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If your business is anticipating shipping goods internationally from one point to another, you need to plan your freight movement and get your products through customs. The logistics of your shipping service is an essential asset in your business.

Two key entities in your supply line are freight forwarders and clearing agents. In the simplest terms, a freight forwarder manages the motion of your cargo from point A to point B, whereas a customs agent clears the way for the shipments.

In very few instances, freight forwarding and clearing agent positions are held by a single person. However, in most cases, these two positions are filled by different entities.

Freight Forwarders

A freight forwarding agent is integral in the international shipping trade. This agent manages your shipment’s journey from the country of origin to the warehouse or fulfillment center. This indirect representative of your company fulfills a lot of roles.

However, a freight forwarder is not usually in the customs business and often does not deal with custom clearances directly.

A freight forwarder:

  • Has experience in all forms of cargo transport (air, ocean, road, and rail)
  • Can provide cost-appropriate transportation of your goods
  • Books the cargoes
  • Negotiates freight rates with shipping lines
  • Provides storage for the cargoes
  • Delivers the shipments according to the client’s specifications
  • Provides a bill of lading to the client promptly
  • May or may not help with customs documents
  • May or may not be associated directly with one of the customs brokerage firms

Customs declarations, tariff schedules, direct liaison with custom border clearance agents, and customs entry procedures are usually done by clearing agents, also known as customs brokers.

Customs Clearance

Clearing Agents/Customs Brokers

The customs clearance aspect of freight forwarding is a complicated process. Customs regulations can be strict. Often the movement of goods requires crossing several international borders and navigating the various applicable customs systems.

For example, due to increased anti-terrorism requirements, U.S. customs and border protection policies require strict adherence to a specific set of customs laws and regulations.

Clearing agents or a customs border clearance agency ensure legal and quick passage through border agencies. They do this by managing customs inspections, dealing directly with the customs officers, and negotiating customs duty with local customs authorities depending on the cargo and country.

A good customs brokerage service understands regulatory requirements, including customs documentation and other nuances related to clearance from customs. The customs clearance agent services work with the local customs authority regularly and know how to prepare a customs declaration and other documents to avoid unnecessary charges or delays.

The customs clearance process requires accreditation. Customs broker licenses are earned by studying and passing government-mandated courses related to customs broker & freight issues.

The custom border clearance agency selected must thoroughly understand the local custom regulations and international shipments. These professionals undergo a strict customs process of training and certification that permits them to work with the customs authority legally.

Custom border clearances require strict regulatory compliance, which necessitates a clear understanding of the applicable custom systems and custom regulations.
Sometimes a freight forwarder will also perform the duties of a customs broker, but most of the time, these two positions separate. Custom brokers or clearing agents are accredited in the country where they work.

Other custom clearance agent services include:

  • Organizing the appropriate documentation for crossing borders and entering and leaving countries with cargoes
  • Helping companies with custom clearance documentation, including a customs declaration form, as necessary
  • Understanding duty and import VAT charges as applicable to the payment of duties on client’s goods
  • Negotiating customs fees when the cargo category may be unclear

Customs services agents do not:

  • Issue bills of lading
  • Negotiate pricing for onward forwarding of cargo with shipping companies

Worldwide Shipping

Final Thoughts

In the import/export business, timely arrivals of the correct quantity of goods are paramount to your company’s success. Two entities that can make or break the equilibrium of your shipping lines are a freight forwarder and a clearing agent.

At Asiana USA, we manage your freight supply line and shipping process, from shipping to customs clearance and storage across the United States. Asiana USA’s highly professional staff of shipping experts can handle the logistics of your supply line. Contact Asiana USA today to request a quote.

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