Advice for first time importers

20th May 2019

Importing for the first time can be daunting - even with the wealth of advice and guidance available on the internet. It is easier than ever to import from abroad, and we are receiving many more enquiries from customers who would like to import from USA, China, Canada India and many other countries in Asia. They are often confused about the legal requirements and procedures, including shipping term (INCOTERMS), and most first time importers don’t know the difference between different shipment types.


Shipment Types

These shipment types are international shipping agreements used by buyers and sellers all over the world.


CIF - Cost, Insurance, and Freight

With this transport method, the cost of transport to port/airport and insurance are included with the purchase price. A supplier will choose the method that meets your needs for the cheapest price. There is a catch with this method though. If you want a specific route or a faster transit time, CIF shipments can be a problem. Cheaper prices can mean longer transit times, and this can mean waiting longer for your goods to arrive.You also have no control over the arrival destination charges in the UK which can sometimes leave nasty unexpected surprises to the importer.


FOB - Free on Board

With this method, you get more say in the shipping process and it is easier to calculate the cost upfront. Your supplier takes charge of the first part of the journey (from their depot to port/airport of export) and your freight forwarder takes charge of the rest. There should not be any ‘hidden extras’ at the end for you to worry about, so this is usually the method we recommend.

Methods of Transportation

As a freight forwarder, we offer air freight or sea freight to transport your goods.


Transporting your goods by air

More time critical items are best to go by air freight as this is quicker - but the downside is cost as it is often more expensive.

Transporting your goods by Sea

Sea freight is cheaper but comes with longer transit times. We can offer 20’ and 40’ container transport throughout the world and even throughout Europe by sea freight from a variety of UK ports.


When shipping throughout Europe the overall transit time for goods is longer, but taking into account the possible delays at Dover, this is not always the case. Additionally, the overall cost can also be slightly cheaper. We arrange for collection of your goods from your suppliers. The goods will be transported by road, rail and then ship to their destination in Europe or Russia. From the destination port, the goods will be delivered by road to the desired location. The entire process is managed for you and the result is a more eco friendly transport chain.



Smaller size shipments can be shipped using LCL (less than container loads) where yours goods are packed in a container with other shipments. Larger size shipments will be sent by FCL (full container loads) where they take up the whole container. Our in-house rule is once your goods start to total 15-20 cubic meters that’s when it could be worth considering using Full Containers loads instead of less than container loads.


Taxes and HMRC


If you’re importing for the first time you’ll need to apply via HMRC for an EORI number. This application take about 3-5 days but it is imperative you have one before your goods arrive to avoid any delays and extra costs.

Classifying your goods with HMRC.

Import vat and duty is determined by how your goods are classified by HMRC. Having trouble knowing what is the best commodity code? This is something your freight forwarder will help you with.


 More information on importing

As you can see, there is alot to understand but the process will be much easier with the correct advice and guidance. Make sure your freight forwarder keeps you right!