With a well connected populace who loves discounts and a high de minimis value that facilitates international purchases at SGD 400, it’s no surprise that people in Singapore love international eCommerce. Always on the lookout for great prices, one of the main countries they buy from would definitely be China.
If you’re an eCommerce merchant or consumer goods business, chances are you may already have a supplier in China. While you may be familiar with the basics of air freight, it doesn’t hurt to have a quick refresher of how air freight from Guangdong Province in China and Hong Kong to Singapore works in both a direct-to-consumer (B2C) and bulk freight (B2B) context works, complete with required customs documentation.
While the logistics supply chain from China or Hong Kong to Singapore can vary depending on your requirements, shipping via air freight usually follows these steps:
In the first stage of the delivery, your shipping partner will collect your shipments from a specified collection point. Depending on the arrangements made with your shipping partner, this could be a specified drop off point or your origin address such as your own warehouse or supplier’s warehouse. The origin address if the place where your inventory is stored prior to delivery.
If your shipment is a B2C parcel, it will be palletized at your shipping partner’s warehouse together with other packages heading to the same destination country before being sent to the airport. Shipments with Janio this will be consolidated at either our Shenzhen warehouse or Hong Kong warehouse.
As for B2B shipments that have been palletized at your origin address, you can arrange for pick up from your address to have it sent straight to the agreed airport.
Certain items are deemed dangerous goods and require documents like a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) before they can be uplifted. Dangerous goods also include less obvious items like liquids in skincare and cosmetics as well as items with batteries.
Dangerous goods and certain other item categories such as liquids, powders, medicine, tobacco or alcohol shipped via B2C parcels must be transhipped out of Hong Kong and cannot be exported directly out China via B2C air freight. You can check with your freight partner which items this applies to. This doesn’t apply to B2B shipments, which can be directly exported from China via air freight.
Packaging and labelling are vital to smooth shipments. Packages may sometimes go through bumpy rides like turbulence during the flight. Having extra padding for fragile items, like bubble wrap, styrofoam inserts, and packing peanuts are recommended to prevent your products from bouncing around or getting deformed during shipping. To learn more about the best practices in packaging your goods, we’ve covered this topic in our packaging guide.
Labels should be visible and also remain legible and easily accessible by your shipping partner and customs officials after being transported to the destination airport. You can check out our guide on labelling your shipments which you can also find in our resources for B2C shipping to Southeast Asia.
If you’re shipping with Janio, your shipments will be sent to our air cargo agent’s warehouse near Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) after they’ve been collected and consolidated. If you are shipping from China with Janio, your shipment will be sent to our air cargo agent’s warehouse at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX) instead. Once at the warehouse, your shipments will go through terminal handling.
The processes involved in terminal handling include weighing and inspection of the cargo, tallying up your shipment’s items with the commercial invoice and packing list, and checking that all required customs documents are in order. Your items will be palletized at the air cargo agent’s warehouse if it hasn’t been palletised yet. After this, your order will be sent for customs clearance.
One of the benefits of using Hong Kong as an air freight hub is that it has better flight connectivity to other countries and cities than most countries. As of the time of writing for example, there are no direct flights from USA, Europe and other North Asian countries into Shenzhen in China, but most of these countries have flights to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s trade-friendly terms and reduced restrictions also mean that it can process orders for customs clearance faster than other origins in mainland China, which is also why certain items are transhipped via Hong Kong when exporting from China.
To clear Hong Kong and China’s customs, your shipment at the minimum needs to have the following documents ready:
If you are exporting parcels to B2C customers from China or Hong Kong, you won’t need an export permit or exporter of record.
Exporting in bulk (B2B) from China requires you to have an export permit or exporter of record before you can ship your goods out. Additionally, if you’re shipping any restricted goods, you’ll need to apply for a special export permit for these goods before it can be exported. You can check the Ministry of Commerce Republic of China’s website to find out more on how to apply for the export permit.1 We’ve provided a site with an English translation in our references as well.2
To check if your goods fall under the restricted goods category, you can look up China’s Customs website.3 B2C exports from China don’t need export permits or exporters of record.
As for exports from Hong Kong, you can check out the official list of documents to import and export from Hong Kong on the official Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department website.4 Certain items have restrictions on trade and may need further documentation. You can check the lists for these on the Hong Kong Strategic Commodities Control System website.5
If you’re ever unsure about what kind of steps you need to take to export your goods from China, you can always check with our customs clearance experts if you’re unsure of which documents to apply for and how to declare your goods.
After checking these documents and clearing your shipments for export, your shipments can be loaded onto a Singapore-bound plane.
After getting cleared for export, your order is uplifted onto a plane and leaves either Shenzhen or Hong Kong, bound for Singapore. The mid-mile leg of the journey (i.e. the flight itself) will take around a day at most from Hong Kong or Shenzhen to Singapore.
After landing in Changi Airport, your shipment and its customs documents will be inspected by Singapore Customs officers. Depending on the customs valuation of the shipment and what is being shipped, the types of documents you need to prepare for your order to be cleared for import into Singapore can differ.
In Singapore, customs values imports using the CIF method, which means that the customs value of the order includes the cost of the goods and the cost of insurance and freight of the shipment. Singapore has a de minimis value of SGD 400, which in Singapore means that orders shipped below this value are eligible for GST relief.6
If you are shipping non-controlled or restricted goods into Singapore below SGD 400, the following documents are required.
Do note that intoxicating liquors and tobacco are not eligible for GST relief. You can check out our resources to view Singapore’s list of restricted and controlled goods.
With Singapore’s relatively high de minimis value compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, most direct-to-consumer parcels don’t go through too much hassle being imported for eCommerce purposes. Note that the de minimis value ruling only applies to imports via air freight and not for imports via cross-border trucking or sea freight.
If you’re importing volumes above SGD 400, more documents in addition to the above will be required:
For bulk imports, the importing party must first register for a UEN with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in Singapore and activate its customs account prior to importing into Singapore.7 Then, you’ll need to apply for an Inter-Bank GIRO with Singapore Customs so that you can pay for the relevant import duties, taxes and other fees to Singapore Customs directly.
Once your UEN and Inter-Bank GIRO are set up, the company will need to apply for a customs import permit via TradeNet. This can be done by the importing party or through a declaring agent or freight forwarder. To see different types of import permits or cases where import permits aren’t needed, you can check out Singapore Customs’s official website.8
When your goods have cleared customs, it enters the last mile delivery stage. How this is handled depends on whether your order is a parcel or a larger container or pallet.
If your shipment was a loose parcel, it will first need to be sorted at a sorting hub. The parcel will then be distributed to a van which will carry out the last-mile delivery to your consignee.
If your shipment is in a large container or pallet which can be shipped directly to your consignee, it can be delivered straight to the consignee’s address without any additional steps in between after customs clearance.
Air freight works best when speed is what you need most, and works even better when you have partners with the right regional customs clearance expertise like Janio Asia. Contact us below to find out more about how we can help you or if you’d like an air freight quotation to ship to and throughout Southeast Asia.
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