How To Import Your Goods From China Using Sea Freight


Whether you import components that your business will add value to before reselling or operate on an e-commerce drop-shipping model, importing goods from China often makes a great deal of sense. Firstly, the country’s manufacturing prowess now means that goods are often cheaper to purchase from Chinese suppliers than they are from many other locations given the economies of scale that are often involved. What’s more, China is geared up for exporting goods with plenty of ports, such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Jiangmen, that are ready to ship directly to European markets, to name but three examples.

When considering the benefits of importing from China, the questions many British firms ask themselves is how complex the process might be and how long it will take. Many businesses in the UK as based upon reliable supply chains which don’t suffer from customs delays or shipments of many thousands of miles. That said, with the right sort of freight forwarding service, all of these potential pitfalls can be avoided. What do you need to know?

Firstly, using sea freight services to import goods need not be that slow. Most shipments take around six weeks to arrive when they’re exported from China. That’s a time frame that many businesses can handle, especially if it is a dependable service that does not go more than a few days on either side of this period. Anything over 100 kilos is generally much more cost-effective to ship by an ocean-going container vessel than it is to air freight. Renting shipping containers is a common practice, but read the rental agreement carefully and understand any fees or requirements. To rent a shipping container, you must find a supplier that offers rental services.

One of the potential downfalls you may face comes with the paperwork involved. It is best to find an experienced supplier who can include the right documentation with your shipments so your goods are not delayed at port. Understand your import objectives and consider whether marine insurance will be useful in your case. This usually depends on whether the goods are high-value items or not.

From a UK customs perspective, you’ll need an EORI number even before you import from China. According to Barrington Freight, a freight forwarding specialist in Essex, a surprising number of British businesses fail to obtain them prior to making their shipments. Although individuals can buy items for personal use online from China without declarations, businesses will need to specify to HMRC that imports are for commercial use, so you’ll need to register to obtain an EORI number.

What’s more, HMRC will expect you to declare any VAT that may be due on your importation documents, along with customs duty and – depending on the class of products involved – excise duty. Tariffs may also apply for some types of goods, so you’ll need to know about these or get the advice of an expert who does. Generally speaking, freight forwarders will help with all of these paperwork issues quickly because they do it every day, something that most SMEs and even larger companies may not.

So, if you don’t know about commodity codes, importing licensing or import duty, then the best thing to do is to get a UK-based freight forwarding firm to help you rather than a Chinese shipping agent since they do not always have the right level of know-how for European – and specifically British – shipments.


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.