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Shipping from China to Singapore

Benedict Leong

Container being lifted by a crane at a port

It’s got a strategic location between key trade routes in the South China Sea, is 100% urbanised with well-developed infrastructure and has a high internet penetration at 88% of the population. All this and more make Singapore a world-renown trading destination which handles shipments from across the globe.

But whether you need to deliver your products to your Singaporean online shoppers from your suppliers in China or are planning a bulk freight delivery from ‘the World’s Factory’ to the Little Red Dot, this guide has you covered. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll cover how shipments are delivered from Guangdong province or Hong Kong to Singapore.

When should you use air freight or sea freight?

Speed

If your shipment has a tight deadline, air freight’s speed has you covered. A flight from Hong Kong or Shenzhen airport to Singapore’s Changi Airport will take around a day at most. Bear in mind that certain direct-consumer (B2C) air freight shipments need to be transhipped via Hong Kong Airport depending on the item. Sea freight could take around 5 days or more from port to port depending on the schedule.

 

Cost

On the other hand, if speed isn’t as important as your budget, sea freight is the way to go since it usually has lower rates than air freight.

It’s worth noting that air freight can be cheaper than sea freight below a certain order volume. To understand this, it helps to see how air freight rates are calculated.

For air freight, rates are charged to the order’s volumetric weight (how much space it takes up) or its actual weight depending on which is greater. For less-than-container-load shipments, sea freight tends to be charged by volumetric weight, with a minimum chargeable volume being 1 cubic metre (cbm).

Sea freight saves you money if your order is larger than 2 cbm. However, you don’t get those economies of scale for items that aren’t that big like small cartons that take up between 0.5 to 0.9 cbm since you’re paying for unused space. This is where air freight can be more economical than sea freight.

Fortunately, you don’t need to work all of this out on your own. Logistics service providers like Janio can help advise you on whether air freight or sea freight is better suited to your current leg of the supply chain and also offer you both shipping modes for your orders. To find out more, reach out to us below:

 

Need to Ship to Southeast Asia via Sea, Air or Cross border Trucking? Get a quote here!

Items shipped

When choosing between air freight and sea freight, consider the following:

 

  • The weight and size of your shipment
  • The products being shipped
    • Fragility
    • Perishability
    • Hazard
    • Shipment Speed

Air freight is fast, but can be limited in terms of what you’re allowed to ship. Bulky or oddly-sized items, or items too dangerous to meet air freight’s restrictions on what can be shipped generally should use sea freight instead.

For instance, these products generally can’t be shipped via air freight: products containing gases, all things flammable, toxic or corrosive items like batteries, magnetic substances like speakers, perishable items and more. If you’re shipping these, it makes more sense to use sea freight.

B2C and B2B Shipping from Guangdong Province and Hong Kong to Singapore in 4 Steps

Infographic with a map highlighting how air and sea freight from Guangdong province, China and from Hong Kong heads to Singapore. Also includes customs documents needed for import clearance into Singapore

The logistics supply chain from Guangdong Province or Hong Kong to Singapore can vary depending on your requirements and location. However, shipping from Hong Kong to Singapore would usually be done in these steps.

Guangdong and Hong Kong: First Mile Delivery

In international shipping, first mile delivery refers to when your order leaves your origin address. The origin address can be a storefront, office, or warehouse belonging to either you or your supplier. Prior to your goods leaving your storage facility, the products have to be packaged and labelled appropriately to facilitate smooth cross border shipping. 

If you’re shipping with Janio, you can drop off your shipment at our Shenzhen or Hong Kong warehouses. If you have B2B volumes, you can arrange for pick up with us.

If you are shipping loose parcels, they’ll be consolidated at your shipping partner’s warehouse into pallets for air freight or in a container if you were shipping an LCL (less-than-container load) sea freight order.

While transporting your goods, your packages may go through bumpy rides from events like turbulence. Thus, having extra padding is recommended especially for fragile items, like using bubble wrap and packing peanuts. This is to prevent your goods from bouncing around in the packaging or getting deformed during shipping. To learn more about the best practices in packaging your goods, we’ve covered this topic in a previous article

On top of that, you need to ensure that your shipping labels and customs documents are labelled clearly and accessible for customs inspection. Check out the best practices in labelling your shipments which you can also find in our B2C Southeast Asia shipping resources, too.

Shenzhen and Hong Kong Origin Customs Clearance and Freight

Once your orders are consolidated, they will be delivered to your logistics service provider’s air cargo agent’s warehouse for air freight or one of your service provider’s warehouses at the port. Your order will then be inspected by either China’s or Hong Kong’s customs officials.

If you are shipping via air freight, the airport your goods will be shipped from will differ depending on the type of goods you are exporting. If you aren’t shipping dangerous goods (DG) or certain items restricted for export by Chinese authorities your goods will depart from Shenzhen Airport (SZX). Otherwise, your goods will be shipped from Hong Kong Airport (HKG). The destination airport in Singapore, if you’re shipping with Janio, will be Changi Airport (SIN).

Sea freight shipments can be shipped from ports in Shenzhen or from Hong Kong to the Port of Singapore (SG SIN).

To get your goods cleared for export, your shipment usually needs to have the following documents ready:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading
  • Packing list
  • Export permit or Exporter of Record (Bulk shipments)

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 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.

 

Need to Ship to Southeast Asia via Sea, Air or Cross border Trucking? Get a quote here!

After checking these documents and clearing your shipments for export, your shipments can be loaded onto a vessel to either Port of Singapore (SGSIN) or Changi Airport (SIN).

Customs Clearance in Singapore

Your shipment will be transferred to a customs warehouse as soon as it arrives in Singapore’s airport or port.

To get import clearance into Singapore, you or your shipping partner would generally need to provide the following documents:

  • Certificate of origin
  • Master airway bill or bill of lading
  • Insurance policy
  • Receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes
  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

In Singapore, imports are valued using the CIF method, which means that the shipment’s customs value 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 via courier below this value are eligible for GST relief.6

If you’re shipping in bulk, you’ll need more documents prepared:

  • UEN Number (Unique Entity Number)
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Certificate of origin
  • Master airway bill or bill of lading
  • Packing List
  • Customs Import Declaration
  • Insurance Policy (if applicable)
  • Receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes
  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

For bulk imports (also known as B2B shipments, your 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 importing partner’s 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

The de minimis rate refers to a price threshold where no duties and taxes are charged if the shipment’s CIF value is below that point. The CIF value includes your good’s price, shipping fee, and insurance costs if any. But this exemption only applies to deliveries made via air freight, so shipping via sea freight still requires you to pay duties and taxes.

The De Minimis Rate in Singapore is SGD 400

However, if your goods exceed Singapore’s de minimis threshold of SGD400, you’ll need to pay import duties and GST to Singapore’s customs. Singapore’s GST is at 7%, and the import duties depend on the product category as declared by the harmonised systems code (HS code). You may find out the percentage of your import duties paid through Singapore’s Customs website.9

If you’re shipping a B2C parcel, you can choose to either pay for the import duties and taxes yourself or let your customers pay for the import duties and taxes. This is determined by the incoterms Delivered Duties Unpaid (DDU) and Delivered Duties Paid (DDP). While we strongly encourage you to opt for DDP to keep your shipping experience smooth for your B2C customer, it helps to familiarise with what these arrangements mean.

After customs clearance is done, your shipment will be sent to your logistics service provider’s Singapore warehouse where it will undergo sorting and distribution.

Distribution and Last Mile in Singapore

Once your shipment has cleared Singaporean customs, it will enter the distribution stage. If your shipment is B2B, a truck will take it from the airport or port straight to its destination, otherwise, B2C shipments will have to be first sorted at a transportation hub before the last mile delivery.

Your B2C parcels in the last mile delivery stage will be sent from your partner’s local warehouse to your consignee’s address via vans or trucks. During the last mile delivery stage, your logistics service provider will ensure that your shipment is received by your consignee with a few delivery attempts.

 

International shipping from China and Hong Kong to Singapore involves quite a number of steps which each require their own logistics expertise. Whether it’s timely distribution and last mile delivery or experienced customs clearance in China, Hong Kong or Singapore you’ll need trusted partners each step of the way.

If you’re looking for an air freight solution, a sea freight solution or even both to Singapore, Janio’s flexible, end-to-end delivery solutions have you covered from the first mile to the last. To find out more about our services and customs clearance expertise, contact us via the button below.

 

Need to Ship to Southeast Asia via Sea, Air or Cross border Trucking? Get a quote here!

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Looking to ship throughout Southeast Asia? Contact us to find out how.

References:

  1. 商务部海关总署公告2017年第88号公布2018年出口许可证管理货物目录 
  2. Law of China – Measures for the Administration of License for the Export of Goods 
  3. General Administration of Customs People’s Republic of China – What Articles Are Restricted on Exit from China? 
  4. Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department – Clearance Document 
  5. TID – Control Status of Common Dual-Use Products 
  6. Singapore Customs – Importing by Postal or Courier Service 
  7. Unique Entity Number – About UEN 
  8. Singapore Customs – Import procedures 
  9. TradeNet – HS and Product Codes Search 
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