Importing from China? Make sure you read this first! 

So, you’re thinking about importing from China, are you? Or, perhaps you already are, and want some pointers?

There’s a lot to think about when you’re importing from China. Cost is always an issue, but it’s much more complicated than that. There’s logistics, customs, and dealing with folks who are going to help you move your cargo from one point to another.

Today, I’m going to talk about some of the more important pieces of the puzzle, so you can make the right choices for your international shipments.

1. What to know about China shipping rates

Although inexpensive, there are certain shipping conditions necessary for total satisfaction. Call it quality control… Your suppliers may suggest that it’s a good idea to purchase and coordinate your shipping through them, rather than a 3rd party logistics and freight forwarding team. It’s something we’ve come across quite a bit since we were founded in the 80’s, and pricing seems to be a main driver as to why businesses fall for it. But as we’ve mentioned in several blog posts before, that initial price-tag can be deceiving, and it’s important to think about all of the other things that could contribute to additional fees, costs, and time associated with your shipments.

Over the last few decades we have seen the importance for American importers buying from China to purchase FOB (free on board) China port rather than letting a supplier sell you the freight to the USA along with the cargo. This means they’ll get it to the port, and you (via your freight forwarder) will take it from there.

Once you complete your purchase, you ought to contact your US-based forwarders handling the Chinese cargo weekly. Whether using air or ocean freight consolidations for less than a container load (LCL) or full container load (FCL), the use of a USA forwarder with an experienced Chinese network along with the USA clearance & inland delivery will prove to be a saver.

2. Shipments beyond the Long Beach / Los Angeles port of entries

Shipments beyond the Long Beach / Los Angeles ports coming from China will be cleared through the US Customs before the shipment can be transported domestically to its final destination.

Using your United States-based forwarders & their proven Chinese counterparts in conjunction with US customs clearance & the delivery is the optimal solution. This will give you access to a more robust network that and the best all-inclusive freight rates that will not stop at the port… any port, ours or theirs.

One of the reasons why your Chinese suppliers can offer you cheap international shipping is because they will likely consolidate your shipments into multiple containers with others, which means yours may end up quite spread out, and this is where it gets really sticky, and more importantly, expensive. There could be timing issues, excessive transfer costs, and items lost.

3. Where do US Customs take place?

The bulk of China imports sail to the Long Beach / Los Angeles Ports.

Another reason to work closely with a US forwarder with a proven China partner is to assist you without delay or extra transfer cost, prior to the shipment arriving with the ISF (import security filing) & customs clearance filing. You are set-up to get this precious shipment of yours trucked in seamless fashion.

4. How to ensure your inland freight is priced correctly

When your forwarder has a Chinese counterpart, and they have a system in place that has been proven over the years, they will likely have all of the inland shipping included in your freight costs. This means there are no surprises or additional shipping fees to its final destination. 

When you depart from the idea of an all-inclusive freight concept, you will get fragments results, spending time and money to connect companies together, which means dealing with transfer costs, more fees, and time spent by you or staff to get it handled. I suggest you buy from China FOB & work with an experienced forwarder from there.

5. Chinese forwarders versus US forwarders for American importers

It is without exception that the best practical advice I can share with you is to have a relationship beyond the pricing with your US forwarder. You are here, we are here. You want to separate the buying of the merchandise from the shipping and never let the supplier in China control the shipment going to the United States.

You need to use your US-based freight network to help you take over your shipment from the supplier or at the Chinese departure port & get control early. Evaluate costs & timing along with the global logistics offered to you by one shipping network.

The point is, STAY in the driver seat.


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Using a US-based forwarder for your US-destinations will save you troubles in shipping, troubles at the port, troubles transferring from a fragmented network to another, troubles clearing, maybe more trouble with more USA Customs inspections, more delays, and more storage. You will also avoid needing to to organize your own inland trucking.

Shipping does not have to be carried alone, we are here to help our American importers. Good US freight forwarders offer good results & we wish your shipments a safe journey.

Interested in getting help with your Chinese imports from a 30-year freight forwarding veteran? Contact us today!

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