that the ship, train, aircraft or truck can carry
  • Bulk handling
  • Package handling and carrying of loose freight – its cost, containerization, loading and unloading services
  • Service strengths/weaknesses, door-to-door service, time sensitivity and capacity to handle regular shipments up to certain weight limits
  • Tracking/tracing systems

How is your product shipped?

It is important to tracking shipping times as a KPI when you are established as an exporter, and revisit how you are getting your products to market if shipping times start to slide, or costs start to increase. This should be monitored on a continual basis.

The "exports by mode" tool below will show you how your product is typically shipped from Alberta to your target market(s). To use the tool, select a product and at least one target market. 

Transportation modes of {{ GetProductNameById(SelectedProduct) }} from Alberta to selected markets:

Please select a market below


{{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Road', 'Percent')}}
{{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Rail', 'Percent')}}
{{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Water', 'Percent')}}
{{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Air', 'Percent')}}
{{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Other', 'Percent')}}
Market Year Road Rail Water Air Other
{{GetCountryNameByISO(SelectedMarkets[index])}} {{GetLatestYearInTranportationModeResults(currentResultSet)}} {{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Road', 'Percent')}} {{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Rail', 'Percent')}} {{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Water', 'Percent')}} {{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Air', 'Percent')}} {{GetTransportationModeResultValue(currentResultSet, 'Other', 'Percent')}}
You cannot choose more than 10 markets.

Packaging, labels and marks


Packing goods for export requires specialist knowledge and is a service that a freight forwarder can offer. Goods need to be received in the same condition as when they left the consigner, warehouse or factory. Factors to consider include ease of handling, risks in transit and delivery (exposure to bad weather and extreme temperatures) and protection from unauthorized access and the environment. The wood used for packing is subject to international phytosanitary certifications. Waste wood used in containers for securing cargo is also subject to the same regulations. Freight forwarders also need to be aware of legislation over the safe disposal of the materials used for packing goods.

Labels and marks

Labelling regulations vary from country to country and must be customized to the destination market. Both importers and exporters must comply with labelling regulations concerning the provision of basic information about the product and its manufacturer and/or importer, safety, health, protection of the environment or protection of consumers against misrepresentation and fraud.

Export shipping cartons and containers have specific markings and labelling that meet shipping regulations, ensure proper handling, conceal the identity of the contents, help receivers identify shipments, and ensure compliance with environmental and safety standards. The overseas buyer usually specifies which export marks should appear on the cargo and may include some or all of the following:

  • Buyer’s name
  • Country of origin
  • Port of entry
  • Gross and net weight (in kilograms and pounds)
  • Number of packages and size of cases (in centimetres and inches)
  • Handling marks (international pictorial symbols)
  • Cautionary markings such as “This Side Up” (in English and in the language of the destination country)

Shippers must provide a packing list that identifies and itemizes the contents of each container. Each container must also contain a packing list itemizing its contents.

Cargo insurance

Cargo insurance provides protection against risks of physical loss or damage to freight from external causes during shipping, whether by land, sea or air.

Cargo insurance is essential and coverage is usually placed at 110% of cost, insurance, and freight or carriage and insurance paid value. If the terms of sale make you responsible for insurance, your company should 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, you should not assume (or take the buyer’s word) that adequate insurance has been obtained. If the buyer does not obtain sufficient coverage, damage to the cargo may cause a major financial loss to your company.

Three types of cargo insurance coverage are:

  • Free of particular average (FPA) – in addition to providing coverage for a total loss of the goods resulting from an accident to the vessel (due to perils of the seas), partial losses resulting from the perils of the sea are recoverable only if the vessel has been stranded, sunk, burned or in a collision
  • With average – this extends FPA coverage to cover partial loss due to perils of the sea (such as heavy weather or lightning if such damage amounts to three percent or another specified percentage of the value of the shipment). If the vessel has been stranded, sunk, burned or has collided with another vessel, losses are recoverable in full
  • All risk – most comprehensive, it covers most risks of physical loss or damage from an external cause, however shippers should be aware that there are numerous exclusions such as improper packing, abandonment of cargo, rejection of goods by customs and losses caused by temperature or pressure changes, unless endorsed by a special clause or separate policy

Another kind of insurance for nonpayment is recommended. The buyer’s lender and other financial institutions named in your sale terms increasingly require credit insurance to cover the risk of nonpayment.

Export documentation

Export documents must be carefully prepared to avoid delays in customs clearance and because slight discrepancies may result in nonpayment or may even result in the seizure of the exporter’s goods by foreign customs officials. Electronic documentation has made a complex process easier, but mistakes can be costly. As the exporter, you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the necessary documents. The number and kinds of documents vary according to the destination of the shipment because each country has different import regulations. The following documents are the most commonly needed.

  • Pro-forma invoice
  • Commercial invoice
  • Special packing or marking list
  • Bill of Lading
  • Air waybill
  • Certificate of origin
  • Insurance certificate
  • Dock receipt and warehouse receipt
  • Certificate of inspection
  • Import and export licences (as required)

The temporary admission (ATA) carnet is similar to a passport for goods - an internationally recognized Customs document allowing exporters and would-be exporters to bring in goods on a temporary basis exempt of duties and taxes into 76 countries. Carnets are commonly used by salespeople and manufacturers to bring their products into a foreign county to show as commercial samples to potential customers or to display at trade shows/exhibitions. Entertainers, sports teams, media and service companies are frequent users of carnets to travel with their professional equipment.


How to apply for an ATA Carnet
Canadian Chamber of Commerce
This guide will help you apply for an ATA carnet, and provide more information about its uses.

Build your export plan

Answer these questions to start filling in your export plan template. As you answer each question, your responses will be sent to your export plan template, which you can download below.

Export plan completion



This information is a guide only and should not be considered or quoted as a legal authority. While best efforts are made the keep this guide up-to-date, parts of it may become obsolete at any time without notice.