Since we receive many different questions about international sea freight we decided to create a guide covering all important information and the tasks to think of when importing to / exporting from Australia.

We published Part 1 of our international sea freight guide a few weeks ago including the topics Mode of Transport, Arranging Transportation, Common Sea Freight Incoterms (2020) and Packing and Marking Instructions. Here is Part 2 of the “Ultimate Guide for International Sea Freight” which covers Communication, Country Restrictions, Documentation, Unforeseen Costs, Quality Control, Customs Clearance and Damaged / Missing Goods.

Communication To All Staff Involved About Their Obligations

George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Having said that, just by assuming, when handing over all necessary documents, that everyone understands what is necessary for your freight, does not mean everybody understands it the same way, though you may expect that.

When importing from / exporting to other countries, cultural differences can have a great impact on what is understood or misunderstood, especially when it comes to international sea freight with special requirements. Make sure you are aware of cultural and language differences about the country you are shipping to / from. Be sure to apply standardised international marking / signage and to add sufficient handling notes to clearly instruct every person person handling your freight about what can be done with the package – and what not.

You are importing temperature-sensitive goods to Australia in summer? Inform you supplier to use appropriate packaging. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Inform your supplier about possible risks at destination they might not think of.

Country Restrictions For Imports

Though there are certain standards not everything is standardised in importation from different countries. Cargo inspections prior to shipment can differ from country to country. Make sure you are aware of all requirements so as not to risk extra costs. Some countries ask for a total breakdown of all costs and content of your packages on invoices.

The tracking of cargo depends very much on the software and procedures used by each country. Make sure the tracking details are correct and included in your shipment.

Documentation For Sea Freight Shipments

In general your freight forwarder should inform you about all required documents and who needs to send it. Make sure you give all necessary information about your goods. In Part 1 of this guide we offered a summary of all important information to supply your freight forwarder with. Each country again has different requirements as per customs regulations.

Documentation also depends on shipments terms and the sale of goods. The more complete the documentation is, the quicker the freight can be shipped and cleared at destination.

Unforeseen Charges / Costs During Transit

Unforeseen costs can accrue during cargo transit which were not possible to foresee at the beginning, when the shipment was planned and organised. Then the questions arises: “Who will pay these costs?” This very much depends on the Incoterm you and your supplier or customer have agreed on. In Part 1 of this guide we explained the most common Incoterms for international sea freight, which also includes who takes charge of which costs.

To give you an example: When using FOB, the most commonly used Incoterm for international sea freight, the seller is responsible for the goods until they have been loaded on board of a ship. From this point on, the buyer is responsible for the goods (sea freight, delivery and also duties). If unforseen costs occurred at the port of destination, then the buyer would have to pay them. Unforseen costs are important to be aware of when deciding on the Incoterm.

Note: Even though FOB is most commonly used for international sea freight, for FCL or LCL shipments it is not the ideal Incoterm. The reason is that the supplier doesn’t have full control of the containerised goods when being loaded on the vessel. This Incoterm is rather being used for uncontainerised goods, where the supplier does have control of the goods up to the point they are loaded on the ship. For more information, please contact us.

Quality Control

Inspections may be a part of your sea freight shipment. Depending on your goods and the country of origin / country of destination inspections can take place at different points during transit – at the factory, sea port(s) (origin/destination) or final destination. You also need to clarify who has the capabilities to inspect your type of goods and the standards that have to be considered. More detailed information will be provided by your freight forwarder. 

Customs Clearance

Many people are unsure about customs clearance and who has to do what. Maybe you are working with a freight forwarder who offers customs clearance as a combined service or you are using your preferred customs broker. Either way they have to sort out what is necessary to clear your goods. We recommend using a customs broker / freight forwarder who has experience with the country you are planning to ship to or import from, to make sure your international sea freight will be cleared quickly with all important information the local Customs authority needs from the supplier / shipper.

Damaged and Missing Goods

In order to reduce the risk of cargo damages, the loading and stuffing of a container is normally carried out by professionals. For FCL shipments confer with you freight forwarder to ensure that the packaging used is suitable for international transport. Also for LCL shipments confirm with your freight forwarder that the packaging you are planning on using is appropriate for international transit. Depending on the Incoterm (2020) either the buyer or the seller will carry the cost and risk for the shipment.

For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).