While mistakes can be avoided, importers have often failed in whole or in part and need serious help to get through. Even if most mistakes are sometimes unavoidable for several reasons, especially in business life.
In this article we enlighten you on the most common mistakes made by importers and ways to avoid them.
Doing business with international trade can be difficult and there are many obstacles to overcome. If you can identify these circles in advance, your business will be a lot easier.
Below is a list of the most common errors importers make.
Error. 1: Neglect the importance of transportation or shipping terms
Understanding shipping terms and conditions can be one thing, following and not completely neglecting them is another?
There are a variety of transport conditions and ignorance of Incoterms rules is a major problem for first-time importers and regular freight forwarders.
You can read more on Incoterm shipping standard rules here:
Incoterms are the laws that regulate the entire maritime / shipping sector. They are still used in international trade agreements. If you don’t know what it is, you run the risk of being underpaid, being hit by unexpected bills, overpaying someone, or even being sued.
Example: We have seen importers ordering under “CFR” conditions (cost and freight) and being faced with high and unpredictable bills upon arrival at the port. Importers also ordered the goods at “EXW” conditions (ie ex works), without realizing that they would have to pay for everything in the end!
Once you understand the Incoterms, there are also a variety of shipping terminology that can be used in connection with your shipment.
Different terms are used across borders – someone in the US may say something while in Australia a different term is used. With the latest Incoterms as a quick reference, you are well equipped for worldwide shipping.
Error. 2: Forget to book in advance
Now that we are in the peak shipping season, you need to book at least four weeks in advance to secure your sea shipment. Meanwhile, shipping companies will struggle with strong demand.
In the following week, they take more bookings than they can handle and carry some containers to maximize the return on investment.
When you have an urgent shipment, preparation is crucial.
Error. 3: Not preparing your documents/paperwork
It’s boring, but it could be the difference between winning and losing. Documents must be attached to every shipment that arrives in any country. This includes a number of documents such as commercial invoices, delivery notes, certificates of origin (i.e. a document certifying the place of manufacture of the goods).
Order your documents before shipping the goods to minimize delays or additional costs if the cargo is put away on arrival.
Error. 4: Forgetting the free trade agreement
Nigeria benefits from a number of free trade agreements with other countries. Some are considering a deal with China, others with Malaysia.
Why is this important?
Because doing business with these countries has advantages that you can take advantage of. There are also rules that you need to follow.
Example: Some customers import their goods and then forget to present the goods certificate of origin before receiving the goods. Result? The good news is they can still get customs refunds, but now they have to hire a broker to do it for them and as you may have guessed it comes at an additional cost.
So if you want to save time and money, always check that there are no free trade agreements in place before sending, and prepare all paperwork in advance.
Error. 5: Not giving enough time to arrive
When your goods enter the country there are two stages. There is an airline / container management. Then comes the customs inspection. Both steps will affect how long your cargo will be available for the carrier to pick up.
Have you noticed that your documents can show the date and time of the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival)? It’s ETA’s goal. The destination is the airport or port of arrival, not your warehouse.
You have to wait at least 2 days for full container deliveries, 3 to 6 days for large container deliveries and 1 day for air freight deliveries according to ETA. All of this is required.
Mistake. 6: Forget about custom charges
When importing into Nigeria, the shipper usually offers you a duty-free and GST-free rate. This means that any additional post-arrival costs charged by the customs office must be taken into account. These depend on the value of your goods, your goods and your country of origin. These rule may differ if you are exporting from Nigeria to another country. Please understand your countries customs rules to avoid issues
Mistake. 7: Being silent about the sender
When the goods arrive in Nigeria, you as the importer have “free time” to pick up the goods from the dock or the airline and to return the empty containers to the shipping company. Free time in the port is usually 3 days from availability, while the time at the airline can be much shorter.
However, your agent will not be able to collect your cargo until customs duties and GST have been paid and all documents have been properly submitted.
It is therefore important that you communicate with the carrier throughout the journey to ensure that the goods can be properly cleared through customs and paid for on arrival. So stay involved in the shipping process and prepare for it when the goods arrive.
Mistake. 8: Not insuring the goods
We saw customers import goods and decided not to insure them. This decision can be very risky. These risks go beyond obvious externalities such as fires and natural disasters.
Other events can include improper handling of cargo, poorly designed packaging that breaks under strict conditions of carriage, theft in transit, lost containers at sea, etc.
Another misunderstanding is that freight companies are already insured. You can be wrong. Forwarders and carriers may have largely limited liability for insurance.
Check with your freight forwarder or insurance broker about the risks your cargo may be exposed to. In most cases it is worth protecting your cargo and ensuring your peace of mind, especially if you are transporting high quality cargo.
Last but not least, make sure that your agreement between the sender and recipient clearly states who is responsible for the insurance.
Mistake # 9: Not asking for help
These common mistakes made by importers are just the tip of the iceberg. All shipments are different and the import and export processes are constantly evolving (for example, Incoterms 2020 have just been published).
To protect your cargo and avoid unnecessary stress, always seek professional help from an experienced freight forwarder.
If you have any questions about importing goods to Nigeria from overseas, contact us and ask for advice or your own shipment.
We’ll guide you through this process