Shipping Forecast

by Paul Reynolds
Posted on 1st June 2017

Whether you are sending personal effects, mission supplies, NGO goods, educational materials, shoeboxes or humanitarian aid, there are many hidden pitfalls to sending goods overseas. How do you avoid them?

Paul Reynolds from Mission & Relief Logistics Ltd shares some key considerations from their years of expertise and experience in delivering these types of goods globally for mission agencies, NGOs, individual missionaries, charities and donors.

So, you have goods that you want to send, what are the important issues to consider?

First of all, think about WHAT TYPES OF GOODS you are sending.

1:Type of Goods/Details

Ask yourself, 'Is what I'm sending good quality or is it available locally?' 'Are these items allowed to be sent to that specific country?

Many countries have implemented inspection programs for goods prior to their arrival (called PVOC or BIVAC's) - these require an inspector to visit and inspect the goods to verify their quality.

Some destinations will not allow the import of certain goods - e.g. Uganda will not allow second hand/refurbished computers, Indonesia won't allow any second hand items.

Sending banned goods incurs fines and destruction costs - and ultimately, those in need don't receive what you are sending!

Also, Some goods also require fumigation - which is an additional cost.

Once you have thought that through; then think about WHAT/WHO/WHERE you are sending to.

2: Sending (Export)

The receiver (called 'Consignee') also needs to be prepared. Ask yourself - 'who is my consignee?' (have they got an official registration), 'Are they able and allowed to receive the goods - are they able to arrange custom clearance etc?' Local investigation and knowledge always helps to avoid problems!

The consignee may need to apply for an import permission before the goods arrive - have they got this in place? Do they have a local agent available who can tell what documents are needed to clear the goods?

You (the sender) are called the 'Shipper'. You will also need to consider 'How do I ship? (Air, Sea, Truck). These all vary on speed, cost and destination. Transport costs are always calculated on volume and weight - in order to get accurate costs you will need to supply this information.

The general rule of thumb (outside the EU) is that airfreight is fast and expensive and best used for small, lightweight and urgent items; seafreight is slower in transit time but much more cost effective for heavy/bulky goods.

Also remember that unless you pay a company to load goods for you, you will be expected to load your goods into the vehicle/container collecting from you - make sure you have people available for loading, consider 'can a (big) lorry reach my loading point?' etc.

The 'other end' is also important to think through. What RECEIVING ISSUES at destination are there?

3: Receiving

Be aware that your goods will need to be cleared through customs on arrival (as they are treated as commercial freight) prior to being delivered.

This requires a customs clearance agent and also payment of import duties/taxes on the value of the goods being imported. You cannot declare goods at zero value - even if they are all donated. All goods have to have a customs valuation attributed to them.

To calculate the import taxes/duties, local customs add the costs of transport + value of goods and then have several % charges applied to this overall figure that you will be liable for.

Customs can decide (often quite arbitrarily) to revalue the goods you are sending. This invariably is an increase! They can (and do) apply these revised figures in order to increase the monetary value of the shipment and thus the amount of duty owed.

They are legally allowed to do this - you need a good agent to negotiate with them on the ground to try and minimize this. (Mission & Relief have a network of agents globally).

But, what if the worst happens?' The insurance question.

4: Insurance

Five Key Things Everyone Should Consider When Sending Stuff Overseas

Obviously, if you are sending valuable goods, then it would be wise to insure for loss/damage; but what if they are not new and therefore you can't 'prove' (i.e. with a purchase receipt/invoice) their value?

One of the little known risks (particularly for sending goods by sea) is that of 'General Average'. If your goods are on a ship (owned by a shipping line) and there is fire/sinking/damage etc. The shipping line will recover/repair their vessel (which costs £millions!!) and can then legally divide these costs by every container/shipper who has goods/containers on the boat. This can amount to £thousands and you as the shipper HAVE to pay!

A General Average claim could have a massive financial effect on your work ! (NB: Our insurance cover will actually indemnify you against these costs up to £200,000!).

And finally who do you employ to help you?

5: Professional Company

Obviously, I have a vested interest here (and would say Mission & Relief!), but it is important to say that not all shipments are the same. Different destinations have different customs rules/regulations/issues. When money is limited, you can't take risks with who you use!

You need to know that the companies you are using operate with integrity, provide you with complete information and have detailed knowledge - once your goods arrive, if there is a problem, your goods will start incurring storage/penalty costs - which you are always liable for.

There is a lot of information to take on board and be aware of- that is why people employ us to handle this all for them! It's certainly a privilege for us to play this role in fulfilling people's visions.

Paul Reynolds is the Managing Director of Mission & Relief Logistics. They operate from 3 offices in UK, Netherlands and USA. They specialize in global logistics for charities, mission organizations, NGOs, missionaries and donors worldwide and have a global network of customs clearance agents to provide you with a complete logistics service. For assistance, contact Paul in the UK office +44 (0)1622 356779 / /