International logistics

What are international logistics?

International logistics focus on managing import and export activities. Exchanges are organised by cross-border transport, whilst applying known logistical methods. It provides logistical stakeholders with optimised solutions for exchanging goods and transporting people between different countries.

The ultimate goal in international logistics is to devote activity to the management of goods transportation. The goods are first of all picked up (from a factory, logistician, supplier warehouse, etc.) and conveyed to the export country where they will be unloaded by the importer.


 Specificities of international logistics

  • International exchanges require a large number of partners. This implies perfect organisation in terms of information exchanges and logistical operation planning, as well as rigorous traceability regarding and optional documents;
  • Running international logistical operations is a multi-modal task. Hence the necessity to know the nature and size of the goods and packages, as well as the type of packaging used. This implies managing the goods using the Inter-modal Transport Unit system;
  • Import and export comply with strict legal regulations, included as part of a wide range of regulatory texts. The legislations or convention in force need to be known at every stage of the international logistical process;
  • Proficiency in these logistical steps will optimise flow processing times: as such, there will be fewer bulk breakages as all the right administrative formalities are applied during the inter-modal phases;
  • Rigorous management of logistical costs will help optimise the fees owed to the various service providers;
  • Keeping a hold over security risks that may affect the goods requires that handling operations be minimised, insurance policies be well-adapted, and most importantly for perishables that transport conditions be meticulously complied with.

Important matters regarding international logistics

  • Constraints mostly concern goods whose nature may vary considerably: agri-food products, or dangerous products that may cause damage on the ships.
  • It is for the transporter to provide all the documents relating to the type of products imported: licences, certificates of origin, transportation certificates, quotas, etc.
  • The administrative obligations will depend on the type of dispatch chosen.
  • declarations comply with the products’ nomenclature.
  • Excellent knowledge of applied tariffs is essential when dealing with operations.
  • Proficiency in foreign working hours, as well as foreign regulations in the event of a sales conflict, is key.
  • Geographical and climatic constraints, as well as the country’s cultural environment, are major factors to be considered in this case.
  • Technical constraints caused by a lack of handling resources during the loading or unloading process must be considered.
  • International transport schedules must be anticipated based on current events (conflicts, natural disasters, political changes, etc.).

Examples and practical applications

International logistics is organised door-to-door, in the following manner:

  • Packaging is adapted to the goods to be protected during transport;
  • Dispatch method is carefully selected;
  • A sales agreement is concluded with reliable logistical providers, such as freight forwarders and various transporters who take on the role of non-vessel operating carrier or commissioning forwarder. As such, they manage part of the packaging, transport, handling, and operations;
  • Transport operations are scheduled and approved, after which the operations dedicated to logistical providers are launched. A work order is delivered to them;
  • Transport follow-up: loading and departure dates, arrival dates, and potentially lay-over dates. Goods traceability is ensured thanks to situational reports;
  • Logistical costs are approved by checking the invoices issued by the providers, and invoices are then settled once the entire has been finalised.


International logistics in figures

International transport (departure from or arrival in France)

Maritime transport

  • Overall volume of goods transported via maritime routes in the world: 80%
  • France’s ranking in container traffic through ports: 7th among all EU countries, with 6.7 million TEU containers
  • Import in France via maritime routes: 72%


  • declarations per day in France: 50,000
  • Overall index for digitalisation: 87%

Air transport

  • Roissy is the 2nd largest freight airport in Europe (1st in 2017)
  • Proportion of general cargo transported in passenger aircraft holds: 70 to 80%
  • 1% of the total volume of goods throughout the world, but 35% of overall value


Regulatory cornerstones

  • TIR Geneva Convention from 14 November 1975, applied as of 1978. (, go to transport/transport border crossings and , publications)
  • During loading or unloading inspections: electronic
  • Transport commissioners must comply with the decree from 11 February 1991 when performing , city office or road transport activities
  • Code
  • Transport Code