By John O’ Grady
When you are sourcing from China it is really beneficial to have your own shipping agent working for you in China. Stating the painfully obvious importing from China is a 2-way street, goods are exported from China and then imported to say Australia and the USA. Surely then it makes sense to have a shipping agent in Australia or America too I hear you ask? Yes, absolutely and really the search for a shipping agent in China should start at home. What you really need is a shipping agent (also commonly known as a freight forwarder) located at the port where you will do most of your importing from China through. So if you are near Melbourne or Los Angeles or shipping to both then that’s the place to look for your agent.
Here are a few basic questions and ideas to get you started that you can ask prospective shipping agents about.
- Where do you have representative offices or partners in China?
- How long have you been working with same?
- Like anything ask for some reference clients.
- Does the agent handle air, ocean and road freight?
- Does the agent have less that container load shipping (LCL) services weekly from major ports?
- Does the agent have your suppliers nearest port well serviced in China?
You should note that the majority will claim to have excellent coverage over the major China ports so do try to learn a little about how long they have been operating those lines with special attention of course on the port/s that you intend shipping out of most frequently. All that griling aside your shipping agent is a key player in your team and should end up a trusted partner making a really positive impact to your business. We have put together a tidy list of the Top 7 good reasons why you must have your own shipping agent for China.
1. Cost Control
The alternative to not having your own shipping agent in China is allowing your supplier to provide this service which gives you no control over the process and will leave you open to inflated charges along the line most likely at the destination port.
Working with your local partner and their Chinese operations gives you a clear view into the process. You learn quickly that there is nothing to be scared about and your understanding will help make the process smoother.
Being able to communicate quickly and clearly on matters concerning your valuable shipments is important. Having responsive partners on the end of the phone and on top of email and paperwork flow is super important. You would be shocked to reaslise how many emails are exchanged on one shipment. I will run a test someday!
Building a healthy business relationship with your shipping agent in Australia/USA/anywhere is a very positive thing. Like any long term relationship, you could avail of some discounts over time but also having trust and reliability with someone who is essentially handling part of your livelihood is not to be underestimated. There are often win-win situations and introductions that can arise.
5. Time Saving
You will save a lot of time, effort, and stress by allowing professional people take care of your shipments. Having yourself get very hands on in the process is not an efficient use of your time. Let everyone stick to their strengths.
6. Customs Clearance
Your agent can make the arrange customs clearance quickly and also pay import duties and GST/VAT on your behalf. Following that clearance process, they will arrange delivery right to your door.
7. Supporting Local Companies
Even though you are sourcing from China, you still have an opportunity to support the local economy by giving the logistics work to a local shipping agent employing people at home.
John O’ Grady has been living and working in Shanghai, China since 2004. In all of that time John has worked in sourcing and supply chain management. Currently he is General Manager of Found China, a provider of China Sourcing Services. John enjoys travelling to factories throughout China to find new suppliers, make deals, oversee QC and stay in touch with good friends. Keep up to date with John and Found on their No. 1 China Procurement blog.