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Sending COVID-19 supplies and items overseas? Here’s how to do it

By Mail Boxes Etc. Sponsored | 31 July 2020

With the world being more connected and accessible than ever, it has never been easier for us to explore the globe and the many attractions it has to offer. Who doesn’t want to be the cool aunt who lives overseas and sends amazing knick-knacks picked up during their travels back home every so often? And when you’re living abroad, whether for work, education, or even just for fun, doesn’t a care parcel from your family just brighten up your day?

We have become so reliant on efficient shipping and courier services that it feels like second nature, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unforeseen consequences, such as much fewer flights and parcels taking up to three months to be sent overseas—if your parcel even manages to pass customs, that is! There are actually a lot of lesser-known rules and regulations about shipping. Even after three months, your parcel might never make it to its intended recipient, especially if you are sending medical supplies to families and friends overseas. Don’t worry, here are a few tips on what to look out for when sending supplies overseas.

3 items that you thought couldn’t be shipped

You may be familiar with this scenario during your travels: Bags packed and ready to go, you check-in for your flight and are reminded that commonplace items like batteries are not allowed in your checked luggage. You quickly scramble aside, unpack your bags, and curse yourself for your blunder.

As you know, certain items cannot be brought onto commercial flights, namely batteries, liquids, and powders. These items are usually prohibited when sending parcels overseas as well, but that’s just because it is a lot of hassle to do so and there is additional paperwork involved. To give you an idea of how much effort it requires, here is the documentation you need for these items.


If batteries are being sent overseas, then you will need to include Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in order to pass customs. Whether it is a battery for your phone or laptop, you will still have to declare it to customs. Luckily, specialised courier services have MSDSs on hand that they can provide for most electronic gadgets in your parcel. That way, you won’t need to call up every factory for every electronic gadget you have in order to obtain the MSDS!

Liquids and powders

Liquids and powders are usually prohibited because it is hard to predict their flammability due to pressure changes in the cabin, but if you are really keen on sending them overseas anyway, there is a way of doing it. You simply need to obtain the lab reports and specifications of your liquids and powders, and it may take more time for special items, too. This all sounds intimidating, but specialised courier services can actually take care of all of that for you.


For items containing more than 26 percent ABV, such as antiseptic wipes, a special permit is needed, as these items fall under the Dangerous Goods License. You need to study for this license and take an exam in order to be certified—and who wants to do that just to send a few parcels overseas? Fortunately, there is a way: If a specialised courier service has this license, they can help you create specialised packaging for your items so that your parcel will pass customs.

How to send COVID-19 supplies overseas

You might think that any courier service will send face masks overseas, but whether the receiving country’s customs will accept it is another matter entirely! 

Surgical face masks

Different countries have their own rules for accepting face masks, and some don’t even accept them at all. There are certain qualifications needed in order for the parcel to pass customs. If you are sending masks to the US, large courier services will not take the time to inspect your items and tell you that the masks need to be FDA-approved, or that masks to Europe need to be CE-certified with a clear expiry date on the box. If you didn’t know this beforehand, you might throw out the original packaging bearing the information you need, so you will probably waste a lot of time queuing and re-queuing just to send out your parcel.

Hand sanitisers

Next to face masks, hand sanitisers are hot in demand and you may decide to ship some to friends and families overseas. What you have to pay attention to is that hand sanitisers must be declared and they need Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). Therefore, we would recommend that you purchase hand sanitiser from big brands so that it will be easier to obtain a factory MSDS. Also, hand sanitisers definitely contain more than 26 percent ABV so you also need a courier that can supply you with a Dangerous Goods License—whew!

Customs clearance assistance

If you are like us and hate filling out complicated forms, specialised courier services can take care of all the paperwork needed for customs clearance—that’s one fewer thing to worry about when you’re mailing a parcel across the world. Parcels will need documentation such as invoices and certificates besides the waybill, and requirements for each country is different. However, by leaving it in the hands of experts, specialised courier services can inspect your parcel and make sure you have everything prepared—something bigger shipping companies may not take the time to do since they are aimed towards corporate partners.

Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) is exactly the sort of specialised courier service you should bookmark to save time and money. They have agreements with global shipping companies such as DHL and Fedex but they will also take the time to make sure that your parcels are fully prepared for custom checks, ensuring a hassle-free process. MBE is a smart solution for packing and shipping, with standard tariffs and less tax, as well as up to 2 percent insured value for all shipments. With over 2,500 service centres globally, MBE offers the right parcel courier delivery service to meet your specific needs every time.

Mail Boxes Etc.

Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) is one of the largest third-party logistics, printing, marketing, and communication services networks in the world with over 2,500 service centres globally. Visit their website for more information.

54 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan

(+852) 2849 8366