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What You Need to Know About Shipping to Puerto Rico

Michael Wilson | Nov 12, 2019

Category: Commercial

Shipping to Puerto Rico is more complex than it might seem. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means it's not an "international" shipment — but it's still not as simple as a ...

Shipping to Puerto Rico is more complex than it might seem. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means it's not an "international" shipment — but it's still not as simple as a domestic one. On top of that, as an island nation, shipping to Puerto Rico is also naturally more expensive and limited. Here's what you need to know about shipping to Puerto Rico.

An Overview of Shipping to Puerto Rico

Shipping to Puerto Rico is a domestic service, but sometimes you need to list "Puerto Rico" in the country slot, and sometimes it's United States. It depends largely on the shipping agent. For the purposes of the United States Postal Service, Puerto Rico is considered the "state" and the United States is considered the "country." For FedEx and UPS, on the other hand, the state is "Puerto Rico" and the country is "Puerto Rico," too.

Other than that, shipping to Puerto Rico is similar to shipping elsewhere, but it is more expensive. Since freight has to get to the island, it will usually be loaded onto a container ship, and then sent to the Port of San Juan. Thus, a company would ship their goods to a port first, and then get it transferred to Puerto Rico.

Documenting Your Puerto Rican Shipments

A shipment to Puerto Rico doesn't need to go through customs because it is a domestic package. However, you will need a commercial invoice, and if the value of the shipment exceeds $2,500 US you will also need Electronic Export Information. The commercial invoice is going to need to include the value of the goods and the type of goods; items entering into Puerto Rico are subject to tax. A tax exemption can be claimed with the relevant tax exemption number. Many shipping companies will help you put your documentation together.

Shipments from Puerto Rico differ from domestic shipping primarily due to the limited methods of shipping and the additional tax for the items. As long as you have your documentation in order, shipping to Puerto Rico should be easy, if expensive — and if these costs are passed on to clients or consumers, the net result may be minimal. 

The Speed of Puerto Rican Shipments

Express shipments can be completed to Puerto Rico within three days, but these are discrete shipments that are being completed via air. Ocean freight shipping to Puerto Rico will take up to eight days. 

If you're shipping products commercially to Puerto Rico, ocean freight shipping will likely be the way that you do so. Thus, you'll need to calculate an eight- to ten-day lead time on your products when shipping there. If you're shipping direct-to-consumer, your shipping options are going to be broader. 

If you have a distribution center in Puerto Rico and complete sales regularly in Puerto Rico, you may need accurate forecasting for your supply chain. If you want to avoid running out of product, you need to be able to anticipate needs at least eight days ahead of schedule. 

The Considerations When Shipping to a US Territory

The tax rates can differ based on the goods that you're sending in. So, if you're sending in alcohol, that's going to be a different tax rate from sending in textiles. Before you ship to Puerto Rico, you need to have an in-depth understanding of the tax rates.

Shipping to Puerto Rico may take some time. Unless you want to pay for air transit, you will need to wait for a container ship to arrive and be processed. However, despite taking a long time, and being a little more expensive than most domestic shipping, shipping to Puerto Rico is otherwise straightforward.

Companies have little to gain from refusing to ship to Puerto Rico, as it is an accessible United States territory, and it can significantly broaden a customer base. Nevertheless, a company should also be aware of the challenges involved in shipping and should calculate out the additional costs related to shipping and taxes for the purposes of logistical planning. 

Shipping to unusual locations is only one of the concerns you might have in your supply chain. Better supply chain management can help. If you improve upon your supply chain management, you can anticipate your needs even in more distant locations, and you can cost your products more effectively.

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