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International Shipping to Singapore: A Guide for E-commerce Businesses

Amanda Lim

  • Why ship to Singapore?

  • 6-steps to cross-border shipping to Singapore

  • Customs clearance in Singapore

  • Payment preferences in Singapore

Why Ship to Singapore?

Singapore is a well-developed country that makes habits like shopping online accessible and efficient to the average Singaporean.

Singapore is home to 5.6 million people and its e-commerce market is expected to grow to US$ 8.4 billion by 2023 from its 2019 amount of US$ 5.2 billion.

Singapore has the highest internet speeds in Southeast Asia. Singaporeans also have the highest basket size among ASEAN member states, spending on average US$ 91 each time.

Singaporean shoppers are also very keen on buying foreign goods, with 73% of online shoppers having bought an overseas product in 2018. Clothing, footwear, and accessories are the top verticals that Singapore’s shoppers go for when shopping online.

Now that you know about the Singaporean market’s appeal, here are the 6 steps needed to begin shipping internationally to Singapore.

6-steps to Cross-Border Shipping to Singapore

If you’re looking to start shipping to Singapore, you’ll generally need to follow these steps:

  1. Finding the right shipping partner

  2. Packaging your goods

  3. Choosing the right level of service

  4. Providing shipping details

  5. Printing the shipping labels and documents and attaching them to your package

  6. Passing the shipments to the carriers

1. Finding the Right Shipping Partner

In any form of cross-border shipping, carriers tend to follow these few stages:

  • First-mile delivery – The shipment moves from the merchant’s warehouse to the airport or port.

  • Customs clearance at country of origin – Clearing goods to export from origin country.

  • Freight – The shipment is transported, usually by air or sea, from the origin country’s airport or port to the destination airport or port.

  • Customs clearance at destination country – Clearing goods for import in the destination country.

  • Distribution – The shipment is sent from the airport or port to the domestic distribution centre to be sorted and assigned to vans and motorcycles for the last mile delivery stage.

  • Last mile delivery – The shipment moves from the distribution centre to the customer’s doorstep.

As an example, an Indonesian merchant could have their goods shipped via truck from their premises in Jakarta to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) where it is cleared for export. Then, it is transported via air freight to reach Changi International Airport (SIN) and goes through customs clearance. After that, it gets transported to a local distribution facility to be picked up by the last mile delivery van or motorcycle. These vehicles then deliver the shipment from the distribution facility to your customer’s address in Singapore.

Should there be a failed attempt at delivery, the last mile carrier may try again on a different day. Some last mile logistics service providers may also place the goods in a parcel locker or a pickup point near your customer’s address.

One way to save money on shipping is to use multiple smaller, localised shipping partners at different stages of the delivery, but this may prove hard to manage, especially when there are so many choices. Fortunately, there are end-to-end 4PL couriers with wide networks of logistics service providers which provide great coverage in Singapore who can manage these logistics partners for you at a similarly competitive rate.

With regard to international freight, you generally have two options to ship goods to Singapore:

Air Freight

For many e-commerce merchants, air freight is the transportation of choice for fast and reliable deliveries. International shipments usually enter Singapore via Changi International Airport (SIN).

Sea Freight

In bulk, sea freight is cheaper, but this is not the case for smaller shipments. Nevertheless, sea freight is much slower than air freight. Consider your delivery deadlines and shipping model before picking this option. Singapore’s primary port is the Port of Singapore (SGSIN).

Land Freight

Singapore has road connections with peninsular Malaysia via Woodlands and Tuas, so line-haul trucking is a viable option to consider. This transportation method tends to be cheaper than air freight and sea freight if your warehouses are based in peninsular Malaysia.

Last Mile Considerations

Because roads can become congested and operators are pressed for time to deliver to other addresses, it is also possible that your customer may miss their delivery if they are not at home. While carriers might carry out multiple attempts at delivery, engaging with one that provides options like dropping the item off at a parcel locker, or leaving the shipment at the guardhouse of condominiums, can ensure that your customers are able to receive the shipment in time and at their own convenience.

Operators do not work on Sundays and public holidays but will resume delivery on the next working day. In light of all this, you should check with your shipping partner to see how deliveries might be affected by this and be ready to ease your customers’ expectations when delays happen. You can find out when Singapore has its public holidays here.

2. Packaging your Goods

Appropriately packaging your products with the right packing materials is important in cross-border shipping. Packages may be subject to rough handling during its cross-border shipment to Singapore, so including additional packing materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts helps prevent your products from bouncing around within the package during shipment. These practices help prevent damage to your product when shipping and can save you money on replacing damaged goods.

When planning your shipment, you can consult your shipping partner for recommended steps in packaging your goods for transport.

3. Choosing the Right Levels of Service

Carriers usually offer multiple tiers of service in shipping. These delivery options mainly differ in their offered features, such as:

  • Delivery time

  • Weight limit

  • Real-time tracking & tracing

  • Free pick-up at origin address

  • Compensation in the event of loss of shipment

  • Packaging service

  • Parcel pick up points

  • On-call customer service

Typically, the more features offered, the higher the shipping fee is. Choose one that best suits your budget and shipping needs.

4. Providing Shipping Details

Carriers will need merchants to provide shipping details to generate the documentation required by Singapore’s customs.

The type of information most carriers require are:

  • Sender’s details and address

  • Recipient’s details and address

  • Country of manufacture

  • Shipment’s value in any national currency

  • Harmonised System (HS) Code of Item

  • Item description

  • Item weight and dimensions

  • Item quantity

If you decide to declare the value with another currency that is not SGD, the exchange rate will be based on the government’s exchange rate. This may not be favourable as the market’s exchange rate may beat the exchange rate set by the government, so it’s preferable to declare the value in SGD. You may check the government’s exchange rates here.

This information will be entered into a Customs Declaration form and shipping label by either you or the shipping partner if they offer this service. Always check that this information has been entered accurately. Incomplete documentation may trap your goods in customs. It’s good to be as accurate as possible when preparing these customs documents. Additional shipping charges could arise if the shipping company returns the packages to you. Under-declaring the value of the items of your shipments on the commercial invoice would require you to pay additional Goods and Services Tax (GST) to Singapore Customs if they correctly suspect it. The courier may also charge you additional fees for undervaluing your goods.

5. Printing the Shipping Labels and Documents and Attaching Them to your Package

Print and paste the shipping label, which contains the information you’ve entered in the previous step, securely onto the parcel. The addresses and bar-codes on the shipping label must be in clear view for identification and customs inspection. Ensure the shipping documents can be found on the package. One way to do this is to place all supporting documents inside a clear plastic pocket and tape it onto the package. Do note that some of these documents, such as the customs declaration and commercial invoice, will require the sender’s signature.

6. Passing the Shipments to Carriers

Depending on the delivery option you’ve selected and service level the carrier offers, the carrier will collect the packages from you either at your specified sender address or at one of their drop-off points in your origin country. If your selected service level includes track and trace, you’ll receive a tracking code for your package after your carrier receives the package. Your customer can use this tracking code to find out where the package currently is.

While the actions required from the merchant usually end once the package is in your logistics service provider’s hands, the shipping journey involves more processes that the logistics service providers carry out on your behalf, such as customs clearance.

Customs Clearance in Singapore

Customs clearance requires you to have the right documentation at hand to avoid delays. Depending on the value of your shipments, you may have to pay customs taxes and duties.

Documentation

Singaporean Customs require extensive documentation prior to clearing goods for import. If your logistics service provider is helping you clear your product through customs, they will normally engage with experienced customs brokers who are familiar with the procedures and required format of documentation.

Minimally, the carrier must present the following to the relevant agencies:

  • Commercial and pro-forma invoice

  • Packing list

If you are planning on shipping without a logistics partner who can clear customs on your behalf, you’ll need the following:

  • Airway bill or bill of lading

  • Insurance policy (if applicable)

  • Receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes

  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

Customs Duties and Taxes

If your shipment value is lower than Singapore’s de minimis value of SGD400, you won’t be charged duties and taxes for your shipment. A de minimis value is a threshold where any shipment whose value is above it will be charged duties and taxes at customs.

If your shipment is valued above SGD400, you will have to cover the following duties and taxes:

*The 0% import duty does not apply to restricted items. To check if your goods are dutiable, you may refer to Singapore’s customs.

Singapore’s high de minimis value and low GST tax on imported goods are to encourage foreign trade.

However, the de minimis value is only applied to shipments entering Singapore via air freight. Shipments transported from sea freight and land freight would have to pay for the 7% GST.

Once again, to ensure that your package doesn’t get stuck in customs, it is important to work with a logistics provider who is well-versed with the latest developments in Singaporean customs regulations to better navigate the ever-changing landscape of customs processes.

Payment Preferences in Singapore

79% of Singaporeans are willing to pay via credit card for online shopping. This is because Singaporean shoppers are trying to maximise their credit card’s savings and rewards.

Additionally, 12% of online shoppers prefer Paypal and a small 2.3% of shoppers tend to prefer cash on delivery (COD), so you may want to provide as many payment options as possible to capture the Singaporean market.

With Singapore’s developed infrastructure and digitally savvy shoppers, Singapore is an attractive option to expand your e-commerce business. By engaging with reliable and proficient shipping partners at every step, or even a single partner who can handle all the steps, you’ll be on your way to seamless cross-border shipping to your new customers in Singapore.

To find more on the latest news on logistics and e-commerce in Southeast Asia, consider signing up for our Janio newsletter.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can solve your SEA e-commerce cross-border delivery needs, come and have a conversation with us.

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