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Category Archives: Freight Forwarder Experience

Freight Forwarding News – Benefits of Freight Forwarders Belonging to a Global Network

Mercator Cargo is a founding member of the global freight forwarding network Marco Polo Line (MPL).  What does this mean for you, the potential (or existing) customer?

Marco Polo Line was founded with the intention to give independent freight forwarders (like Mercator Cargo) advantages that the bigger freight forwarders have traditionally enjoyed over the independent forwarders.

The first, and biggest impact that Mercator finds invaluable on a daily basis (both for our customers, and our operations in the office) is the personal contacts that we now have globally.  Marco Polo Line holds annual conferences, where members can meet face-to-face and build working relationships.  Mercator Cargo takes full advantage of these conferences, sending at least two members of the freight forwarding team.  These personal contacts allow Mercator to arrange shipments seamlessly, using valuable local knowledge, and offer to-door shipments in almost any country in the world (thanks to our global partners).

The other advantage is that members are ‘vetted’, tried and tested (you cannot join MPL by just filling a form in).  Membership is monitored, so if there are problems, these can be raised and eradicated.  This means that our partner offices are trustworthy and reliable to handle your shipments, where ever they are in the world.

These are just a few examples of the benefits of choosing Mercator as your freight forwarder.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your freight forwarding needs – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding – Customs Clearance for Importing to the UK

If you are importing goods into the UK for the first time, you will need to understand ‘customs clearance’ and your responsibilities with regards to paying VAT & Duty on your import.  As freight forwarders, we can handle your customs clearance for you.

If you do not yet have an EORI Number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) then you will need to contact HMRC to obtain one.  This number will be used as a reference when dealing with any customs matters relating to your shipments.  It is a requirement to have an EORI number when importing goods into the UK, and it is fairly straight forward to obtain one (generally it takes less than a week to obtain this through HMRC).

I have my EORI number, what else do I need to know?  The following list details some other aspects you will need to know/have before you import your goods:

  • Your EORI number for imports;
  • Deferment Number (if you already have one existing with HMRC);
  • A full description of your goods and a Customs Tariff Code (we can assist you with this).

What do I actually need on the day of import?  In order for your goods to clear customs, you will need to have the following sent to us in advance of the import:

  • The commercial invoice from the shipper of the goods;
  • Certificate of Origin of the goods;
  • Generalised System of Preference (if applicable).

These documents will not only allow us to proceed with customs clearance, but will also allow us to calculate the amount of VAT and duty payable (this can be worked out in advance if required).

If you choose us as your freight forwarder to handle your import into the UK, and decide for us to handle your VAT & duty payment to HMRC, we will require the cleared funds to be able to release your shipment.

If this sounds intimidating, then please do not despair!  As experienced freight forwarders we are here to guide our customers through this process, and are happy to provide a “hand holding” service for those new to the process.

Give us a call today if you have any questions about your import shipment with us – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding – Terms of Delivery when Buying Internationally

If you are looking to begin international trade: buying your goods outside of the UK and importing them, there are some terms of delivery which you will agree with your supplier that are important that you understand.

It is generally advised that you use ‘INCOTERMS’ when buying your goods internationally. INCOTERMS are a set of rules which have been issued by the International Chamber of Commerce. The terms outline both the buyer’s and the seller’s obligations and risk under given terms of delivery. The precise nature of these terms and their definitions can prevent misunderstandings between the buyer and seller and their obligations.

The following are the main terms used for delivery (there are many others, but generally these are the ones to know about).

EXW – Ex Works. The buyer is responsible for the door to door transport costs, destination taxes and duties, and marine insurance. It is the buyer’s risk from door to door.

FOB – Free on Board. The seller is responsible for charges up to and over the ‘ship’s rail’ (the ship’s rail being the point where the container is lifted off the quay and over the side of the ship). It is the seller’s risk up to and over the ship’s rail.
The buyer is responsible for the shipping costs from the port of departure to the place of delivery, marine insurance from the port of loading and destination duties and taxes.

CFR – Cost and Freight. The seller is responsible for the FOB charges and ocean freight up to the named port of destination. It is the seller’s risk up to the FOB.
The buyer is responsible for unloading from the ship, duties and taxes, and local delivery to the destination and marine insurance from the FOB.

CIF – Cost Insurance Freight. Same as CFR (above), but the seller arranges and pays for the marine insurance up to the buyer’s door.

We can offer all levels of service, from arranging every single aspect for you (e.g. door to door delivery, insurance, customs clearance, VAT & Duty payments, and so on), or just one part of your shipment for you, for example the ocean freight.

If this has left you baffled and you’re not sure what to do next, then give us a call to discuss your shipment. We’d be happy to help you make sense of this and assist you with arranging your import into the UK – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding – New to International Trade and Importing?

If you haven’t dealt with international trade before, the business of importing your goods into the UK might seem like a bit of a challenge.

It is a good idea to appoint a freight forwarder with the required knowledge and experience to assist you with your shipments.

Not only can a good freight forwarder arrange the actual shipment for you from A to B, but they should be able to impart some useful advice when it comes to buying your goods abroad.

When buying your goods, here are some pointers that you may wish to think about before signing anything with a supplier:

–          Ensure you know how much your goods are going to cost;
–          Make sure you know how much it is going to cost to transport your goods to your warehouse;
–          Make sure you investigate as to whether there are any restrictions on the goods you wish to import into the UK (an experienced freight forwarder will be able to advise);
–          Ensure that your contract of purchase is sound;
–          Make sure that you will get your goods once you have paid, or have legally agreed to pay.

These are just a few pointers to consider when looking to import into the UK.  If you are at this stage, then it will be worth contacting a freight forwarder to obtain a quote for the importation of your goods.  An experienced freight forwarder will be able to offer you a variety of different levels of shipping services – for example, a comprehensive service from door to door, including all insurance, customs clearance, VAT & Duty payments to HMRC etc, or just an aspect of your shipment, for example just the ocean freight.

If you’re looking to import goods into the UK, then contact Mercator Cargo today, our family-run business can offer you support and advice when it comes to importing for the first time – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding – Which UK Port Shall I Import My Goods Through?

Mercator Cargo is an independent freight forwarder, based in the UK in Portsmouth.  Having been running for over twenty years, with the same management in situ, Mercator has a wealth of experience in importing goods into the UK via various ports.  As an independent business, still run and owned by the same family, we are able to offer our customers a comprehensive customer service, and offer different levels of freight forwarding services depending upon your requirements.

From some locations, your vessel may only call at one port in the UK, in which case, you do not need to worry about making a decision as to which port to use.

Depending on where you are importing from, you may choose to import your goods into the UK via the Port of Southampton.  Located on the South Coast of England, with good transport links, it may be your preferred choice for your cargo to be unloaded into the UK.

We also operate the majority of our UK imports through Felixstowe and Tilbury (often preferred choices of container ports for deliveries further North).  Both with excellent transport links, and capacities to handle a great deal of cargo on a daily basis.

Your choice of import container port in the UK may also take into account sailing times of the vessel your cargo is on.  Some vessels will just call at one container port in the UK, whereas others may call at several.  Which port they call at first, may be your choice of unloading if you wish to have your goods in the UK slightly sooner.

The below video clip is taken from the BBC’s show ‘Sea City’ which followed the workings of Southampton container port.  This particular clip shows the operation of the cranes unloading the containers from the vessel at the port.

If you’re looking for an independent freight forwarder to handle your UK import, then call us today to discuss your requirements – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding to South Africa

Mercator Cargo handle regular air freight and sea freight shipments as exports to South Africa.  The most common export goods are technical products such as precision engineered machinery, accessories and various hazardous chemicals.

As an independent freight forwarder, Mercator also sees seasonal exports, such as Gliders during the southern hemisphere summer period.  These are usually shipped from Europe to South Africa under temporary export to take advantage of the good weather.

In order to import goods into South Africa, either yourself, or the end user must be registered with South African customs.

As part of a global network of freight forwarders, we have a very reliable and solid partner in South Africa who is able to give guidance on customs procedures.  Our freight forwarding services range from delivery to door in South Africa, assistance with customs clearance, unpacking and other procedures.

So if you’re looking for an experienced freight forwarder to manage your export shipment to South Africa, email or call us – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Mercator to Attend Freight Forwarder Exhibition – Mexico

Cargo Week Americas and Expo Carga are running this June in Mexico City.

The aim of the international trade exhibition is to allow members of international trade to meet and discuss business together.  It is a great networking opportunity, and Mercator (and independent, international freight forwarder) will be in attendance this year.

Paul, our MD, will be representing Mercator Cargo on the Marco Polo Line stand (Stand Number 423).  Marco Polo Line (or MPL) was set up as a global network for independent freight forwarders like Mercator.  We are proud to be a founding member of this international network.

As a part of MPL, Mercator has strong relationships with other freight forwarders around the globe.  This allows us invaluable local knowledge and personal contacts where ever your cargo goes.

If you are attending Expo Carga, please come and say ‘hello’ to Paul.  And if you are looking to book a meeting as part of the ‘Cargo Week Americas’, we will be represented by Luis, who is fluent in English and Spanish.  To arrange a one-to-one meeting, please email Mr. Alexandre Surman (who speaks fluent English)


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Freight Forwarding Import Service Fees – China, Far East and Indian-Subcontinent

It is advised that you appoint an experienced freight forwarder when you import goods from China, the Far East or the Indian-Subcontinent.  It is quite a well-known issue that if you rely on your supplier to arrange the shipment when the  goods arrive into the UK there are extra higher charges payable.

Why does this happen?  When the supplier of the goods arranges the shipment to the UK, they will contact a UK based agent to accept the shipment.  In return for this, the supplier will expect ‘remuneration in kind’ – these are extra charges, and ultimately it is the UK importer who will have to stump up the bill.

It is essential that if you wish to import goods from either China, the Far East or the Indian-Subcontinent, that you choose a reliable freight forwarder who can ‘take control of your cargo and charges’.

What does this mean in plain English?  By nominating Mercator Cargo as your UK based freight forwarder to take the whole shipment from origin either under FOB (an INCO term ‘free on board’) or EX Work Terms, and avoiding CIF Terms (cost insurance freight – where the shipper pays/arranges the freight), in other words taking ‘full control of your shipment’ and letting us arrange the freight, there will not be any unexpected higher charges upon arrival.

For example, we recently shipped in some goods from Pakistan for a customer – for one of the containers we were given ‘control’ and we arranged the full shipment from the door in Pakistan, to the port, via ocean freight and onwards to the door in the UK.  The same customer had another shipment from Pakistan of a similar size from the same supplier in the same origin, however they decided to allow their supplier to arrange the shipment under CIF Terms.  Using this option, they incurred an invoice for the UK port charges and local UK delivery fees, not including ocean freight, which came to 75% of the invoice total of our full door-to-door shipment from Pakistan to the UK.  In other words, they paid too much in charges for their shipment.

If you decide to appoint Mercator as your freight forwarder and give us ‘control’ of your cargo you could save yourself money.  Don’t get ripped off by another option which might look cheaper, because in the long run, it is likely that it will not be cheaper.  If you switch to FOB or EX Works and choose us to be your freight forwarder starting from at least the ocean freight, you can eliminate any ‘surprise’ charges and you could save your business money and avoid headaches when the cargo does not arrive on time, and costs you more than it should.

Contact Mercator before you agree on your buying terms.  If you buy on CIF (cost insurance freight – where the shipper pays/arranges the freight) you are at risk of paying too much for the service you are receiving.

So give us a call to speak to a member of the imports team and discuss how we can take control of your import shipment and most importantly your charges so they don’t get out of hand – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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Freight Forwarding Exports to the USA

Mercator Cargo is an independent freight forwarder, based in the UK. Having been operating for over twenty years, we regularly arrange export shipments to the USA from the UK.

Direct sea freight shipments from the UK to the USA depart from a number of UK ports, including Liverpool, Southampton, Thamesport and Felixstowe. Each of these departure ports have direct sailings to different parts of the USA.

Sea freight transit times vary from 7 days sailing to New York, to 31 days sailing to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal.

There are daily departures for air freight direct to various airports in the USA, including New York, Chicago, Texas and Miami.

As founding members of the global network Marco Polo Line (MPL), we have contacts with various freight forwarders across the USA. These connections allow us to offer a comprehensive door-to-door service across the States.

For exports to the USA from the UK, documentation needs to be prepared no less than three days prior to vessel departures.

So if you’re looking for an experienced freight forwarder to handle your export shipment to the USA, then give us a call – Tel. 02392 756 575. Email:


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The International Food and Drink Event 2013

Are you exhibiting at the International Food and Drink Exhibition (IFE) this year?

Are you hoping to meet some new suppliers/buyers?

How would you feel if they were based outside the UK? Perhaps you have never dealt with imports or exports, you might feel this situation would be daunting, or you may have had difficulties in this area in the past.

Mercator Cargo is visiting IFE, represented by Paul (our MD) and (hopefully*) James (*his wife is expecting their first a few weeks following the exhibition – if their baby arrives early you may spot him as the man with the biggest grin on his face!).

Paul has been running Mercator Cargo for over twenty years and been in the freight forwarding industry for almost 40. The firm’s experiences in shipping food stuffs include coffee, noodles, sauces, jarred and canned goods, seeds, pastes, rice, oils, juices, flours, and food grains.

Paul’s son, James, joined the exports team in 2009, and has grown into his role, overseeing the majority of our complex food logistics (including peanuts, curry pastes, and rice).

Not only do the team at Mercator have the necessary experience to handle your food shipments, Paul and James have a genuine interest in food, especially world foods.

With personal contacts in almost every country in the world we are able to draw on local knowledge at your goods destination or origin.

If you would like James or Paul to darken your stand for 15 minutes during the exhibition, then please feel free to email us on (this will arrive at both James and Paul’s inboxes).

James and Paul will be happy to answer any questions you might have about shipments.  If we don’t know the answer to your question, James or Paul will endeavour to find you the correct answer. Paul’s motto is “there’s no such phrase as ‘it can’t be done'”.

We look forward to hearing from you.


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