A few reminders about sea shipping; especially for those of you in the promotional product / ad specialty industries bringing in goods offshore.
Closing Date and Sailing Date: Not having an adequate understanding of this can make or break you in achieving needed in-hand dates and delivery times. Most importers are not crystal clear on these terms and what it means in “plan talk”.
The closing date is the day the shipment has to be at the port to clear customs and then board the next vessel.
The sailing date is the day the merchandise will be on a boat and set sail.
Here where it is critical. If the goods leave the factory on Monday and the closing date is Monday, then it is possible that it could be another 10 days from the time it left the factory until the time it actually sails.
Why? Take the following scenario:
Goods leave factory – Monday
Closing date – Monday
On the way to the port, goods are held up in typical China traffic, monsoon, whatever the reason…
…you don’t make it to the port in time. Normally there is a certain time of day on the closing day the goods have to be there. The customs office is not 24hrs, so there is a cutoff point on that day.
Let’s imagine there is only 1 sailing day per week. This will vary, some China ports and destinations have more than 1 day per week, but it is not uncommon from a port to destination to have only 1 sailing day per week.
Sailing date – Wednesday
You missed the closing date, goods will sit in a warehouse until next Monday when they will then pass through customs to be loaded for sailing on that next Wednesday.
…You just lost 10 days.
The supplier in China may very well complete your goods in time. But in a case like the above, both sides, China and you, didn’t consider the logistical monkey wrenches. Know your closing and sailing dates.
So if delivery time is critical and those 10 days can break you; learn to work backwards in your planning and scheduling.
*Another side point: many times, if you get to the port right on the closing day and you are close to the cutoff time, that will cause your shipment to be “flagged” for extra inspection thus causing you to miss the next sailing date. Important your supplier or freight forwarder doesn’t get you there at the last minute.
Handle Your Own Shipment: My advice to any serious importer for sea shipment, is to handle your own shipment. Have your own freight forwarder, who you know on a first name basis. Someone you can call at any hour of the day that will help you in any shipping bind.
Nothing beats having a shipping partner in your own country; from the destination, the freight forwarder can assist with inland logistics and customs clearance in ways that your offshore supplier cannot.
Also this local freight forwarder can better assist in working backwards from your needed in-hand date. They can map out and help you jump through the hoops of all critical dates.
Other Critical Phases to Consider: There is a good chunk of time from the moment the goods arrive to your port to the time they arrive final destination. Another reason to have a close shipping contact in your home country; you can proactively be there to receive, work through the expediting and speed up any red tape.
Customs Clearance on Origin (China) Side…there is no turning back. Keep in mind that once it goes through the gates of the closing day to awaiting boarding and departure, there is no recall.
Whether someone is new to importing or been doing it for years, these are all basics that bear repeating. Many seasoned importers are in the dark on shipping processes – hopefully these are helpful reminders to some.
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