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About: Mercator Cargo Systems

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Rail Terminal at the Port of Felixstowe

Rail activity at the Port of Felixstowe in the UK is the biggest and busiest in the country.  Operating over 60 rail journeys in and out of the port per day, the service takes 17,000 TEU (20’ containers or equivalent) off of the UK’s roads, reducing carbon emissions and congestion.

Railing containers out of the port and to destinations such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester reduces costs for the customer and offers a service which can avoid the busy roads surrounding London.

Mercator opts to make use of the Port of Felixstowe’s rail services for containers delivering to the north of the country, particularly if we have several loads to deliver to one place.  Once the containers have been railed to the rail terminal near the destination, they are transferred onto a truck to make the final journey via road.

Recently the Port of Felixstowe’s rail service has become overrun, and as such there are delays and restricted departures/arrivals.  It is hoped that this is simply a glitch whereby the port has a backlog of containers, both empty and full.  This has a knock-on effect to space at the depots, reducing the number of empty containers that the port can accept.

This restriction has affected all three rail providers at the Port of Felixstowe.  Mercator is working closely with the shipping lines and rail providers to keep in the picture of service status at the port in order to minimise the disruption to our own customers who are expecting deliveries from the Port of Felixstowe.

If you import into the UK and are looking for a freight forwarder to handle everything for you, give us a call for a quote +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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Common Mistakes Made in International Shipping and how to avoid them

Choosing the Cheapest Quote

We all know that cheapest isn’t always best.  In some instances there is no difference between a costly and a cheaper option.  However, in international shipping, there can be a vast difference.  The best way to ensure you are making an informed decision is by checking that you are comparing like for like.  For example, if you are importing three pallets from the USA, and require a door to door shipping service, you may get one quote from an agent of X, and a quote from another agent for Y.  But the quote for X (which looks much cheaper and more attractive) doesn’t actually cover the whole service, it just covers the ocean freight.  Because X is much cheaper you go for that option, believing this is all you need to pay, believing that all elements are covered.  But what about the US pick up, export clearance, UK customs clearance and the delivery to your door?  Not only is this now suddenly much more expensive than you were originally promised, now you’re annoyed that the freight forwarder wasn’t upfront with you in the first place.  Can this freight forwarder that misquoted even offer you those extra options on your shipping?  If they can’t who do you ask to arrange that for you?  It becomes confusing, complicated and unnecessarily stressful.

The bottom line is, if a ‘comparative’ quote sounds much cheaper, then it probably isn’t comparative.  Make sure you check exactly what this covers.  The seemingly cheaper option might not actually be cheaper when it comes to the crunch.  At Mercator, we make sure we know exactly what you need us to arrange for you and quote based on that.  We never hide fees or present you with invoices you were not expecting.  We have been in business for 25 years and our first customer is still our customer today.

Not Doing your Research

As a UK retailer, you are in the market to import ceramic tiles into the UK.  You find a supplier in China, the price is good and you like the product.  But did you know there is a high ‘anti-dumping duty’ on ceramic tiles from China?  Perhaps if you knew that, the tiles that you were considering importing from another country would have been in the same league.

The best thing to do is find what you want to import or export, do a bit of reading up online, can you find any specific measures which may make what you want to do difficult or expensive?  Discussing this with a freight forwarder could answer the questions that you have.  Do not purchase or agree to purchase anything until you know it is possible to ship what you want to ship and have investigated your costs of shipping.

Whether you are looking to import or export goods from the UK, Mercator can assist you with quotations, regulations, VAT & Duty tariffs, and even restrictions overseas.  We have a freight forwarding partner agent in over 95 countries worldwide thanks to our founding membership of the global network MarcoPoloLine.  If you have a query about an export to a certain country, we can call upon specialist knowledge from our freight forwarding partner located there, making the process straight forward and hassle free for you.

Not knowing your Costs

If you are in discussion about selling some goods to a customer in Australia (for example) you may need to let them know how much the shipping cost will be so that they can decide whether they complete the purchase.  Unless you have shipped a similar sized shipment to Australia before, it is not worth estimating the cost.  Make sure you get a solid quote from a freight forwarder (like Mercator).  The last thing you want to do is estimate it will cost X, ask your customer to pay you X, and then when you go to ship it, it costs Y and you are now out of pocket.  A reputable freight forwarder will be able and willing to get you costings for export and import shipments based on a prospective sale or purchase.

If you use Mercator to arrange your shipping, we will make sure that you know what you need to pay and when, so there are no nasty surprises.

Mercator is a reputable freight forwarder based in the UK.  We have over 20 years’ experience in international shipping and trade.  Our service is more than just arranging the shipping for you, we offer helpful advice and information so that you can make informed choices when it comes to international shipping.  If you’d like to discuss your shipping tasks with one of our team, then feel free to call us +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

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Biggest Export Markets by Country

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch published this insightful world map which displays each country’s largest export market.  The map does not cover exported services, but exported commodities and produced goods.

exports-map

The trends in world trade are clear from the colour coding of each classification of export commodity.  It is not surprising that most of the Middle East and North Africa are shaded dark blue for exporting oil.  From just a glance at the map it would seem that a huge part of the world relies on oil for exports, and highlights the affects that volatility in this market has on the world.

It is not surprising either that countries in South East Asia, the USA and China export electronic goods, whilst Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal all trade heavily in textiles and apparel.  However, India’s largest export market is precious stones, and not what you might expect of exporting mostly textiles or food and drink.  Also, Afghanistan’s largest export is opium!

As to be expected, the majority of Europe’s biggest export market is machinery and transportation.  Whilst the UK exports ‘manufactured goods’ – classified as machinery and transportation – most likely referring to the engineering equipment and machinery that the UK manufactures and exports.

Mercator is a UK based freight forwarder.  We arrange shipping across the globe for all industries.  Our services cover both UK imports and exports.  Thanks to our founding membership of the global freight network MPL, we have partner agents located around the world, allowing us to offer a full import and export service.  For a quote please call: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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Exporting to Chile – A Freight Forwarder Case Study

Mercator was recently asked to arrange the export shipment of a handmade wooden dinghy.  The boat was hand crafted by a company in Plymouth, and they approached Mercator looking for a freight forwarder to take care of the export shipping to Chile for them.  The Plymouth based company create hand built traditional wooden boats in the oldest covered slipway in the world.

Nina 7 (002)

As the cargo was not a sufficient size (10’ in length) in order to warrant a dedicated shipping container for the sea freight shipping, Mercator arranged for the dinghy to be loaded into a shared shipping container.  This is sometimes known as groupage, or LCL (less than container load), where several shipments share one shipping container and split the cost according to the volume taken up by each consignment.

Nina Box (2) (002)

The manufacturer arranged to build a crate for the dingy to be transported in.  They ensured that the crate was a snug fit so that the dinghy would not move inside the box and therefore minimising the risk of damage.  They added extra packaging in order to protect the parts of the boat that would otherwise be in direct contact with the crate.

Mercator arranged for a curtain sider to pick up the dinghy once it was packed and ready for shipping.  The onsite forklift truck loaded the crate onto the haulier’s truck in order for it to be transported to London Gateway Port and then loaded into the container nearby the quay.

The sea freight route from the UK to Valparaiso port in Chile is usually through the Panama Canal and then South down the West Coast of South America.  Valparaiso port is located just outside of Santiago, the Capital of Chile, about a third of the way down the coast of the country.  The other major container terminal port in Chile is Concepcion, approximately 300 miles further south.

Mercator has a partner agent based in Chile, in Santiago.  We have worked alongside them for over 6 years now.  They are also a member of the global freight forwarder network MarcoPoloLine (MPL).  As a member they are required to meet certain standards, have good conduct and be an independent freight forwarder.  Membership to MPL ensures that customers can trust that their cargo is in safe hands no matter where it is.

Our freight forwarder agent in Chile can assist with shipping to Chile once the cargo has arrived, including local customs clearance and even onwards delivery to the destination.  The connection with Chile also allows Mercator to have expert local knowledge directly from Chile with regards to shipping, clearance and documentation.

Nina Box (7) (002)

If you have an export shipment for Chile make sure that you choose a well-established and reputable freight forwarder who has direct connections locally in Chile.  If you would like to discuss an export shipment to Chile (or any part of South America) or you would like a quotation, then get in touch: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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Importing from China into the UK – A Freight Forwarding Case Study

We were recently approached by a UK based company, Nim’s Fruit Crisps, to assist with the import shipping of some machinery that they were purchasing from China.

Nim’s had purchased the goods from the Chinese manufacturer on an FOB (free on board) basis.  FOB is one of many international trade terms (INCOTERMS) which sets out who is responsible for different parts of the international shipment.  It is generally recommended to agree to purchase your goods FOB when they are coming from China.  FOB means that the supplier of the goods (the exporter) will arrange for your shipment to be delivered either to the port or warehouse in China.  From there, you are free to arrange for any UK based freight forwarder to take control of the shipment and arrange for the freight to the UK, UK customs clearance and delivery to your door.

FOB is best used when importing from China because it gives the UK agent ultimate control of the UK costs once the shipment arrives in the UK.  We have found that sometimes if the exporter (the company/person you are purchasing the goods from in China) arranges the ocean freight for you, the cost may seem competitive compared to what the UK freight forwarder is offering.  However, we have seen many importers stung financially, as once the shipment arrives in the UK there are extremely high charges to be paid upon import which cannot be avoided.  It works whereby the exporter has arranged for a UK agent to accept the shipment once it arrives, for which the exporter expects a remuneration in kind for giving the shipment to that particular agent.  The collection of this remuneration in kind unfortunately is built into those high charges you did not expect to be billed for.  It’s essentially a ‘back hander’.

nims import from china

Fortunately Nim’s agreed an FOB term, and so they contacted us to handle the ocean freight, UK clearance and delivery for them.  Our agent in China assisted to liaise with the Chinese exporter to arrange the drop off of the machinery to the origin port: Huanghua.  Huanghua port is just outside Beijing and Tianjin, in the north-east of China.  We were then able to arrange the sea freight from China to Felixstowe port in the UK.

As the cargo was not enough to fill a full shipping container, we arranged for the crated machinery to be loaded and shipped in a shared container.  Opting to ship goods as an LCL (less than container load) shipment brings the cost of the freight down.  Sea freight from China takes around one month.

Once the shipment arrived in the UK, Mercator complied the documents, arranged to pay HMRC import VAT & Duty that was due on Nim’s behalf, and then arranged for a truck to deliver the machinery to their door.

It is always recommended that you speak with a freight forwarder before you commit to buying goods, just to make sure that the commodities you are hoping to purchase will not be costly or impossible to import into the UK, to get advice about which Incoterm you should negotiate and to find out how much importing the goods might cost you.  If you want to import goods from China, then get in touch to discuss or to get a quote: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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Hong Kong Sets New Air Freight Record

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has announced a record 4.38 million tonnes of air freight handled in 2015.  The figures are up 0.1% since 2014, however, the 4.38 million tonnes sets the new record of cargo handled in a year.  The air freight through HKIA accounts for 39% of Hong Kong’s international trade.  Hong Kong’s main markets for both import and exports include Australasia and Europe.

The Hong Kong airport has been ranked the busiest airport for international cargo since 1996.  Hong Kong has key connecting flights with many countries worldwide.  The operators of the air freight division of the airport promotes that the airport is a cost effective and efficient choice for air freight to and from Asia.

Mercator has an excellent freight forwarder partner based in Hong Kong who we work with regularly.  Our freight services cover both air and sea freight (depending upon budget and urgency of the shipment).  If you have an import from Hong Kong, or you need to export to Hong Kong, Mercator has the contacts, knowledge and experience to make it happen.  Give us a call to discuss your requirements: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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UK Ports Announce Measures to Help UK Exporters Comply with the New VGM Regulations

The new SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations will require all sea freight cargo to be weighed prior to shipping.  The weight will need to be verified, so it will require specialist equipment either at loading or at the ports.  The new VGM (verified gross mass) regulations will come into force as of the 1st July 2016 and are applicable worldwide.

There has been some concern about how freight forwarders will be able to implement the new changes, how it might affect the costs of services and there have particularly been worries about the availability of the services required in order to verify the gross weight of UK export cargo.  Lack of a verified weight of the shipping container will mean that the goods cannot be shipped.

In the last few weeks, three of the major UK sea freight ports have come forward with help to assist shippers to comply with the VGM regulations.  The Port of Felixstowe, DP World London Gateway and Southampton have all announced that they will be offering weighing services for UK exporters.  The shipping containers will be weighed shortly after arrival at the port, and the weights will assist the ship planners to stow the cargo on the shipping vessels in an efficient and safe manner.

Mercator is a freight forwarder in the UK who exports goods from the UK on a daily basis.  We have direct connections and accounts with Port of Felixstowe and the two DP World Container Terminals at Southampton and London Gateway.  If you are currently exporting from the UK and are concerned about the new VGM regulations and how it may affect you, then get in contact.  Our freight forwarding services cover all aspects of shipping, from UK pick up (and packing), drop off at UK ports, ocean freight, local customs and to delivery at your destination.

To discuss your UK export requirements, give us a call: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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The Panama Canal Expansion 2016

The Panama Canal was originally constructed in the early 1900s.  It was built to offer a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, particularly for international trade so that vessels did not need to tackle the long and treacherous route of Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America.

Today container ships are on a different scale to those in operation when the Panama Canal was originally constructed.  As such, a huge project (first started up in 2007) is underway to expand the capacity of the Panama Canal.  Vessels which use the Panama Canal are called Panamax, and generally are under 5000 TEU (20’ shipping container equivalent).  Currently only about 30% of sea freight transits are made by ‘Panamax vessels’.  The current largest vessels (or megaships) are around 18,000 TEU.  The expansion will accommodate 14,000 TEU capacity container ships.

Due to an increase demand for the connection of the West Coast of the USA and the West Coast of South America, larger container ships will be utilised to use the Panama Canal to connect this area to the rest of the world.

It is thought that the expansion project will be complete by April 2016.  Once complete we expect for the shipping carriers to create new routes and callings for their container ships.

If you have an export from the UK to go to Chile or Los Angeles, or even an import from Peru or San Francisco, then Mercator can handle the process for you.  The Panama Canal is still in use whilst expansion occurs.  Mercator has over 20 years’ of import and export experience, partner agents in most countries and contacts with sea freight carriers.  Appointing us to handle your shipping tasks could take a weight off your mind.  Get in contact with us by calling: +44 2392 756 575 or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk

 

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APL Vanda Runs Aground on way to Southampton Port

The huge vessel APL Vanda ran aground on Saturday night (13th February 2016) in the same area as the Hoegh Osaka fell into trouble this time last year.

The 14,000 TEU container ship (TEU = 20’ shipping container equivalent – twice the size of the Hoegh Osaka) measuring over 350 meters in length was reported to have a power failure as it passed the Isle of Wight.  After running aground (reported to be deliberately) tug boats were dispatched whilst the tide was coming in, and they were able to free the container vessel.  The high tides allowed it to safely transit onwards to DP World Southampton port.

apl vanda

The Hoegh Osaka which ran aground in the same location last year began to list which made it extremely difficult to right and bring back safely into port.  Much of the RORO cargo on the Hoegh Osaka was damaged due to the listing (hence it is always a good idea to have freight insurance on your shipment to protect your investment whilst it is on the seas).

The APL Vanda came off lightly, as if it began to list, shipping containers could have started falling off of the vessel which would have caused huge problems for other vessels scheduled to use the shipping lane and customers who had cargo on board.

The APL Vanda had previously called at Beilun in China and was on its way from calling at Le Harve in France.  The container ship arrived into Southampton Port on Sunday and is currently on quay unloading UK imports from China.

Mercator can arrange all aspects of your import shipment including freight, customs clearance, payments to HMRC for release and onward delivery to your door.  If you have an import shipment for the UK, then get in touch: sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk or call us +44 2392 756 575.

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Important Changes to Freight Shipping Regulations

SOLAS Convention initiation (Safety Of Life At Sea) 1st of July 2016 – VGM (Verification of Gross Mass) Container Weight Implementation

With less than six months to go before the implementation of the SOLAS VGM (verified gross mass) regulations for accurate declaration of ALL shipping containers globally, the freight forwarding and shipping market is full of confusion and misunderstanding over the new procedures and how it will affect us all, including our customers.

The scheme, in a nutshell is designed to avoid any injury or damage caused by mis-declaration of container weight for all global container movements, in theory a good idea, but in practice the industry, including ocean carriers and freight forwarders alike, are having problems implementing effective solutions to make it viable.

At Mercator Cargo we have been aware of the upcoming changes for some time, and have been working with carriers and professional associations to be ready for the start date.

The scheme offers two choices for declaring the correct container weight:

  • Packed/Loaded containers to be weighed using calibrated and certified equipment (such as weighbridges)
  • Weighing all packages, cargo, dunnage and packing materials, again using certified equipment and adding to the container tare (weight) of the unladen container.

Both of these options have obvious flaws.

The lack of public or indeed any weighbridges in the UK is a huge problem, and finding one is also an issue, it would be most useful if a list of them was published, and made easily accessible to use for option 1.

Calibrated equipment is the flaw in option 2 – how can any agent, freight forwarder or carrier be sure that the equipment is calibrated and certified and is correct.

At the time of writing I must say I have huge reservations about this, and I am not alone.  Of the carriers I have spoken with, most of them have no idea how they are going to comply with these terms, and it seems unlikely to change in the near future.

And the UK is fortunate that most export containers that are loaded are certainly within ballpark figures of being correct in terms of weight.  However other countries such as India and China, who are two of the biggest global players, are notorious for mis-declaration of weight, we ourselves had one shipping container of stone imported from India declared as 25,000kgs but was in-fact over 35,000kgs!

How will countries with even worse infrastructure than us in the UK cope with these regulations? It remains to be seen, and I am sure this will not be the final blog I write on the subject!

The FAQ’s about the change can be viewed here: VGM FAQ

If you have any questions please email myles@mercatorcargo.co.uk or call +44 2392 756 575

 

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