David Sonntag
07 May 2015

Event Logistics, Freight and Shipping: Questions to Ask When Choosing a Provider

Organizing a large-scale event often means ensuring that bulk amounts of oversize items arrive on location, right on time. Considering that precision is so vital to a successful event, it follows that contracting a sloppy logistics company can quickly turn into a nightmare. Here are a few vital questions you should ask before you sign that contract:

Can I speak to some of your clients?

This one’s a no-brainer: reputable logistics companies should have dozens of clients with solid recommendations who are willing to vouch for the company’s timeliness and follow-through. Naturally, no one’s going to give you names of unhappy customers, so it also makes sense to Google around and check reviews online to make sure there haven’t been any major complaints. If you do find bad reviews, don’t be shy about having a “what happened there?” discussion with the company reps.

What technologies are you using?

Tech-forward companies are forward-thinking companies, and logistics providers that have the foresight and care to employ the latest tracking and communications tech are more likely to have a better handle on where your stuff is at any given time. It’s a good idea to ask when their back-of-the-house system was built, installed or updated. If the answer is ‘more than five years ago’, that should raise some eyebrows. You might also consider asking if they have an in-house IT guy or tech team, and whether or not they have a client-facing tracking portal, as a good provider will be able to keep you informed and relaxed with a system capable of providing to-the-minute updates on the location and condition of your stuff.

Event Production Blog: Event Shipping Logistics and Freight

Have you shipped to our destination country before?

Did you know you’re not allowed to import mineral water to Nigeria? That you can’t bring “electric fishing equipment” into Lithuania without permits? Just because a provider has handled overseas shipping doesn’t mean they’ve got a handle on shipping to your specific destination. Every country has its own import laws, required documentation and shipping quirks, and if you need to move supplies internationally, you don’t want any surprises on the other end. Ideally, your logistics provider will have a history of moving items to the destination country, will know the ins and outs of the local customs bureau, what types of items that country is likely to flag as problematic for cultural or legal reasons, any typical wait times in terms of cargo clearances, taxes and fees, and other place-specific issues.

Where are you going to store my stuff?

At some point during a long trip, it’s likely your gear is going to be placed in storage. Tent sailcloth can get awfully moldy sitting in a poorly-cared-for facility, rats can chew on electrical cables, and in some places, warehouse theft is rampant. Get storage policies in writing, and make sure your provider clarifies how much liability they hold if your items are damaged, stolen, lost, or destroyed while sitting in a temporary holding space. And speaking of which…

How can I verify your insurance policy?

No one wants to imagine the worst, but it does occasionally happen. Better to ask in advance: Does insurance cover the gear during each leg of the transportation process, or only some? What will happen in case of embargo? What is the process for filing a claim, if one is required?

Check all those boxes, and that’ll be one more load off your mind.

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