Shipping from Europe to Singapore

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Singapore has established itself as a key hub for European investments in Asia, following comprehensive bilateral trade and investment negotiations, such as the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), investment protection agreement, and digital trade agreement. 

This strategic partnership has paved the way for streamlined shipping from European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Greece, and more to Singapore, significantly reducing trade barriers and enhancing logistical efficiency.

To leverage the strong relationship between Europe and Singapore, we’ve outlined a quick guide to help you optimise your shipping strategy and facilitate even smoother trade. 

Understanding the demand for European goods

Singapore ranks as the European Union's second-largest trading partner within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In 2022, imports from Europe to Singapore reached S$38.3 million, according to CEIC’s data, emphasising the substantial trade activity between these two entities. Most EU exports include electronic equipment, machinery, pharmaceutical products, and cosmetics. 

Notably, France was the leading exporter from the EU to Singapore in 2021. Key products that Singapore imports from France include cosmetics, perfumes, beverages, machinery, and electronic equipment.

Furthermore, Singapore's imports from France amounted to US$12.84 billion in 2022, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. This substantial figure reflects the strong demand in Singapore for a diverse range of high-quality European goods, underlining the strategic importance of maintaining and enhancing these trade relations to foster economic growth and diversification in Singapore.

Strategies for successful Singapore customs clearance

Dive into these critical strategies to ensure smooth customs clearance for shipping from Europe to Singapore.

1. Understanding taxes and duties

Navigating the complexities of customs and excise duties is vital for those shipping from Europe to Singapore. These taxes are imposed on imported goods from the island nation to ensure compliance with local regulations and standards. 

Additionally, goods entering Singapore are subject to a 9% Goods and Services Tax (GST). However, duties and GST’s are suspended for goods stored within Singapore’s Free Trade Zones (FTZs).

Accurately classifying imported and exported goods using the Harmonised System (HS) code search engine is also necessary. This classification helps determine applicable duties and whether the goods require special permits or face import restrictions. 

Notably, the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) has eliminated numerous trade barriers and import duties on EU-Singapore tradeThis agreement has led to more efficient customs procedures and smoother trade flows. 

2. Navigating prohibited and restricted goods

When importing goods into Singapore from Europe, it's vital to know which items are prohibited and which are restrictedOverlooking these rules can lead to serious consequences, such as hefty fines or even criminal prosecution. 

Prohibited goods in Singapore include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Controlled drugs
  • Endangered wildlife species and products derived from them
  • Firecrackers
  • Obscene publications and materials
  • Pistols and other firearms
  • Tobacco and imitation tobacco products

Restricted goods in Singapore, which require special approvals, consist of:

  • Animals and their by-products
  • Arms and explosives
  • Bulletproof clothing
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Meat products
  • Plants and their by-products
  • Pharmaceutical medicines
  • Seafood products
  • Telecommunication and radio communication devices
  • Toy guns

To legally import restricted items and avoid inadvertently bringing contraband items into Singapore, individuals and businesses must apply for the appropriate export/import licence or permit from the relevant Competent Authorities (CA)

Identify the CA listed next to the good’s HS code, then visit their website or contact them directly to understand the specific requirements and associated fees.

3. Ensuring proper documentation

Having complete and proper documentation is fundamental for seamless customs clearance in Singapore. To prevent delays and ensure compliance with local regulations, it's important to have the following documents ready:

  • Commercial invoice: Details the value and description of the goods, which are crucial for determining duties.
  • Packing list: Specifies the contents of each shipment, aiding in the inspection process.
  • Certificates of origin: Verify the products' country of origin, which is important for tariffs and trade agreements.
  • Export/import licence: Required for regulated goods, confirming permission to import or export.
  • Bill of lading or air waybill: Acts as a receipt and contract for transporting the goods.

4. Mastering packaging requirements

Smart packaging practices are critical for ensuring that shipments are secure and efficiently processed through Singapore’s customs. Here are five key practices to enhance your packaging strategy for international shipping to Singapore:

  • Use sustainable cushioning materialsOpt for eco-friendly cushions like biodegradable packing peanuts, corrugated bubble wrap, or recycled paper to fill empty spaces inside the package. These sustainable materials protect the goods from moving and absorbing shock during transportation,
  • Optimised packing for x-ray inspection: Pack goods in a manner that is conducive to X-ray machines, avoiding excessive metal or overly dense packing that can obscure views and lead to manual inspections.
  • Securely seal packages: Employ heavy-duty packaging tape and use a 'H' taping method to seal box seams and edges to enhance the structural integrity of the package.
  • Clear and concise documentation on the exterior: Place a detailed packing list and a copy of the commercial invoice in a visible, waterproof sleeve on the outside of each package. This allows customs officials to easily access and review the contents.
  • Use internationally recognised symbols: Apply labels with internationally recognised symbols for handling instructions, such as "Fragile," "This Side Up," or "Keep Dry," to communicate care instructions clearly across language barriers.

Partnering with logistics experts: DHL Express Singapore

In navigating the challenges of shipping from Europe to Singapore, aligning with a seasoned delivery partner like DHL Express Singapore can further transform the efficiency of your logistics. As a leading international delivery service provider, we offer more than just transport. 

Our team of experienced customs specialists helps receivers in Singapore seamlessly cover duties, including import taxes, with our Duties and Taxes Paid (DTP) services, facilitating swift customs clearance when shipping overseas. 

With us, you can access tools like MyDHL+ for easy document preparation, including shipping labels and customs invoices. Additionally, DHL Express Singapore offers reliable packing services to guarantee your shipments are durable and secure throughout transit.

On top of that, our logistics team provides clear guidance on permissible and restricted items, ensuring that your shipments comply with global regulations.

Unlock seamless international shipping with DHL Express – open a business account on our website today and enjoy more simplified logistics operations with our expert support.