Sea freight import process: reliable and inexpensive

Sea freight import process: reliable and inexpensive

Every day, tens if not hundreds of thousands of containers are moved around the globe on small and large container ships. Even though container ships are naturally among the slowest means of transport, the transportation of goods and commodities by ship is not only particularly reliable, but also comparatively inexpensive. So if a good or product is not urgently needed, it pays to have a little patience.

If the sea freight was exported at the port of the place of manufacture, it takes, for example, from various regions of Asia to Western Europe (Antwerp, Rotterdam or Hamburg) between 25 and 40 days for a ship to reach your intended destination. Unloading incoming ships and loading them takes surprisingly little time. In the largest and most efficient ports in the world, depending on the size and number of containers, it takes between 24 and 72 hours to unload the cargo (nautical term for discharge) and another 24 to 72 hours to reload it.

  • In many ports, sea cargo is officially exported long before it is loaded and then waits, so to speak, in large storage areas for your shipment.
  • The use of autonomous or at least partially autonomous machines in the logistics of a port ensure ever shorter idle times.

The sea freight export process formally takes place at the entrance gate of a port area. There, the relevant authority must be provided with all the information needed to approve an export. As a rule, however, this process is unproblematic.

Why sea freight import process at the port wall

If you are not very familiar with the sea freight import process, the explanations given above may seem a bit questionable. However, since ECL Kontor is not only an experienced ocean freight handler, but also wants to give its customers the opportunity to understand what kind of ocean freight import process there is, we would like to explain this feature briefly.

A typical feature in the sea freight import process from A to B is that the goods or containers are first unloaded and stored at the destination port. “A” in this sense stands for a place outside the European Customs Union, which is why the sea freight import process (e.g. to Germany) results in the payment of import VAT and possibly an additional customs tariff.

In some ports there are still so-called duty-free warehouses, where the sea freight import expiry can be stored until the final import without tax or duty due, but many ports (such as the Port of Hamburg) have been converted into a sea customs port. Already at the time of unloading a container, a presentation notification must be submitted by the importer to customs. This shows a contact person, the goods contained, the import VAT due and any customs tariff.

  • The port of Hamburg, for example, still has extensive storage areas. There, the sea freight import procedure or the taxes and customs duties to be paid have already been made known at the time of unloading. Stored sea freight is then considered as temporarily stored goods – until a forwarder or shipper picks it up and removes it from the port area.

In many Asian countries, developing countries and also some Gulf states, however, there are still free-trade zones. In Dubai, such ports are often part of entire free-trade zones: Not only is the sea freight import process tax-free, but also the operation of a company in such a zone is associated with numerous tax advantages – resident companies benefit additionally from an equally tax-free export.

  • In many developing countries, ports are also a kind of marketplace where goods of all kinds can be purchased tax-free. The customs declaration at import (i.e. when leaving the port area) is the responsibility of the buyer and, by its very nature, is not always done, or not always done correctly.

ECL Kontor of course takes care that all formalities are in accordance with applicable law and regulations depending on the country of origin. Therefore, the sea freight import process as well as the sea freight export process usually run smoothly – apart from random checks that may stop at short notice.

Category “Useless Knowledge”: There are numerous free ports in China, but they are hardly used for the sea freight import process and sea freight export process – they are rather to be seen as free trade zones. Therefore, a distinction is now made between free ports and so-called export-processing zones. In the latter, for example, at least 70% of the stored goods must be destined for export.

Sea freight import procedure in the EU

Europeans can only dream of numerous free ports or even free trade zones. The national tax and customs authorities pay very close attention to compliance with legal requirements in the sea freight import process and thus ensure the payment of unavoidable duties over a large area. The Hamburg example can be applied to many European ports: after unloading, goods can be temporarily stored, but all customs-relevant information must be available at the time of unloading.

Even though the sea freight import process is similar, customs law can be quite challenging. For laymen, for example, it is difficult to understand which customs tariffs apply to which goods. Also, the customs tariff due for the sea freight import process can differ for two almost identical products – for example, the intended use sometimes plays a role.

  • It is therefore important for a smooth sea freight import process to ensure a legally compliant declaration from the outset. The sealing of containers is also mandatory.

ECL Kontor has been familiar with the sea freight import process for decades. So we offer you as our customer competence and expertise you can always rely on. Especially when the sea freight import process is not necessarily part of your daily business, you can benefit from our range of services.

Our logistics company is at your disposal in all matters concerning the sea freight import process, just contact us!

ECL Kontor is an international logistics company established in 2004 with roots in customs clearance and transport organisation.


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