Your Air Freight Questions Answered – Part 1

Your Air Freight Questions Answered

Loading air freightHere at the Exporting Excellence™ blog we invest a great deal of time in answering questions about international air freight for our clients.  What we find most interesting is the fact that these questions don’t just come from small or mid-sized customers, but even from Fortune 500 sized shippers who have large air freight volumes.  One of the most important ways we at Crescent Air Freight add value to the business of our clients is by eliminating the complexities that come with international logistics.  To that extent, we’ve put together a series of FAQ’s that we have encountered from shippers of all sizes and from across various industries.  Here’s a selection of some of the more frequent questions and our answers:

Q:             Why does air freight cost so much? 

A:              The answer lies in simple economics: there is a scarcity of space on an aircraft.  Long range, wide body passenger aircraft typically carry 15 – 20 tons of cargo on a flight and that’s only if passenger baggage and fuel capacity allow for it.  On top of that, since cargo on a passenger flight goes in the aircraft belly, the maximum allowable height of the freight is only 64 inches.

With freighter aircraft, the maximum payloads are about 100 – 110 tons per flight, and maximum heights can go up to 108 inches (sometimes more depending upon the contour of the aircraft and the cargo).  Contrast this with a 20’ ocean shipping container which can accommodate a payload of more than 20 tons, and you begin to see why space is always at a premium on an aircraft.

Q:             Are there any ways to reduce or offset the costs of air freight, without settling for an ocean freight transit time?

A:              We get this question very often, and there are several ways to answer it.

To begin with, the economics we mentioned above can’t be totally ignored.  Space on an aircraft always comes at a premium.  Typically direct flights and non-stop flights justify a higher price because of the speed of transit and reduced potential for delays.  Hence, one cost saving solution shippers can opt for is an indirect service, which typically involves a slightly longer transit for a slightly lower price.  As an example, cargo flying from New York to Sydney, Australia on a direct flight with QANTAS moves at nearly double the cost per kilogram of the same shipment traveling on Qatar Airways via Doha, using 2 flights.  This may seem odd to the consumer: 1 flight ought to be cheaper to operate and load versus 2 flights and a longer route.  However, the carrier offering direct service justifies their price premium by getting cargo directly to destination in a shorter time frame.  The indirect carrier justifies their discount by pulling in cargo from all their destinations into a single freight hub and profiting from the potentially greater volume (in theory, anyways).

What new shippers typically fail to understand is that the cost cannot be continuously decreased by increasing the transit time.  So this creates a common follow up question such as “Can you give us a really slow service that takes 7-10 days maybe for a really low price?”.  This is something that really doesn’t exist, and if a huge price discount is to be found it’s probably because the airline has no traffic going to a particular destination and hence markets the space more aggressively, rather than pricing the service based on transit times.

There are, however, some scenarios where we are able to get creative with the mode of transport by adopting a multi-modal solution.  For example, cargo being routed to landlocked countries in Central Africa, Central Asia or Central Europe can be sailed to major nearby cargo hubs such as Abidjan, Bremerhaven, Dubai or Sharjah and then flown or trucked a short distance to countries of final destination such as Afghanistan, Mali, Switzerland, etc.  This sharply reduces the total landed cost of product at destination and also improves transit time over a pure ocean service.  We offer similar solutions for our customers in the garment and textile industry by sailing cargo from Bangladesh to Dubai and then flying the goods to the United States, thus taking advantage of low inbound air freight rates and ample capacity that is typically not available in the country of origin of the goods.  Sometimes the opposite works too as cargo can be flown from a landlocked country such as Nepal, into a major nearby port city and then transferred to ocean containers for final transit to Europe or the United States.

The ultimate way to avoid air freight costs, of course, is to not ship via air at all, and for customers who do not ship enough material to fill an ocean container on their own, the option of LCL ocean freight exists.  Of course this is a longer transit time service than even standard containerized ocean freight, but the cost is often justifiable.

All of these scenarios, however, do require planning and that’s really the most important thing for a logistics manager to realize.  Planning with your service provider and sharing information on required transit times, budget constraints, deadlines at origin or destination, etc. will allow your freight forwarder to come up with the right solution for your business and even for your individual shipment.  “Just get it there” doesn’t work and is akin to randomly pulling a suit off a department store rack and telling the tailor to “just make it fit”.

Q:             Do we really need to pay for a premium or time defined/guaranteed service?  Can’t you just use your influence with the airlines to make our cargo move faster? 

A:              Definitely, maybe…

This question comes up a lot and many times the part about using “your influence with the airlines…” can come across as more of a taunt than a request!  The reality is that just like in many other businesses, with air freight (and logistics in general), you get what you pay for.  If your cargo needs to be kept in a cooler between flights and upon arrival at destination, then a freight forwarder will usually get you a service that may be slightly more expensive than general cargo, but far less than the cost of leasing a refrigerated air freight container.  The airline would want you to lease the refrigerated container and maybe even pay them round trip airfare for it, but your forwarder adds tremendous value here by providing you a “product appropriate”, cost effective service option based on their knowledge of your product, temperature requirements and by proposing reasonable alternatives.  However, once again the key here is communication.  If a shipper fails to disclose their true temperature or handling requirements for the sake of saving money and the goods suffer damage as a result, then there’s nothing a forwarder can do, especially after the shipment has been executed.

Temperature controlled goods present a truly special case as do high value goods and a few other select product categories.  Other times shippers have general cargo to ship via air on a very tight deadline.  In such circumstances time definite or guaranteed services are worthwhile.  The cost may be triple that of regular air freight, but if a customer is facing a production shut down, or an inventory problem that must be solved in a short time frame then it’s obviously worthwhile.

Over the past 39 years we have accumulated a lot of questions about the air freight and logistics process in general. In fact we just focused on price issues in this post and next month we’ll focus on air freight service and operational questions that arise on a daily basis.  In order to make the series work for you, we suggest you leave your questions in the comments below, or if you prefer, try sending us your questions by email at cargo@crescent1.com or on Twitter at @CrescentAF.

 

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Amazon Gets Set to Disrupt the Freight Forwarding Market

Amazon Gets Set to Disrupt the Freight Forwarding Market

amazonAfter building an enviable fulfillment process and network, acquiring trailers to transport goods between fulfillment and sortation centers, dabbling in its own delivery services and dipping its toes in air cargo, Amazon is now eyeing the ocean freight forwarding market. 

Should other freight forwarders be concerned?

Freight forwarders are already facing a difficult market thanks to overcapacity, declining rates and a global economy that has remained in the doldrums for several years. However, as Amazon enters the NVOCC realm, there are bells going off in many freight forwarding offices.

Amazon is a monster e-commerce provider, an IT firm and a logistics provider. It is also a major customer of such delivery companies as FedEx, UPS and the USPS. In fact, according to some publications, Amazon is a $1 billion customer for UPS alone. $1 billion in transportation spend with UPS alone – that’s perhaps the main reason for building out its logistics and transportation network – costs are soaring – and so Amazon apparently has decided to bring it all in-house.

increase your airfreight revenuesDespite the precarious industry headwinds facing freight forwarders, Amazon’s NVOCC registry from the FMC depicts its Asian ambitions.  Amazon’s official name on the FMC’s NVOCC registry is Beijing Century JOYO Courier Service Co. Ltd. JOYO was a Chinese e-retailer acquired by Amazon in 2004 and also marked Amazon’s entry into China.

According to industry speculation, Amazon could provide freight forwarding services to Chinese companies looking to export products directly into its Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) warehouses, or perhaps even “cross-dock” the goods to inject into Amazon’s US delivery network. In addition, Amazon could provide a service most other freight forwarders are unable to – limiting the number of cargo ‘handoffs’ within the supply chain as well as fully taking advantage of its strong IT capabilities to further automate the process.

Amazon will come up against stiff competition. Alibaba, China’s own monster e-commerce provider, IT firm and coordinator of logistics services, signed an agreement with China Shipping Group, its subsidiary, China Shipping Network Technology and sister company China Shipping Container Lines in 2014 to set up an integrated and cross-border logistics platform. The platform will allow for both China Shipping’s and Alibaba’s clients to use it for price inquiry, ordering, tracking and settlement.

The race is on between the world’s two largest e-commerce providers and logistics is where the competition will ultimately determine the winner and perhaps redefine a freight forwarding market in need of change.

The World Needed Another Article on Amazon’s Dominance?

We actually put this article together for a very different reason than to just comment on Amazon.  At Crescent Air Freight we are not only a freight forwarder and NVOCC, but we’re also a consolidator which means we do business with other freight companies.  Many of our industry customers are ocean freight forwarders, NVOCC’s and customs brokers who don’t have in house air freight capabilities.  In other cases we’ll work with freight forwarders who may be licensed for air freight shipping but simply don’t have access to the pricing that we do.  So in that respect, we see some significant value in what Amazon could bring to the logistics marketplace.

Here’s an example of how we cooperate with industry competitors and how Amazon could do the same:

unlock the airfreight business in your customer baseWe have an NVOCC client who has no air freight capability, but they have tremendous ocean freight volume from various U.S. exporters.  A small percentage of the business that their customers have requires air freight service, and our client was simply letting that traffic walk out the door as they were unable to service it themselves.  Crescent was able to put together a simple set of rate and booking procedures that effectively made us the outsourced air freight vendor for this client.  As a result they are now able to capture over $50,000 in annual net revenue from this activity alone.

Now imagine Amazon’s volume of container traffic from China to the United States alone.  By choosing to become an NVOCC instead of a BCO (Beneficial Cargo Owner), Amazon is clearly signaling that they intend to make money off the sale of ocean freight services.  So imagine, just as a consumer goes to the Amazon Marketplace and chooses from 10 different vendors of the Apple iPhone, your freight business can now get centralized access to 1 set of prices for containers from Shanghai to Long Beach (for example).  No more price fluctuations, no more bloated destination charges from multiple handling agents and warehouses, etc.  Just one simple price.  That’s the power of what Amazon’s entry can mean to the market for U.S. import logistics.

Freight forwarders will be mistaken to see this as competition.  Amazon has repeatedly shown that “coopetition” with small businesses and other vendors – including those who sell competing products – is integral to their business model.  We believe they’re going to harness their considerable buying power in the freight markets to do the same for container shipping from Asia to the United States.  And this is no small undertaking – Far East Asia supplies over 50% of U.S. imports!  Clearly Amazon sees vast potential to deliver savings and take a cut for itself.  So how is this not competition for forwarders?  Well, in simple buying & selling terms it has to be considered competition.  However, in terms of value added services, it’s actually going to be a benefit to freight forwarders and NVOCC’s.  Considering most forwarders, especially small to mid-sized ones, deliver unsurpassed service benefits to their clients that large forwarders and integrators don’t, the actual cost of freight is nowhere nearly as significant as one might think.  If you’re a small or mid-sized forwarder who continues to add value to your customer’s business, then Amazon is about to drive down costs and stabilize them for your benefit as well as for the benefit of your customers.  If you’re a freight forwarder who currently does not service China origin business, Amazon may just give you a chance to capture business you’ve been neglecting due to lack of access or in house capabilities in the way that we did for our NVOCC customer.

So we say, “Welcome Amazon”.  It’s going to be fun competing with you and growing with you.

grow your air freight business today

Saudi Arabia – Not Just for Oil

oil fieldsSaudi Arabia – Not Just for Oil

When one thinks of Saudi Arabia and international trade, oil typically comes to mind first, but times are changing. The price of oil has been on the decline over the past couple of years and as such Saudi Arabia has been diversifying its economy. As a result, opportunities exist for exporters.

Saudi Arabia is the 19th largest exporter and the 20th largest import market in the world. Among the top exports is of course, oil, but also plastics, metal goods, construction materials and electrical appliances. In terms of imports, the country’s leading commodities are vehicles, machinery, electronic equipment and pharmaceuticals. U.S. exporters of these products have found Saudi Arabia to be an excellent market for decades.

Trade Lanes

Diversification and Infrastructure

Diversification is important for Saudi Arabia in order to grow its economy and as such government investments in infrastructure and non-oil industries are on the rise. Not surprising, the construction sector is the largest driver of economic activity in Saudi Arabia after oil particularly as government-sponsored projects such as hospitals, specific industry-related economic hubs and infrastructure are driving most of this need.

Indeed, ambitious infrastructure projects are underway with five rail projects to connect not only the major cities within the country but also to serve as a link between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf as well as with the six other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This is an interesting development for many reasons, as the Arabia Peninsula is one of the only regions of the world that jumped to modern air and ocean ports infra structure without first developing a rail network. For U.S. exporters, especially those shipping to major inland points such as Riyadh (the nation’s capital), the presence of rail cargo could lower the cost of inland delivery substantially and increase delivery times.

Expansion plans are also underway at airports in Riyadh, Jeddah, Madinah, Nijran, and Tabuk primarily for passengers but will undoubtedly benefit cargo also.

Furthermore, ocean port projects include expansion of the country’s largest port in Jeddah, as well as improvements to ports in Jazan, Al-Madhaya and Fursan. Inland ports are also being built in specific industry-related economic hubs known as Economic Cities.

Along with infrastructure investments, Saudi Arabia has identified several industries for further development such as healthcare, life sciences, automotive, information technology, logistics, alternative energy and manufacturing.

Because of the high volume of imported automobiles and automobile parts, there are particularly high expectations to expand the domestic automobile manufacturing industry. Currently there is local production of light trucks only on a small scale by Isuzu, Daimler, Volvo and MAN. Tata, Jaguar and Land Rover are considering local assembly operations in Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment and as a result, the government is also working towards developing a manufacturing base for weapons parts and components.

Trade

The Department of Customs at the Ministry of Finance oversees all merchandise moving through Saudi customs ports. In addition, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) are empowered by the Saudi Council of Ministers to have a representative at eight Saudi ports of entry with Saudi Custom officials to regulate and control the entry of medical devices. As such, medical devices are only allowed entry into Saudi Arabia through the three major international airports, two seaports in Jeddah and Dammam, and three land entry points.

On the global front, Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2005 and as part of this trade organization is committed to its rules including transparency in trade requirements and more accommodating to non-Saudi businesses. Being a WTO member, Saudi Arabia is expected to bind its tariffs on over three fourths of U.S. exports of industrial goods at an average rate of 3.2%, while tariffs on over 90% of agricultural products are set at 15% or lower.

Additionally, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia applies an external tariff of 5% for most products, with a limited number of GCC-approved country-specific exceptions.

Despite being a member of WTO, Saudi Arabia still favors Saudi businesses. In addition, there are also concerns of counterfeit products. In some consumer goods, for example, it is estimated that as much as 50% of the entire Saudi market is counterfeit. In order to restrict the entry of counterfeit products, the Saudi Customs Authority now requires all imported goods to clearly display the “Country of Origin” or “Made in ….” on items in an irremovable manner.

So, Saudi Arabia is much more than oil. True, oil still remains a leading export commodity but the country is working hard to diversify from its dependence and as such suppliers of numerous industries such as automotive, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and manufacturing should benefit as this country opens its doors further to global trade.

Trade with the largest European Economy – Germany

Trade with the largest European Economy – Germany

germany importsAs one of the largest producers of automobiles, Germany offers great opportunities for U.S. automotive equipment suppliers. It is the largest European economy and the third largest export and import economy in the world. Centrally located in Europe, Germany’s 2014 GDP was $3.8 trillion with real growth rate of 1.6%.

Germany is home to such automobile manufacturers as Adam Opel AG, BMW, Daimler AG and Volkswagen. Besides being a large producer of automobiles, Germany also is the home to chemical conglomerates such as Siemens and BASF as well as to pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer. As a result these particular sectors of the German economy are especially well suited for export as well as for the import of inputs and raw materials from overseas markets such as the United States. For imports, automobiles and vehicle parts are the largest such commodities along with electronics equipment.

Trade lanes

  • Top export destinations from Germany are France, the US, UK, China and the Netherlands.
  • Top import origins into Germany are the Netherlands, China, France, the US and Italy

Infrastructure and Logistics

Germany has a well-defined and mature transportation infrastructure. It is home to Europe’s second largest container port, Hamburg as well as Europe’s largest inland port, Duisburg. In addition, the Rhine and Elbe rivers serve as major thoroughfares for barge traffic.

Its airport network consists of 23 airports that offer international service including Frankfurt which is the 9th largest airport in the world in terms of cargo with 2,132,132 tonnes moved in 2014.

Much of the cargo within the country is transported by truck as opposed to rail. As a result, because of the preference of truck, tolls are utilized. However, there has been an attempt to shift more cargo on rail to reduce emissions and road congestion.

The rail is operated by private operator, Deutsche Bahn, but receives government funding. With 37,900 kilometers of track it is one of the largest networks in the world. In recent years, Deutsche Bahn has been successful in extending its German network to China providing an alternative solution to that of air or ocean for shippers. For U.S. exporters the presence of such a well developed infrastructure means that the entire country is accessible for potential sales and distribution opportunities.

Because Germany is a member of the European Union, it follows European Union trade requirements in addition to its own requirements. The Integrated Tariff of the Community, referred to as TARIC (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté), is designed to show the various rules which apply to specific products being imported into the customs territory of the EU or, in some cases, exported from it. To determine if a license is required for a particular product, check the TARIC.

Some European directives to be mindful of include REACH, “Registration, Evaluation and Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals”, which requires chemicals produced or imported into the EU in volumes above 1 metric ton per year to be registered with a central database handled by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Another directive, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), requires U.S. exporters to register relevant products with a national WEEE authority or arrange for this to be done by a local partner.

According to the US’ website www.export.gov , Germany’s regulations and bureaucratic procedures can be a difficult hurdle for companies wishing to enter the market. Complex safety standards complicate access to the market for many U.S. products. It is advised that U.S. suppliers do their homework thoroughly and make sure they know precisely which standards apply to their product and that they obtain timely testing and certification.

Goods imported into Germany from non-EU states are subject to an import turnover tax. The import turnover tax rate equals the value-added tax rates of 19% levied on domestic products and has to be paid to the customs authority.

A mature market, Germany continues to offer great opportunity for exporters particularly in automotive, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Be mindful of the intricacies associated with customs and duties within Europe and to Germany; otherwise enjoy the benefits this country has to offer.

IoT In the Logistics Space

IoT In the Logistics Space.

IoTEvery once in a while the logistics business gets to be “cool”. We’re not using a tired old pun here about the “cool chain” or perishable transportation solutions. Instead, we’re excited at the moment by the phenomenon known as the “Internet of Things” or IoT. As we’ve shown in some previous posts here at the Exporting Excellence™ blog we really like data and how it can be applied to (or derived from) international business, and IoT is all about the data.  From tracking passenger baggage to initiating preventative maintenance orders on aircraft, IoT is having a profound impact on the field of logistics and there are several ways that your business can benefit from this trend.

As we had mentioned in our post on big data, routine business processes create a great deal of data. This is primarily a byproduct of the increase in digital and online business processes – quite simply, every click we make in a browser, app or other program generates a data point that gets recorded somewhere, somehow. Big Data essentially focuses on how to compile, sort and interpret such data. IoT on the other hand is more concerned with how to “make” more data by bringing devices and gadgets that were previously inanimate and silent to “life” using network and digital communications. The result of compiling all this extra data is to enable businesses to use their resources more efficiently which in turn can increase sales, profitability, or other key business performance attributes.

We were really impressed with this recent report published by Deloitte University (part of accounting and consulting giant Deloitte Touche Homatsu) that offers some great insights into how IoT has been successfully adopted into supply chain and logistics processes as well as the many opportunities that it offers.

So what is the opportunity that IoT brings to the freight business? At the moment, most of the attention is focused on tracking cargo. The ability for an importer to determine how far from port their material sits, for example, seems to hold value for major wholesalers and retailers. Some specialized applications such as temperature monitoring for perishables and transit time tracking for pharmaceuticals seem to be gaining traction as well. A recent example of IoT technology hard at work that we came across was in the logistics of beer kegs. Already a high value segment of the logistics business, IoT is now enabling beer distributors to know how much beer actually remains in a keg. This information actually allows a bar to waste less beer (and more importantly increase yield per keg) and at the same time allows distributors to plan deliveries more efficiently. The “pre-IoT” way of measuring the amount of beer in a keg was to physically tilt it and see how heavy or light the keg was. New kegs, equipped with sensors and IoT technology can actually report the accurate quantity thereby enabling a more efficient supply and utilization process. It’s a product called iKeg from SteadyServe and you can learn more about the concept from this Wall Street Journal blog post or the company’s website. 

All of us in the logistics industry need to embrace our moment of “cool.” There is no need to expound on the many, many ways the internet has changed the world around us … we feel it everywhere. The logistics industry has lagged a bit in technological advancement because we are still a hands on, deliverable operation. It’s easy to leave the “cool” internet technology to those businesses that don’t have so many moving, physical parts. With IoT we are getting a chance to pull the technology available everywhere else, into our business. If IoT can make us operate smoother, track shipments easier, regulate temps better on perishable cargo….. what isn’t “cool” about that? And really, is anything “cooler” than increased profitability and efficiency derived from your supply chain?

 

 

The Pain of Demurrage Costs

The Pain of Demurrage Costs.

At Crescent Air Freight we spend a lot of time focusing on the hidden costs of logistics. We get clients and prospects to see what bad logistics can cost them far beyond the freight invoice by examining the impact on cash flow, profitability and brand equity. The concept is simple: poor logistics decisions (usually based on price alone) can result in delayed deliveries which can cause delayed payments, lost sales, and lack of product availability in overseas markets. However, there’s also a very real cash cost that comes with improper logistics planning and it’s known as demurrage.

demurrage costs

Demurrage, also known as detention, is a cost resulting from extended use of equipment, warehouse space, or other transportation resources. Basically, it’s a penalty charged for using someone else’s equipment or space. For example, railcars accrue demurrage if they are not unloaded in a timely manner; Vessels accrue demurrage if they are forced to wait at a port beyond a standard free time allotted by the port authority; Truckers charge detention when vehicles or drivers are made to wait for cargo pick up or discharge.

The problem that arises is when a demurrage or detention scenario arises, cargo owners often find their goods being held at ransom. Demurrage or detention charges are almost always expensive and your goods cannot be released until those charges are paid. Even worse, since such charges accrue on a daily basis, there’s very little room for negotiation and the final cost can change based on the time of receipt of payment!

NEW INCOterms CTAUnlike standard INCOTERMS which sets protocols for “who pays what”, the unfortunate reality is that demurrage costs are basically paid by the party who wants their goods so badly, they’ll even pay a penalty just to get them. Honestly, this can be avoided…it doesn’t have to happen. The solution to the problem, almost always lies in being prepared ahead of time and planning for eventualities. Matters like vessel detention or railcar detention tend not to be very relevant to the supply chains of our customers. However, port detention of export or import containers, airport storage of air freight shipments, and carrier demurrage charges for ocean freight containers gated out beyond “free time” are all examples of demurrage that occur on a daily basis. Obviously, this imposes heavy costs on cargo owners and can be avoided with better logistics planning.

Solutions to the demurrage/detention problem begin with the proper planning of a shipment and all the formalities associated with the arrival or departure of those goods. For example, we once had a client who wanted their export cargo out of their warehouse and into a container 7 days prior to the cut off date for a vessel headed to Australia. The problem was that the steamship line only allowed the container to be pulled out for loading purposes 5 days prior to the vessel cut off. Our client was unaware of the fact that they would have to pay a penalty for being 2 days too early. The solution was rather simple: we researched the details of the fees, calculated the cost of the extra storage and asked the client if they were willing to pay for it. Guess what happened? The client said “no”! They were very appreciative of us taking the time to research the cost associated with their plan and helping them to understand their true costs. However, had we not done this, it would have resulted in a few hundred dollars of charges that their trucker would have to pay upon returning the container. That’s right, the trucker would have been on the hook, and that’s one of the tricky parts of demurrage costs – it doesn’t just affect the cargo owner, but can also create headaches for their vendors or customers.

At other times, the problems can be caused by documentation mistakes in customs paperwork resulting in cargo being held at the port of destination. In such an instance, the delay might be caused by the exporter or importer of record, and it is the local customs authority that raises the objection, but the storage expense accrues at the airline terminal and often has to be advanced by the customs broker or trucker collecting the cargo at time of release. We once saw a client lose tons of a perishable food product in Turkey this way just because their logistics service provider at the time neglected to get documentation approved in advance of the shipment. That one step alone would have prevented thousands of dollars in unnecessary freight charges plus the confiscation of product.

Sometimes, the shipper can choose to take the cost of demurrage or detention as a cost of doing business. It can be strategic at times, although still a cost. Remember the client who tried to ship too early? Well, some months later they actually asked us to pull a container ahead of the free time allotted by the vessel operator just so they could have their product shipped out before the end of the quarter. In this scenario, it was actually beneficial for them to pay for detention rather than to have the good be in inventory at the start of a new month.

And, every once in a while, we get to see a cool scenario unfold where the shipper gets the last laugh. For example, at various times during the ISAF war effort in Afghanistan, ocean freight containers were delayed at the border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. At certain times of heightened tensions, the delays stretched into weeks and demurrage applied to the shipping containers to the tune of thousands of dollars. The liners demanded these charges of truckers when the unloaded containers were brought back to the port and shippers, including many U.S. companies, were forced to pay penalties that were vastly more expensive than the cost of freight or even the merchandise itself. However, with some crafty logistics support on their side, some shippers simply decided to buy their own containers and ship them full of goods. The cost of buying a “shipper owned container” is higher than the cost of using one owned by the liner, but shipper owned containers are not liable to “in & out” demurrage costs. In effect the shipper’s were treating the containers as disposable and not bothered if they came back at all. This actually was the most cost effective solution to countering exorbitant detention costs that shippers were forced to pay.

These are just a few examples of how logistics costs can have a devastating impact on order profitability. However, the good news is that many of these problems can be avoided if your logistics service provider takes the time to understand your business, specific product requirements, and your import/export goals.

 

 

 

 

Does Your Export Need a Special License?

Does Your Export Need a Special License?

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.08.41 PMLast month we received a call from an exporter who wanted to know how they could determine the ECCN of a product they were planning to ship overseas. The first problem they had was that they didn’t know what an ECCN was, or how to go about obtaining it. We did some work to help the client get the information they needed, but afterwards realized how interesting it was that something so basic to the exporting process could get totally overlooked in this manner. So while we spent the last month or two focusing on complications in the exporting process that may arise from regulations such as ITAR and EAR, we never actually considered what may happen if a shipper’s merchandise requires no license at all. Accordingly then, here are some insights into the means for determining whether your exports are in need of special licenses and if not, what does that mean in terms of your shipping and logistics processes.

Step 1:  Q: Does your shipment actually require an export license?  

A: Maybe. As we’ve detailed in earlier posts, the U.S. Department of Commerce has oversight over most export licensing matters. Factors such as the nature of the commodity or technology it uses will determine whether licenses are required.

Step 2:  Q: How do we figure out if our product requires an export license?

A: The first step in determining this is to find the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for your product or commodity. To find this information, exporters typically have 2 convenient options:

  1. The Department of Commerce maintains a Commerce Control List (CCL) on their website, which lists reasons for controls and requirements for export to specific destinations.
  2. Check with the manufacturer of the goods you are exporting. Most manufacturers with international sales not only know the ECCN’s of the products they’re shipping, but also make this information readily available through their websites, sales representatives and international sales & marketing personnel.

ITAR CTA

 

Step 3:  Q: What if there’s no ECCN available for your product?

A:This is not unusual at all. Most products that are not licensed do not have ECCN’s and carry the designation “EAR99”. While you are still required to comply with regulations that prohibit export to certain countries, the product itself likely won’t require any licenses from the Commerce Department if it can be categorized as EAR 99.

Step 4:  Q: So there’s no ECCN, our product falls under EAR99, and you’re not shipping to any embargoed country. Are you now free to ship out your goods?  

A: The short, simple answer is “YES”. There are other requirements to satisfy such as filing a Shipper’s Export Declaration for goods valued at $2,500 or more. Also, goods that may not require a license but that are being sold to a U.S. or foreign military or government, for example, may require compliance with licenses from the U.S. Department of State or Defense, and we have addressed those in earlier posts here on The Exporting Excellence blog.

Step 5:  Q: Shipping requires a freight forwarder. Can all of these processes be outsourced to them?

A: No. Not all export compliance can be outsourced to your freight forwarder. Filing of the Shipper’s Export Declaration and research of the required Schedule B numbers are common practice for freight forwarders. In fact a good forwarder can often give your company guidance on how to properly or better classify your goods. Also, forwarders tend to know a good deal about embargoed countries and destinations. However, where it comes to ECCN’s and licenses from other agencies, freight forwarders are usually not privy to technical data, intellectual property and other details that go into classifying a product and determining it’s relevance to export controls. Shipper’s need to do their homework and can have a forwarder assist in the process, but cannot hand off liability to any outside parties where it comes to such matters of compliance.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 7 Markets for U.S. Paint & Coatings Manufacturers

Top 7 Markets for U.S. Paint & Coatings Manufacturers

Why are we looking at paint you ask?  From the logistics perspective it’s a very interesting commodity actually.  To begin with, it’s liquid and hence dense.  Density is a crucial element in the logistics planning and handling process.  As we explained in this prior post, density has a direct impact on total landed cost.

Crescent Paint ImageAnother matter of interest for us at Crescent Air Freight is the fact that paints are almost always classified as hazardous materials which is something that requires special handling and attention.  Despite a standard set of international regulations, no two airlines handle the acceptance and transport of hazardous commodities in the same way, hence we’re always on our toes as we help our clients plan their export processes for paints. 

Lastly, paint is a product that crosses industry lines.  We ship it as a raw material for our automotive customers.  We also handle coatings for our clients who deal in various manufacturing industries such as boat building, construction materials and sometimes even foods.  Yes, foods!  Now there’s no paint in your food supply, but there are coatings and one such example is shellac.  Food grade shellac is what makes your kids candy shiny.  Without it, candy would be a lot less appealing to look at.  Meanwhile, it’s also a flammable liquid and hence hazardous. 

So plain old paint meets the needs of a lot of different industries and hence we felt it was important to take a look at this commodity and its value overseas.  Accordingly then, here are the top 7 markets for paints and coating as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s statistics for 2014. 

 

  1. Canada – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $1,106,629,000.00

The logistics of shipping paint to Canada is rather simple since the overwhelming majority of shipments travel over the road.  U.S. exporters would do well to look at this market for its size and ease of trade and transport procedures. 

 

  1. Mexico – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $595,175,000.00

2nd place by a wide margin, but nothing to sneeze at, Mexico offers many of the exact same benefits as Canada.  Cross border trucking eliminates many of the logistics hassles that come with air and ocean freight transport.  Meanwhile, with industries as diverse as construction and automotive manufacturing, Mexico offers strong demand for U.S. made paints & coatings. 

 

  1. China – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $126,153,000.00

A country with an industrial base the size of China’s is going to consume a lot of raw materials.  Coatings and paints fit well here, especially where it comes to high end/high value products.  Exporters, however, need to be careful with logistics compliance as this market requires shipping by air or ocean freight and each of those modes has separate and unrelated procedures for compliance in both the U.S. and in China. 

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  1. United Kingdom – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $56,708,000.00

America’s biggest overseas export market, unsurprisingly, demands a lot of U.S. made paint & coating material.  Trade regulations are easy with the UK and hazardous materials shipping regulations are straightforward, meaning U.S. exporters can confidently add this market to their export business mix without worries over hazmat rejections, documentation errors and discrepancies, etc. 

 

  1. Japan – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $52,437,000.00

A popular destination for this commodity is Far East Asia.  Japan is the 2nd biggest Asian market for U.S. made paints and coatings.  Trade policies are generally stable, but the costs associated with shipping hazardous materials to Japan are often higher than other markets.  U.S. exporters should pay close attention to the landed cost of their goods when researching sales opportunities in Japan. 

 

  1. South Korea – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $45,850,000.00

Another vital Asian market offers U.S. exporters of paints and coatings great opportunities.  South Korea does have some logistics policies that can add on costs, especially when shipping by air.  For example, cargo arriving in Incheon Airport (Seoul) over the weekend accrues greater amounts of airport storage than cargo arriving on weekdays.  Also, costs of domestic trucking and handling of hazardous materials can carry significant premiums which can directly affect export order profitability. 

 

  1. Taiwan – 2014 U.S. Exports of Paint & Coatings – $42,118,000.00

Much like China, Taiwan’s industrial base has strong demand for high end inputs including paints and raw materials.  U.S. exporters will find Taiwan to be a good market in terms of size and trade policies.  However, shipping hazardous materials to Taiwan by air can be difficult.  The main airlines serving Taiwan often impose high premiums for flying such cargo, and on top of that we’ve even seen circumstances where cargo has been offloaded per pilot’s instructions despite proper compliance with regulations on the part of shippers and their freight forwarders.

 

In addition to these markets, there are terrific overseas export opportunities in countries such as Germany, Brazil, Australia and India to name a few.  At Crescent Air Freight, we have handled the needs of paint and other hazmat shippers for nearly 4 decades.  It takes experience to navigate the complexities of such international shipping transactions and we look forward to putting our capabilities to work for your export business. 

 NEW INCOterms CTAContainer Info & Spec Sheet

 

Exporting to Nigeria

Exporting to Nigeria

As part of our ongoing series of reports on the MINT countries, we turn our attention this month to Nigeria.  Along with Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, Nigeria stands out as an economy offering strong growth rates and an increasingly favorable environment for trade and foreign investment. 

 NigeriaGraphic

Due to the recent updating of economic statistics, Nigeria now claims to have the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of US$504 billion.  What makes this adjustment in statistics significant, for U.S. exporters in particular, is the fact that Nigeria’s oil industry is no longer as dominant a sector of the economy as it once was.  Under old economic data, it was estimated that the oil industry accounted for 33% of the economy, whereas new data suggests that only 14% of the country’s GDP is derived from oil.  As a result, the Nigerian market offers a more diverse set of opportunities to American exporters.   

 

Despite the changes in economic output, Nigeria remains a challenging place to do business and in this report we highlight some of those issues and the impact they may have on U.S. exporters. 

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With a population of 170 million, Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa.  Its recent growth has been derived from the services and international trade sectors.  Areas that offer strong growth opportunity for U.S. exports include the following:

 

Logistics and Trade Environment

 

Like most countries in Africa, Nigeria lacks good transportation infrastructure.  The impact on U.S. exporters can be observed in many ways:

 

  1. Nigerian airports are generally not well connected to the rest of the world.  Lagos, which is Nigeria’s largest city and commercial hub, is serviced by many foreign airlines, however frequency and number of carriers remains insufficient for the needs of the country.  As a result, U.S. exporters who rely on air freight should expect to incur substantially higher freight costs than they would for delivery to other equidistant export markets. 

 

  1. Nigeria’s ocean ports have long been considered an impediment to Nigeria’s international trade.  As a result, U.S. exporters can expect to incur high costs of container shipping which can have a significant impact on export order profitability.  In recent years, however, the government has committed to investing in new ports, and as a result progress has been made over the past decade.

 

  1. Nigeria relies heavily on trucking, but simultaneously suffers from poor road infrastructure.  As a result trucking and inland delivery costs are high as it can be difficult to reach final destinations that are away from the major cities or ocean ports.  Absence of a properly functioning rail system only compounds the problem as there is no means to achieve economies of scale with respect to ocean container transport inside the country.  Considering the difficulties associated with inland transportation in Nigeria, it is highly advisable for U.S. companies to ship on a door-to-(air)port basis, thereby leaving local customs clearance and delivery arrangements to the actual importer/end user inside Nigeria. 

 

  1. Customs regulations – Nigerian Customs have long been acknowledged as a barrier to trade.     U.S. exporters should take precautions to ensure that information on commercial documents such as commercial invoices, packing lists and bills of lading are accurate and consistent.  Discrepancies can cause Nigerian authorities to delay clearance of cargo upon arrival and can even result in confiscation of merchandise.  As a result exporters can face losses or reduced profitability in their export sales. 

 

Nigerian customs duties can be as high as 30% of CIF value of merchandise and in special cases can even run as high as 100% as is the case with cigarettes for example.  U.S. exporters must be aware of this as it has a significant impact on landed cost of goods and can significantly impact the viability of export sales to Nigeria. 

 

Imports into Nigeria follow a system of prepaid duty collection whereby Nigerian importers are required to electronically file details of their import shipment and prepay customs duties to a bank which in turn will forward the duty to Nigerian customs.  Nigerian importers will receive a Single Goods Declaration which must be shown on shipping documents in order for the cargo to be cleared in Nigeria.  This is significant for U.S. exporters as it is necessary for shipping documents to bear this information in order for a shipment to clear customs upon arrival in Nigeria.  Failure to furnish this information will result is seizure of goods. 

 

Although exporting to Nigeria can be difficult at times due to the logistics requirements and sanctions, it can also be very lucrative for your business. The opportunity to “own a market” currently exists in Nigeria! If you haven’t already, you should make Nigeria a part of your international growth plans.

 

 

JAPAN – Powering US Exports

Japan – Powering U.S. ExportsJapan export chart

While ample attention has been paid to BRIC countries and a new focus is developing on MINT countries the fact is that Japan has long been one of America’s largest trading partners.  In 2012 U.S. exports to Japan totaled US$116 billion and with a combined 2 way trade volume of $204 billion, Japan stands as America’s 4th largest trading partner as well as the 4th largest market for U.S. exports.

As we had highlighted in this recent post Japan is the 3rd largest market for U.S. medical devices and equipment exports and in fact, according to some estimates may even be the largest market for these U.S. manufactured products.  Not surprisingly then, products classified as “Optical and Medical Instruments” account for the largest amount of U.S. exports to Japan.  Additionally, U.S. exporters will find strong demand in Japan for aircraft and parts thereof, machinery, electrical machinery and meats.  Collectively these five categories account for the majority of U.S. exports to Japan.

While the value of Japan as an export market has been well documented and established for decades, U.S. exporters need to look beyond market size and pay attention to key aspects of the trade process including logistics infra structure and trade practices and the implications of these matters on landed cost.

As a country with significant land and size constraints, as well as a dearth of natural resources, Japan faces very high costs of real estate and raw materials.  As a result costs of warehousing, labor, fuel and other inputs of the logistics process are high.  U.S. exporters should be aware of this, especially when selling goods on a Door-to-Door basis.  While Japan has excellent infrastructure, services such as trucking are very expensive and can have a significant impact on order profitability.

Similarly, with warehousing, Japan lacks the square footage that American companies are used to and this makes itself evident in terms of high storage costs.  U.S. businesses who are required to arrange storage of raw materials or finished goods inside Japan must carefully consider these costs when evaluating the viability of an export sale to this market.

U.S. exporters must also be aware of Japanese customs regulations.  While Japan is a great market with significant potential, it has also been traditionally highly protective of its local industries.  As a result, exporters must ensure proper compliance procedures are being followed not only by themselves but also by buyers, distributors or their subsidiaries in Japan.

In order to maintain compliance with Japanese customs regulations, U.S. exporters must ensure that their customer has secured the necessary import permits from the Director-General Japanese Customs.  Once an import permit has been established, exporters must ensure that all shipments are accompanied by a Commercial Invoice, Bill of Lading or Airway Bill, Certificate of Origin and Packing Lists.

For exporters dealing in goods that are licensed, a copy of such licensing and/or original documentation is required.  Similarly, goods that qualify for duty exemptions or rebates should be accompanied by statements of reduction and any supporting paperwork that may apply to WTO trade, non-WTO trade and the General System of Preferences.  Failure to comply with these requirements can result in goods being detained or even confiscated upon arrival in Japan which can have a severe impact on order profitability and repeat or long term export sales in the country.

Fortunately, Japan has world class transportation infrastructure.  Hence while the cost of doing business may be high, the ability to physically access all major markets exists, and is highly efficient.  Japan’s ports, and in particular Yokohama are amongst the biggest in the world in terms of container shipping volume and offer state of the art handling.  Japanese airports, similarly boast world class handling, and both Tokyo (Narita) and Osaka (Kansai) are amongst the biggest airports in Asia in terms of cargo throughput.

Japan’s market size and spending power, as well as recent government initiatives to boost consumer and public spending will ensure it’s position as a growth market for U.S. exporters for years to come.  With this potential comes a great number of opportunities to meet market need and with nearly four decades of exporting experience to Japan, Crescent Air Freight has consistently ranked amongst the premiere logistics service providers on the U.S. to Japan trade lanes.  We welcome the opportunity to put our considerable experience in Japan to work for your export and import business in this dynamic market.

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