When your order is confirmed with your supplier final invoice issued, you’ll need to begin making preparations for importing your order and have it cleared through customs and delivered to your address.
Order Arrival & Customs Procedures
Upon arrival to your country, your first order will need to be processed and checked through customs for any dangerous or prohibited contents.
This is a standard process for every parcel or shipment imported and at times can delay your order from being delivered, so make sure that once your parcel arrives locally, you contact the shipping company and make sure everything is good to go for delivery to your location.
This part of the business is out of your control, so you’ll simply need to be patient and answer any questions customs may have for you. Most of the time it is pretty much smooth sailing, however, there may be other times when you’ll need to clarify certain questions about your parcel.
Import Fees and Charges
The fee which is the most common when importing your product initially is the duty fee which is payable upon arrival of your order.
There also may be a clearance fee issued by the freight company for their work in clearing your parcel from customs.
You may need to check with customs to see what charges are applicable, as there are certain products that don’t require any duty to be paid, such as particular hand-painted or handcrafted objects. Another fee or tax applicable if you are importing into Australia or New Zealand is the goods and services tax or namely the GST. This normally is payable only if your parcel has a total invoice value of over $1000 as per customs current regulations at the time of writing.
GST is normally 10% of the value of your total invoice provided to you from the supplier so for example if your order is worth $3000 then you will roughly be paying at the very least $300 for this particular tax.
Storage and Organising Delivery
It is very important that once your sample order has arrived into the country to make sure that it is processed and cleared quickly as the longer it stays at the customs stage, the higher the chance of being charged a storage fee which is normally not so cheap.
This is quite rare when you have a small parcel that will make simple clearance, however, if your sample order is large in size or quite heavy, then a delay is possible and if your order needs to sit at the docks for a while, it may end up costing you a small fortune.
Once cleared for customs, then delivery of your first order will proceed and if you are selling smaller amounts such as beauty products or jewelry, then your order will more than likely be delivered by a standard courier straight to your door.
If your items however, are bulky or quite heavy, you may require the services of a shipping agent which we’ll discuss later on how to organize delivery to your premises.
Making a Larger Order & Employing a Customs Broker
Once you have received your sample order and are satisfied with the product/s from your supplier, you now want to order a larger and more substantial quantity of products to stock your business. By wanting to order a larger quantity of products you’ll now need to employ the services of a shipping agent or customs broker.
A customs broker or shipping agent can basically handle your entire shipment from the pickup of goods from your supplier, handling all clearance matters, paying for any storage fees, releasing your products from customs and finally handling the delivery of your order to your nominated location.
Shipping agents are available in all good business directories, the largest being Yellow Pages (www.yellowpages.com.au).
When first contacting an agent, you want to provide them with your order details, including the weight, total cubic meters, the ports where your order will be shipped from and to, and how your order or products will be packaged. You will then need to obtain a quote first before committing to their service, as it is a good idea to obtain at least 2 to 3 quotes before focusing on a particular agent.
Having your shipment delivered by a customs agent normally means your order will have arrived in a shipping container.
Container Shipping Types
There are two types of shipping container deliveries. One is called LCL which is short for ‘Less than container load’, and the other is FCL which is short for ‘Full container load’.
The most common shipping method for smaller startup import businesses is LCL delivery whereby your shipment shares a space and is consolidated on board a larger container with other orders bound for the same country.
Eventually as your import business grows, you can begin to order larger quantities that will require FCL or a full container load. There are three main sizes of containers. These are 20 Foot (20’), 40 Foot (40’) and 40 Foot High Capacity (40’HQ).
When shipping your order by a container, there is also another method of delivery called the Consolidated Load. What this entails is if you have multiple suppliers form the one country i.e. China, then your local customs agent will organize the orders to have them consolidated into one container and delivered to your location.
There may be extra delivery charges for this shipment type, however, for some importers, it is crucial as one supplier may not offer all the products required for the business and so by consolidating they’ll be able to save a great deal of money.
Importing Fees Applicable & Procedures
As far as fees go, there are a few costs involved in importing via a shipping agent and whether or not it is an LCL or FCL shipment. These involve the actual container or pallet shipping fee (as LCL Shipments are calculated by cubic meters), admin fees, destination port charges, terminal handling charges, cargo fees, duties and any local taxes.
Once you have selected an agent, what you’ll need to do first is pay for your shipment and to make sure that it’s all ready to go from your suppliers end. You’ll then need to contact your agent and ether email or post the actual and final invoice from your supplier.
You also need to provide the supplier’s contact details to the agent. The agent will then get a contact with the supplier and organize any paperwork or certification that may be required for clearance, fill in any necessary declaration forms and most agents will have you sign an authority form that gives the broker permission to bring the goods in on your behalf.
At some point the broker may contact you for some extra information or clarification of a particular detail, if so be as thorough as possible and recover any missing information from the supplier yourself to save time.
Once the shipment is placed on a vessel, your agent will provide you with the vessel details and approximate arrival time to your local port. You’ll need to then make a payment for any brokerage fees applicable.
You won’t pay for any clearance charges or port charges until your shipment arrives as at times these values can fluctuate, however, your agent will provide you with a rough estimate of the costs beforehand.
As soon as your vessel arrives, you’ll be informed by the agent via phone and / or email. Invoices for you to pay will be issued, including transportation costs to where you can unload the goods.
Once all invoices are paid for your agent will advise you when your delivery will be made.
Arrival of your Shipment into your Country
The usual time for a shipment to arrive from your supplier can be anywhere from 10 days to over a month depending on where the shipment is arriving from and how busy the entire import industry is at that particular time of year.
For example waiting for a delivery at Christmas time may take considerably longer than the middle of the year as almost every retail store and importer is bringing in goods at that time so you’ll need to make adjustments to your schedule to ensure you always have stock on hand when required.
Make sure you have some extra hands available for assistance upon delivery of your order as you’ll more than likely be unloading the container or pallet delivery yourself.
If you prefer to save on the transport costs and have the means to pick up the goods yourself from the port, then you are free to do so however make certain that you have a large enough vehicle for the task.
Remember that by keeping a good relationship with your shipping agent, you’ll be able to make importing all your future orders a breeze.