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Paul – FS Concierge
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Calcul8or, post: 244882, member: 29970 wrote:
Having worked in supply chain my entire employed life, and having also owned an import/wholesale business in a previous incarnation, I have a reasonable understanding of the area you seem to need help in.

I started that other business as a sourcing agent, and created a network of traders around the world through embassies and trade consulates, back in the days before the internet and when fax machines were king. These days, the internet will put you in direct contact with suppliers anywhere.

If I can presume that you’re looking to import from China, my suggestion would be to check out Alibaba.com for potential suppliers. It is a vast repository of just about any product you can imagine, and will be a good starting point for you.

The terms under which you will buy goods, will either be C&F/CNF (cost & freight), or FOB (free on board – delivered to port, not including air or sea freight). Your payment terms are negotiated separately with your supplier, and can be done in numerous ways, the most common being a Letter of Credit, which is a promise of payment arranged between the buyer & seller’s banks, upon delivery of the order. Your bank will have an international trade section that can provide further info on this. Oh, and don’t forget to factor currency conversions into your calculations too.

You can also contract organisations such as SGS to inspect the goods before shipment, to certify that they are as you ordered. They’ll check standard things like packing and quantity, and can also provide qualitative information like lab testing etc for food products.

On the seafreight side, because of the geographical vastness of China, it may not be possible for you to consolidate your orders into a single container without increasing your local inland freight costs astronomically. But don’t worry too much about that, because there is absolutely no need to consolidate freight unless your orders are going to be worth millions. If they are, then there are logistics companies setup to cater for you at that level.

There are two acronyms you need to be familiar with. Theses are:

FCL – “Full container load” – 20ft, 40ft, refrigerated/non-refrigerated, standard or hi-cube
LCL – “Less than a container load” – for any quantities that won’t completely fill at least a 20ft container.

You will need to find an international transport broker and licensed import duty agent (there are lots of them) who will look after everything to do with transport, documentation and storage that you might require. They can tell you everything you want to know about every single cost including duties and taxes, and are well worth developing a strong relationship with once you’ve found someone you’re happy to work with.

When I first started, I did all of the logistics myself, and actually went down to the ports and airports to custom clear all of my own shipments (which you can do if you’re the owner), just so that I had a hands-on knowledge of everything involved.

I hope that helps to make things a bit clearer for you. Importing can seem like a daunting task, but it really is quite straightforward, and will become easier to understand and manage the more you do it.

Don’t let a fear of the unknown stop you. It will only remain unknown for as long as you don’t get out there and do it. After that, you’ll wonder what you were worried about! lol

All the best with it!


Thanks for sharing your knowledge in such a thoughtful and detailed way.