Custom Tips South African SMEs Need for Shipping

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The rise of e-commerce has empowered South African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach a global audience. However, navigating the complexities of international shipping can be a hurdle.

While customs regulations vary by country, this guide equips you with fundamental knowledge and strategies to confidently navigate international shipping. By understanding key aspects like incoterms (International Commercial Terms) and strategic packaging, you can ensure your products reach customers smoothly and efficiently.

Shipping with DHL Express helps to reduce uncertainty and give you an in-depth understanding of the various components of the process so that it's feasible to overcome all aspects and scenarios of shipping internationally. Yes! Together, international shipping hurdles can be turned into a stepping stone for your success. So, buckle up and get ready to take your South African brand global!


Collaborate with your Recipient to Learn about your Shipping Destination:

While customs regulations vary greatly between countries, the insight we have is based on past experiences with similar products. The emphasis of this insight is that of collaborating and working closely with your recipient.

We strongly recommend reaching out to your consignee (the person receiving the shipment) to understand any potential delays or additional import costs. This ensures you both have a clear picture before shipping begins. Additionally, discussing incoterms (international commerce terms) with your consignee can help clarify responsibilities and costs throughout the shipping process.

It is also crucial that you understand the current state of the country you are shipping to. Government stability, prolonged public holidays, economic unrest, and other world events may contribute to the clearance delay of your shipment.


Determine your Shipping Method:

While ocean freight remains the king of global transportation, accounting for roughly 80% of shipped goods, you have various options to consider. The ideal solution depends on your specific needs: cost, speed, and cargo type.

Air freight prioritizes speed, making it ideal for urgent deliveries. On the other hand, sea freight offers the most cost-effective solution for transporting large volumes of goods. Depending on your inventory volume, you might also need to decide between FCL (filling an entire container) or LCL (sharing container space with other shipments).


Plan your Shippment for Smooth Custom Clearance:

Generally, higher-value shipments incur higher taxes. While some might be tempted to combine multiple items into one Air Waybill (AWB) to save on shipping costs, consider the cumulative value. A high combined value could result in higher taxes that outweigh the savings from fewer AWBs. Remember, shipments awaiting duty and tax payments are put on hold, causing delays. One way to avoid this is by selecting "Duties & Taxes Paid" (DTP). This option automatically charges your export account when duties and taxes are assessed at the destination. Once you have all the information and preparations in place, you're ready to ship!


Get your Documentation Right:

Navigating international shipping requires familiarization with the necessary documentation, which varies depending on the destination country's rules and regulations. Here's a breakdown of some key documents you might encounter:

  • Commercial Invoice: This acts as the financial backbone of your shipment, detailing the description, quantity, value, and weight of your goods. This information is crucial for customs authorities to calculate duties and taxes.

  • Packing List: This document serves as an inventory of your shipment, listing the contents of each package, including the individual item weights and dimensions. It provides a clear picture of what's inside your boxes and helps ensure nothing goes missing.

  • Shipping Label & Tracking Number: Every package should wear a clear and well-attached shipping label with the destination address, contact information, and a unique tracking number. This allows for easy identification and tracking of your shipment throughout its journey.

  • Certificate of Origin: This document verifies the country where your goods were manufactured. This information plays a key role in determining the applicable duties for import into the destination country.

  • Bill of Lading (BOL) or Air Waybill (AWB): Depending on your chosen shipping method (ocean or air), you'll need either a Bill of Lading (BOL) or an Air Waybill (AWB). These documents essentially act as a receipt for your goods, outlining the shipment details and its journey from origin to destination.

  • Customs Declaration: This form provides a detailed account of your shipment's contents and their value. It serves as the primary document for customs clearance in the destination country.

  • Regulatory Compliance Documents: In some cases, you may need to acquire additional documents like permits, specific certificates, or compliance declarations. These are typically required to meet specific regulations or safety standards for certain goods entering the destination country.


Secure Packaging and Labeling for Smooth Shipping

Safeguarding your products during international shipping requires proper packaging and labeling. You will need to invest in high-quality, sturdy boxes suited to your items' size and weight. Consider double-walled corrugated boxes for extra protection of heavier items. Use void fill materials like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or foam inserts to prevent items from shifting and getting damaged during transport. For fragile items, allow extra space in the box for cushioning and use proper indicators like "Fragile" or "This Side Up" labels. Remember to clearly label your package with the recipient's address, your return address, and any special handling instructions. Remove any old labels to avoid confusion and ensure that the shipping label isn't placed over box seams. Including a return address inside the box is also a good practice in case of unforeseen circumstances.


Take Insurance Seriously:

Despite careful packaging and planning, unexpected events can occur during international shipping. Investing in shipping insurance offers a financial safety net to protect your business from losses due to damage, theft, or natural disasters.

This insurance is particularly important for international shipments, which often travel long distances and involve multiple transportation methods, increasing the risk of complications. By providing financial protection, shipping insurance safeguards your business finances and fosters customer peace of mind.


Stay In Control With Real-Time Tracking

Don't let your international shipments become a black box. Gain peace of mind with comprehensive visibility throughout your supply chain. Take advantage of  DHL’s advanced tracking technology to monitor your shipment progress in real-time.

This level of insight empowers you to proactively address potential issues and keeps you informed every step of the way. Additionally, barcode scanning, RFID technology, and GPS tracking systems can further enhance your visibility within your warehouses, ensuring tight inventory control.


Apply For an Export Permit:

South African exports require export permits to comply with international agreements, control strategic goods, and prevent stolen items from leaving the country. While some restrictions exist to support local manufacturing, specific policies vary by sector.

If you need information about the export policies for specific goods, you should provide the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC)'s Import and Export Control office with details of the particular goods you want to export. They can also provide a list of items that are subject to export controls.


Chose a Reliable International Courier Service

By now, you can tell that clearing customs is not a simple feat. But at DHL Express, we do our very best to provide you with a smooth international express delivery experience. However, we do not control or influence the decision of customs. When importing or exporting, you need to have realistic expectations and understand that previous shipments are not a firm reference for how future shipments might fare. DHL Express provides fair and accurate estimates of the transit time that is subject to customs clearance of the origin and destination country.

If you have shipped out your parcel and realized that you have made a mistake on the invoice, or that your consignee is unwilling to incur the taxes, don't worry! We offer flexible alternatives to cater to every situation. We provide options for returning your shipment back to the shipper for a charge if you change your mind. For account holders, we also provide an implementation of our DTP service after you have shipped out.

In a nutshell…
Navigating international shipping can seem complex, but with the right preparation and knowledge, you can unlock a world of opportunity. Remember not to underestimate the value of insurance and real-time tracking. By following these steps and partnering with a reliable courier service like DHL, you can transform international shipping from a hurdle to a stepping stone.