Once you have developed a business plan for imported products the next step is devising a logistic plan for physically importing your merchandise. This is where logistics management on your part becomes a major decision. Will you be in charge of arranging for importation of your goods and be physically present with necessary documentation when your merchandise arrives? Or, will you make these arrangements via a third party logistics manager such as a customs broker or freight forwarder?
The documentation process for imports
When importing, 'standard terms and conditions' should be established which outline the pricing and quantity arrangements for importing your merchandise. Once both parties agree upon the terms and conditions the seller will draft a sales confirmation that once signed by the importer becomes a legally binding contract. The length of these written arrangements can vary depending upon size of order and stipulations between buyers and sellers.
A Sales Confirmation or agreed upon proforma invoice must outline:
The port of destination
Who is the seller and buyer
Mode of delivery
Date of order and invoice
Country of shipment origin
Quantity either in number, weight or volume and a description of imports including country of origin and quality of product
Purchase price of the goods, these figures may vary depending upon type of Currency used during exchange
All of the following document types may also accompany the shipment into the US:
Invoice from exporter
Certificate of Origin
Certificate of manufacture
Awareness of tariffs applied to imported goods
Determination if a ‘drawback’ on paid duties is applicable
(drawback is applied when goods are imported and then re-exported after some value-added process has been applied. Drawback is commonly used when importing and re-exporting between the US and Mexico)
The following fee based online websites can prove useful if you want to import yourself. Many customs brokers and freight forwarders use these web-based applications to ensure accurate submission of import documentation to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency for security tracking of various shipments. Third Party logistic providers can also provide clients with up to date cost analysis, logistics and import compliance information.
Smart Border - www.smartborder.com
Trade Beam - www.tradebeam.com
Nextlinx - www.nextlinx.com
Other logistic considerations:
There are a variety of end results for your imported products. Some may act as manufacturing components for other goods while others come as is and ready for resale. Determine which route your product will take before you import. If your merchandise is imported as a manufacturing component, it may be allowed to be imported into a 'Foreign Trade Zone' if it is being assembled for a product that will be re-exported.
Because a Foreign-Trade Zone is considered to be outside the normal channels of commerce in the United States and the U.S. Customs territory, making use of these limited 'zones' can eliminate tariffs assessed on your goods. To find out if your imports for manufacture and/or re-exportation are applicable and to locate Foreign Trade Zones in the US, access the Foreign-Trade-Zone Online Resource Center at www.foreign-trade-zone.com and the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones at www.naftz.org.
There are also certain packaging regulations that must be observed in order to expedite importation. If a shipment arrives that has been packaged incorrectly it can be stopped at customs. For in depth guidelines on packaging ask you third party or port of entry authorities.
Smaller shipments can often be made by air while larger shipments may necessitate travel by sea or possibly rail or road depending upon origin of shipment. For larger transactions, there are a variety of solutions that assure that once the product has entered into US Customs notification has been made ahead of time and when the goods have reached the port destination there is customs broker ready to process the shipment who can offer the following services:
Arrange shipment details
Take charge of cargo upon arrival at the port or airport
Process all documentation of imports
Handle any additional packaging requirements
Packaging and Insurance:
Once you have decided how your goods will be imported make sure that their packaged correctly and insured. This is where clear communication between you and your seller is important. Make sure the foreign seller understands all US Customs requirements. Marking your merchandise correctly is also critical for making sure it is not only processed properly but also distinguishable from other products at Customs. At Customs they can search any part of your shipment if they deem it necessary. Mis-marked items can hold up the importation process at Customs which could delay your shipment for days. Contact your chosen shipping authority for packaging requirements.
Depending upon what route you take to import your goods, each method of transport has different insurance options. There are a number of insurance options. Contact your regional TradePort Service Center for qualified marine insurance companies.
Third party logistics managers can prove very helpful in tracking down shipments when they did not arrive at the expected time or place, as well as tracking them en route.
The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America www.ncbfaa.org can link you up to Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders who can help you import your goods. They offer informational resources on their websites with most of the information you will need towards finding the right customs broker or freight forwarder for your shipment.
The following websites are resource alternatives that can help you with the technical aspects of the logistics industry including directories of custom brokers and freight forwarders.
American Association of Port Authorities - www.aapa-ports.org
International Air Cargo Association - www.tiaca.org
Airport Brokers Corporation - www.airportbrokers.com
Council of Logistics Management - www.clm1.org
Professional Association of Exporters and Importers - www.paei.org