Importing from China can seem like a complex and difficult process for anyone that has never been involved in the import and export industry before. There are countless abbreviations and shipping terms which are quite confusing to the importing beginner. This article will cover some of the common terms and phrases you will see when importing from China.
China is the worlds largest manufacturing country, almost anything imaginable is made in factories throughout China and these goods can be imported right to your doorstep if you choose.
The first thing you will notice when looking to import goods from China is that the cost is usually in US Dollars. Although China obviously has its own national currency, US Dollars is the default currency the vast majority of exporters use.
The next term you may notice when investigating possible products to import are the shipping terms, most commonly you will see "FOB". This stands for "Free On Board" and means that the seller will pay for the transportation of the goods to the point of shipping. From this point, you as the buyer are now responsible for costs including shipping costs, insurance, unloading costs and any import duties and customs fees applicable in your country.
Other terms you may see regarding the cost of the product you are looking to import are "C&F" which stands for "Cost & Freight". This means that the seller includes the cost of shipping and freight up to your named destination port. It does not include insurance however. For insurance to be included also, you will need to ask for "CIF" which is an abbreviation for "Cost, Insurance and Freight". Although this is not commonly offered as standard by many suppliers in China, it is worth asking for as it minimizes your risk and will help to minimize unexpected fees and charges.
Once you have agreed on the price, the next element to consider is the weight and volume of the goods you are importing. For small shipments such as a single pallet of goods or a few hundred kilograms, you will need to import via "LCL". This stands for "Less Container Load" and means that you will share a shipping container with one or many other people importing goods at the same time. It will generally mean cheaper shipping costs too.
For large shipments such as 10-12 pallets (or several tonnes) you will more than likely be required to import via "FCL" which means "Full Container Load". Importing using this method means your goods are packed into your own shipping container and the container space is not shared with anyone else. This has a number of benefits, the biggest benefit being that your goods will be handled less and are far less likely to be damaged in transit.
Although it is possible to arrange the packing, shipping and unloading of your goods by yourself, it is not recommended especially for beginners. I would recommend using a freight forwarding agent which is a company that specializes in arranging the loading and shipping of goods all around the world. The service fees you will pay for such a service are quite small in comparison to the fees and charges you will pay for making mistakes by arranging it yourself.
If you are just starting to import from China, then it's always best to start with a small load of non-valuable goods. There is some risk involved with the importation of goods and although the majority of shipments will arrive safe and sound, it is best to start small to familiarize yourself.