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Shipping from France to Singapore: A comprehensive DHL guide

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The economic alliance between Singapore and France stands as a testament to the synergistic power of global trade. As Singapore's second-largest trading partner within the European Union and France's premier trading partner in the ASEAN region, this alliance has paved a commercial highway rich in diversity and significance. In 2023, the magnitude of this partnership was underscored as the total bilateral trade in goods and services soared beyond the S$30 billion mark, a figure that speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of this economic connection.

The intricate dance of import and export between these two nations sees a variety of high-demand goods exchanging hands, including some of France's biggest exports. Among these, French leather goods stand out, renowned for their unmatched quality and craftsmanship, making their way from the chic boutiques of Paris to the sophisticated streets of Singapore. Similarly, the allure of French beauty products, including world-famous perfumes, finds a receptive market in Singapore, where an appreciation for the finer things in life is well-established.

The flow of such diverse goods between the two countries underscores the importance of a clear and streamlined customs clearance process. Navigating this import and export process requires a deep understanding of both nations' regulations and the meticulous preparation of necessary documents. 

1. Preparing for the customs clearance process

Navigating the complexities of the customs clearance process is a pivotal step in the export process, necessitating meticulous preparation and an in-depth understanding of regulatory requirements. Ensuring that all documentation is precise and comprehensive is essential for a smooth transition through customs checkpoints, mitigating the risk of delays and penalties.

Custom clearance in France

Clearing goods through customs involves a series of procedural steps that must be closely followed to comply with France’s export regulations. The cornerstone of these procedures is the accurate and timely submission of all required documentation, which serves as the legal basis for the goods' exit from the European Union. Key documents needed for a successful customs clearance in France include:

  • Export Accompanying Document (EAD): Required for tracking the movement of goods until they leave EU territory.
  • Copy 3 of the Single Administrative Document (SAD): Necessary if the fallback procedure is utilised.
  • Accompanying Document (AccDoc): For goods exported under the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) to EFTA countries or when using the NCTS fallback procedure.
  • TIR Carnet: Employed for certain goods under transit procedures or re-export procedures of third-party products in special customs arrangements, known as "economic regimes."

These documents must accompany the goods right up until the point they exit the EU's customs area, adhering to France's customs restrictions. Export declarations are typically filed online and may include additional data for safety and security purposes. Once the clearance office approves the export declaration, it issues a release permit, known as a mainlevée, allowing the goods to proceed to the office of departure. The responsibility for monitoring the exit of the goods from the EU lies with the exporter, who must also ensure the security of the supply chain.

Custom clearance in Singapore

Efficiently navigating the customs clearance process is essential for the smooth transportation of goods into Singapore. Whether it’s high-value electronics or daily consumer products, every import into Singapore requires strict adherence to the customs procedures set by Singapore Customs, ensuring a swift and compliant entry into the country's vibrant market.

Key steps and essential documents required for customs clearance in Singapore include:

  • UEN registration and Customs Account activation: All importers must register to obtain a Unique Entity Number (UEN) and activate their Customs Account.
  • Controlled goods check: Verify if the goods are controlled or subject to restrictions by the Competent Authorities (CAs) in Singapore.
  • Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG) application: Ensure payment mechanisms for duties, taxes, and other charges are set up with Singapore Customs via an IBG.
  • Security furnishing: Businesses must provide security for transactions involving dutiable goods, temporary imports, or licensed premises operations.
  • Customs import permit application: Appoint a Declaring Agent or obtain customs permits through the TradeNet system.
  • Preparation of cargo clearance documents: Prepare the required documents depending on the nature of the cargo – containerised, conventional, or air imports.

The documentation needed for containerised cargo by sea typically doesn’t need to be presented at entry points. However, for containerised cargo by air or land, the following documents are mandatory for checkpoint officers’ verification:

  • Customs permit
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Bill of lading or air waybill

For conventional cargo, it’s necessary to present:

  • Printed customs permit
  • Supporting documents, such as an invoice, packing list, and a bill of lading or air waybill

For air imports granted GST relief, a summary list along with the invoice and House Airway Bill (HAWB) or consignment note is acceptable.

Finally, retain all trade documents for five years from the date of permit application approval, as they must be accessible to Singapore Customs if requested. Compliance with these detailed steps will ensure that your goods move through customs efficiently and without delay, facilitating a smooth import process into Singapore.

2. Choosing between air freight and sea freight

When it comes to shipping goods from France to Singapore, businesses are often faced with a crucial decision: Should they opt for air freight or sea freight? This choice is the foundational step in the shipping process and hinges on several variables that can significantly affect the delivery and overall logistics strategy:

  • Speed: Air freight is typically the faster option, with shipments from France to Singapore taking anywhere from 1-3 days, making it an ideal choice for time-sensitive deliveries. On the other hand, sea freight offers a more leisurely pace, usually ranging from 18 to 23 days, but can be more cost-effective, particularly for larger shipments.
  • Cost: While air freight offers rapid delivery, it comes with a higher price tag due to the space and fuel required to transport goods by air. Sea freight is generally more affordable, especially for bulky or heavy cargo that would be costly to send by air.
  • Cargo restriction: Air freight has stricter regulations due to safety concerns associated with flying. Items that are bulky, oddly sized, or classified as dangerous goods often face restrictions. For example, liquids such as nail polish or perfumes, and aerosols or gases like hairspray are typically prohibited or subject to stringent regulations when transported by air.

In contrast, sea freight is more accommodating of such goods, offering options for containers and special handling to ensure these items are shipped safely and in compliance with international shipping regulations. However, sea transport also has its limitations and requirements, so it's essential to verify the list of prohibited and restricted items before choosing this method.

DHL Express: Helping you navigate global trade with precision and partnership

Navigating the intricacies of international trade, especially between notable trading partners like France and Singapore, underscores the essence of meticulous planning and understanding. The journey of shipping goods, whether it's the finest wines from Bordeaux or the latest tech gadgets from Singapore, involves a layered process – from adhering to customs regulations to choosing the most suitable shipping method.

With the intricate dance of international trade, having a reliable delivery company becomes crucial. DHL Express stands out as such a partner, bringing expertise and assurance to the complex process of shipping goods. Whether it's ensuring that your French perfumes arrive intact or that your Singaporean electronics are delivered promptly, DHL Express facilitates seamless trade between these two dynamic economies.

Moreover, with DHL Express's extensive network and flexible shipping solutions, you’re able to meet demanding same-day delivery schedules, thereby elevating customer satisfaction and staying ahead of the competition.


With DHL by your side, your business is well-equipped to handle the complexities of import and export, ensuring that your goods are not just shipped, but delivered with the excellence that your customers expect. Create a DHL Express business account today.