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Customs clearance process: How to avoid delay in shipment at customs?

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As global markets grow increasingly interconnected, businesses strive to tap into new audiences, bridging gaps between countries and continents. With the surge in international trade, the importance of customs clearance cannot be understated. However, this global outreach brings with it a set of challenges, chiefly in navigating customs protocols that differ across borders. 

Each customs checkpoint acts as a guardian of its nation, ensuring compliance, safety, and security. But with these regulations come potential delays that can disrupt a company's flow of operations, impacting both their bottom line and their credibility; for shippers exporting out of Thailand, understanding and efficiently manoeuvring through these customs processes is thus not just advisable but pertinent.

The imperative of avoiding customs delays

Custom clearance charges, unexpected duties, or taxes can halt a shipment's progress. Every hour a shipment is delayed at customs can translate into lost revenue. There are costs associated with storage, potential penalties for non-compliance, and perhaps most damaging, the lost trust of customers awaiting their orders. In the age of next-day deliveries, the modern consumer's patience is thin, and customs delays can quickly erode a business's hard-earned reputation.

Proactive measures: Tips for smooth customs clearance

Customs clearance isn't a one-size-fits-all process. The time taken can vary based on the nature of the goods, the volume of imports at a given time, and specific country regulations. There are several stages in the process, from initial inspection to final clearance. While some shipments might breeze through in a day, others could take longer, especially if physical inspections are necessary.

One of the best ways to ensure smooth customs clearance is to adopt a proactive approach. Here are some expanded guidelines on how to achieve that:

1. Know the list of prohibited and restricted items

If a shipment contains items that are restricted or prohibited, it will inevitably face delays. Before shipping, research and understand the customs regulations for your destination country. Each nation maintains a list of prohibited and restricted items. These categories, although sometimes used interchangeably, have distinct implications:

  • Prohibited items: These are items that are completely banned from being imported into the country. They can't be brought in for any reason or under any circumstance.
  • Restricted items: Items in this category can be imported but are subject to specific conditions, regulations, or requirements. This could mean acquiring certain permits, paying additional fees, or meeting specific criteria.

2. Prepare all necessary paperwork

Incorrect or missing paperwork can lead to delays or penalties. When shipping internationally, getting your paperwork right is crucial. Every shipment needs specific documents, such as invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin. Before sending your goods, double-check all documents to ensure they're accurate and complete. 

If you're shipping restricted items, additional certifications or permits might be required. For example, when shipping from Thailand to the UK, it’s important to note that certain food or animal products are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). If you’re shipping beauty products containing caviar extract, for instance, you have to apply for a CITES permit before exporting. 

3. Indicate HS codes for easy identification of items

Using the Harmonised System (HS) codes is key when shipping items across international borders. These codes are a universal system that categorises traded goods, allowing for streamlined customs processes. For instance, if you're exporting herbs or spices from Thailand, you would need to use specific HS codes. Consider the following scenario: you’re shipping thyme or bay leaves, and by attaching its HS code, "0910.99.10", South Korean customs officials can quickly identify the basil as a dried aromatic herb for culinary use, simplifying and speeding up the clearance process.

An incorrect or missing HS code, such as confusing the code for bay leaves with that of another herb or spice, can lead to misunderstandings, requiring further inspections and potentially causing delays. Always double-check the HS codes relevant to the products you're importing, and ensure they're clearly indicated on your paperwork.

4. Complete and accurate documentation

For smooth international shipping, always get your paperwork right. Wrong or missing details can stop your shipment and cost you time and money. It's essential to provide comprehensive product descriptions, steering clear of ambiguity, to expedite the clearance process. Clearly describe your items – instead of just saying "electronics," specify "smartphone model XYZ." Make sure you state the right values and include all required certifications or licences. Proper documentation helps avoid customs issues.

5. Stay ahead on payments of duties and taxes

Unexpected duties or taxes can halt a shipment's progress. If there's uncertainty regarding who pays these fees or if they aren't paid promptly, delays can ensue. Under-declaring can flag you for duty evasion, leading to penalties, whereas over-declaring unnecessarily inflates your costs. To ensure a seamless shipping process, anticipate and calculate the potential duties or taxes for your goods before they reach customs. 

For shippers seeking a comprehensive solution, DHl Express’ shipping management platforms like MyDHL+ offer integrated tools that not only help in calculating duties and taxes but also ensure that shipments meet all regulatory requirements. 

The DHL Express advantage for Thai shippers

Achieving smooth customs clearance requires thorough preparation. By ensuring every detail is in place and anticipating potential challenges, businesses can ensure that their shipments pass through customs with minimal hindrance, paving the way for timely and efficient deliveries.

Global shipping complexities demand expertise, especially in customs clearance. DHL Express Thailand stands out with its dedicated in-house customs teams in every operational country, including Thailand. Their deep understanding of local customs, coupled with vast global experience, assures Thai businesses of smooth, efficient shipments. 

DHL Express also offers tailored customs support, accommodating both routine and complex clearance processes. For Thai enterprises venturing globally, partnering with us ensures not just shipping but shipping done right. Open a DHL Express business account and elevate your international trade experience.