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The shipping process for international trade is composed of standard expectations for all countries and all ports. This standardization applies to China and all of its shipping companies. This is an important aspect of international shipping since China owns ports in many countries other than the Chinese mainland and this international understanding facilitates the handling of goods both leaving China and arriving in China.

The regulation of costs and responsibilities of international shipping rely on the long-established rules found in the Incoterm guidelines formulated by the International Chamber of Commerce in 1920 and which have been updated every ten years to keep pace with the demands of the shipping industry. The organization of these Incoterms describes the changes in the degree of responsibility for the secure shipment of the cargo starting with the most responsibility assigned to the buyer transitioning to the seller as the Incoterms are outlined. These are very helpful in ensuring a common vocabulary and mode of communication among international shipping partners.

There are five physical steps to the shipping process and two documentation steps included within the transition of goods from one port to another. When cargo leaves a port bound for China, it will have passed through handling and export clearance by the exporting country. It will then be considered ocean freight by the freight forwarder and may be handled by several different shipping companies through several different ports before it reaches a Chinese destination. This is much like a regular traveler who has to disembark at an airport in one country, lay-over at an airport and then catch a flight with a different airline to finally arrive at their intended destination. In the case of shipping, it is using ships instead of airplanes and ports instead of airports, but cargo can also travel by air.

Import Customs Clearance

All cargo moving into a country must be cleared for import. Global container shipping companies must declare the type of goods being shipped and the value of the goods to legally register the goods and assess the duties that will be charged. This phase of the shipping process required at the Chinese port is the preparation of the submission of the shipping documentation and declaration to the shipping authorities. However, it is not the same as the duty or taxes paid on the goods that are in the shipment. These taxes are paid by the shipper directly to the Chinese government or their representatives.

The cargo being shipped is considered within the port when it crosses the legal limit of the Chinese boundaries. This requires that the documentation and registration take place before the cargo arrives at the port, and it must be completed before the cargo can enter the country.

In most cases, the documents needed for registration can be scanned and submitted, but at times the officials may require the originals. It is best to have a freight forwarder who is familiar with China ocean shipping companies and be prepared for any modifications of the standard procedures. In some instances, the shipping company may want to nominate a Chinese freight forwarder to ensure the smooth transition of the cargo.

Destination Handling

When the paperwork has been completed the Destination Handling of goods entails the receipt of the documents from the freight forwarder, inspecting them for accuracy, and then obtaining the original bill of lading assigned to the shipping company.

Once this has been verified, the cargo, usually in containers, is collected and brought to the destination warehouse where it is unloaded, inspected and turned over to the buyer or another shipper. This task is usually assigned to the designated freight forwarder since they are responsible for the integrity of the contents and the distribution of the cargo now that it has arrived.

At this point in the shipping process, the guidelines for shipping arrangements, the Incoterms, come into play as this different billing and levels of accountability determine the overall handling of the cargo. There is no one way to move the cargo forward as the Incoterm guidelines are not always the overriding method of handling and sometimes other negotiations will occur. An experienced freight forwarder can ensure a smooth transition. The Asiana USA International Shipping Company is very familiar with the different Chinese ports and which ones require some instances of negotiations. This information is valuable when moving goods into the country.

Import Haulage

Import Haulage is the final leg of the import process and is the transfer of the cargo from the import warehouse to the destination. In China, as in all countries, this is usually done with trucks or vehicles belonging to the freight forwarder or with a private trucking company hired by the buyer or the freight forwarder. The consignee may also opt to pick up the cargo with its own trucks and save the cost of haulage.

Many times in this phase, there can be multiple hubs where cargo is stored and then later transferred. This is a normal part of the process. The import haulage costs are usually handled by the buyer so that they can control the time of arrival and the condition of the goods. However, these costs can also be absorbed by the freight forwarder and passed on to the shipper or buyer.

Final Thoughts

The process for shipping cargo from one country to another is regulated in many different ways including the use of Incoterms to determine shipping arrangements and agreements. There are also equally recognized international procedures when the cargo arrives at any given port, and China adheres to these common practices. Although the Incoterms are guidelines for shipping, they do not control all of the unique questions that may arise when shipping goods. For this reason, it is always a good idea to employ the services of a knowledgeable and experienced international shipper like Asiana USA. We specialize in making sure your cargo arrives safely to its destination, and we are very familiar with the formal and informal practices at Chinese ports. Contact us for a consultation and an estimate.

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