How to import
First time importers can find the whole process daunting. Starting any business is tough enough without adding in the extra complexity of dealing with different currencies and cultures. Sourcing the right items from overseas will give you an advantage over domestic competitors but the learning curve is steep and mistakes are costly.
Basic process and terms
Importation involves the movement of items from the supplier’s country to the customer’s country, usually shipped by air or sea. The supplier may have an agent in your region or use a distributor but in many cases, supply companies will be based in one place and your goods will move from there to you. By its nature, import export will cross geographical, language and cultural boarders; Items that are acceptable in one port may not be acceptable in the next.
3 Basic Stages – Once you know what to import
Supplier – The purchasing of the goods. Some suppliers (particularly export focused ones) will be able to offer a complete service, giving quotes inclusive of the one or both of the next stages. This may be described as offering a “landed price” a “cost including shipping” or “CIF” Cost Insurance and Freight. Others may only be interested in quoting ex-warehouse or FOB. These terms give you the information required for the next stage, it’s therefore important to ask a supplier to clarify this explicitly; don’t assume what your supplier means by these terms, ask.
Shipping – The movement of goods from point A to point B. If the supplier is unable to offer shipping rates, or the rates are unfavourable, freight forwarders can be used to establish shipping costs by air, sea or road. Important factors governing the cost include; the weight and dimensions of the consignment, its location and destination and, in some cases, its contents. Restrictions and charges can potentially apply to both the export of the supplier’s country and the import to your country. Ensure you have these details before searching for a freight forwarder
Clearance /Duty / Customs – Once the goods arrive in your country there will likely need to be a final stage of charges. The clearance of imported goods is important for numerous reasons, some more relevant that others when discussing different products and countries. Costs, restrictions and requirements vary dependant on products and countries. International restrictions apply to certain items (weapons, some chemicals etc.) but even everyday items such as laptops and mobile phones have strict packaging requirements when being shipped by air (Due to risks from lithium batteries)
Find a reliable local clearing agent in based near the port you intend to import to. Ask your freight forward, any friends or acquaintances you may have in similar businesses; it’s important to find a competent and honest clearance agent (they will save you time and money). Clearance agents help with getting the goods though the port and your local customs authorities more smoothly as they have experience and connections.
Import Check list
What does the supplier’s price include? Freight, clearance, insurance?
What restrictions, if any, are there on the movement of this product? Import, Export, Air, Sea?
Who is will clear the goods and what is the likely cost and time scale?
How will the goods be released? Ask your freight forwarder about telex release vs original bills.