Practical advice if you are exporting for the first time or planning to export
Below is some practical advice you can follow to safeguard your interests if you are a first time exporter or new to exporting..
1) Appoint a reputed, reliable and efficient shipping, clearing, forwarding or removal company (for your personal cargo) as your agent to handle your shipments.. Even if they might cost you a bit, this cost is negligible when considering the value of your cargo and it is in your interest that it is safely transported..
2) Ensure that the agent you appoint has the relevant credentials, experience and expertise to handle your cargo.. If you look up Forwarders Associations or International Movers Associations in your area, you can find some reliable agents.. Search the internet for “freight forwarder association” and see what comes up..
3) A starting point to check out the agent could be
- Visiting their website and reading about them
- Check for them in the local shipping newspapers or magazines
- Any recommendations from anyone that might have used them
4) Have a preliminary meeting with your agent to ensure that they understand your exact requirements.. Your agent should be able to guide you on whether you have all the required documentation, permits, licences etc in order for you to export..
5) Most importantly, YOU must understand the full scope of work that you are entrusting to your agent and the full breakdown of their costs down to the last cent.. It is prudent to go through each and every item of their quote so that you understand the costs and there are no grey areas between you and your agent at the time of payment or cargo release..
6) There are always a few unscrupulous agents that might take you for a ride.. You are appointing them, so you are entitled to ask them to explain all charges in detail.. There are many customers who have been ripped off because they didn’t check and query the charges in advance and when they do, it is too late..
7) There are several entities that are involved in an export movement.. Understand the roles of each of these entities..
- Removal company or Haulier – who will come to your house (or warehouse) to pack the cargo into boxes or a container and take it away.. Suggest to also follow a check list before packing your cargo..
- Freight Forwarder/Customs clearing agent – who will be handling the customs clearance for your cargo.. Some removal/forwarding companies have a customs clearance licence and they will do the clearance for you themselves..
- Shipping Line – who will be contracted by your agent to carry your cargo from say Durban to New York.. Many experienced shippers take on the function of negotiating the freight rates and nominating the shipping lines themselves.. The shipping line will either have agents or own offices at the Load Port and Discharge Port..
- Destination shipping line office/agent – they are the counterparts of the shipping line at the destination and they issue the final release of cargo to your agent..
- Destination customs clearing agent – could either be the own office of the customs clearing agent at origin or their agent – these people will secure the release of the cargo from the shipping line office/agent and clear the cargo with customs at destination before delivering the cargo to you..
8) Even though you have appointed an agent and you leave it to them to take care of all the processes, here’s something that YOU personally must follow, for your peace of mind..
- Insure Insure Insure – this is the MOST important part of the entire process as far as I am concerned.. This is YOUR cargo and you need to ensure that it is covered by insurance via a reputed cargo insurance company with international coverage or presence..
- Make sure that you get the original insurance policy from your broker or insurance company (elementary you might say – but there have been cases where people have not done this) and keep it safe..
- If anything does happen to your cargo, this is one of the most important documents you must produce to recoup your losses..
- For personal effects cargo, ensure that the packing company prepares an inventory list of what items they are putting in what package..
- They must give you that final copy which you and the packing company must sign as acknowledgement of what was handed over to them and in what condition.. If there are any obvious external damages to your goods, that must be clearly highlighted..
9) Ascertain and familiarise yourself with the route that your cargo will take from port of load to port of final discharge, and how long it is expected to take, especially if you are shipping your cargo as LCL and if the cargo is going to be reworked into another container along the way..
10) Documents that you must receive from your agent once the shipment has been loaded on the ship..
- Bill of Lading – this can be either in original or a copy of Waybill depending on your terms of sale with your consignee..
- If it is your personal effects, then you can take a Waybill and show the consignee as YOU so that cargo will be released only after proof of identify is verified.. If you are not able to be present at destination when the cargo arrives, then suggest you consign it to your agents’ counterpart at destination for them to take delivery on your behalf..
- Copies of the documents that have been filed with customs
- Copies of the documents that have been filed with the port authorities for payment of wharfage
- Weighbridge certificates if any, sampling analysis certificates if any, Certificate of Origin
Phew..!! Not too much of a hassle heh..
What was your experience like when you started exporting for the first time..??