To the uninitiated, shipping from China looks like a complicated, disorganized process. There are political, legal and cultural factors that, in fact, do complicate matters, but when you select the right China-based partners you can rely on their expertise. What you need to know about shipping cargo from China involves government regulations in China and the destination country, as well as freight forwarding companies and various logistical matters. As in any other specialized operation, you should stick with your core activity and get the right people to help you navigate through the entire process.
It is easier to understand what is going on if you look at the individual steps involved. There are about 10-12 steps, depending on variables, involving about that same number of different parties. Briefly, the process works like this for a shipment out of South Mainland China to the U.S.:
- Factory advises that cargo is ready
-Customs broker in China will arrange clearance and inspection
-Based on factory license, Chinese customs allows export
-Trucking firm takes cargo to Hong Kong border
-Chinese customs clears export to Hong Kong
-Cargo delivered to port or airport
-Hong Kong export clearance allows booking with shipper
-Cargo arrives at destination
-U.S. customs is cleared
-Trucking firm takes cargo to destination
Through these steps you have dealt with factory managers, buyers, brokers, customs officials in three locations, trucking firms and shopping companies. The questions should immediately present themselves to you: How much of this do you want to manage? Who can help you the most?
Go with what you know
First-timers will rarely be able to organize and manager the entire process of sourcing from China, whether it's one time only or a regular weekly thing. In fact, it is best that you and your firm focus on what you do best (buying, selling, marketing, service, manufacturing, whatever it is) rather than become a logistics company. Selecting a good international shipper may seem the best place to start, but shipping firms do not have the breadth of experience in most cases to help you cut through bureaucratic red tape, attend to the many legalities, work within the cultural milieu or resolve misunderstandings.
The answer is clear. An attorney that knows China, speaks the language, understands the culture and is experienced in international shipping is the way to go. Not only will the attorney be able to ensure all your dealings are correctly managed, he or she will handle the myriad different details and allow you to concentrate on your central business activities. Because you now have the support of someone with expertise in Chinese business and logistics, you will enjoy the benefits of the attorney's many contacts and get the best, most cost-effective deals. Your lawyer, a China expert, will be the most important piece of this puzzle, the central hub coordinating the many different activities that can become dizzyingly complex at times.
You can think of this as a networking process. Rather than making multiple, often overlapping connections to 10-12 different parties (from freight forwarders and local trucking firms to customs officials in various countries), creating something of a tangled web if you are not careful, you make one connection to a lawyer experienced in shipping from China. The lawyer's connections then become available to you for the solution of your particular challenge, whether it's a single shipment or a regular schedule of shipments. The time you save through this top-down networking is substantial and, therefore, valuable, offsetting the cost of the attorney and creating a cost-effective solution.
There is simply no substitute for real-world experience when it comes to shipping from China. No matter how many how-to books you've read on the subject, and regardless of how all the Chinese regulations explain the process, there is always a difference (sometimes major) between the way things are written and the way things actually operate. You need an attorney with direct experience in China to help guide you through the process and, in fact, protect your interests. It is the single best decision you can make if you are involved, or will become involved, in shipping cargo from China.
By working with an attorney who knows China, its people, its laws and its customs, you will save yourself time, money and aggravation. Stay focused on your core operations, while getting expert assistance in the specialized areas, and your cargo will be delivered on time, every time.