Frequently Asked Questions.

As Mercator is a member of a worldwide shipping network, MarcoPoloLine, we can offer our customers comprehensive shipping services in over 95 countries around the globe.  Utilising these partner freight forwarding offices, our worldwide shipping services can include clearance and delivery in overseas countries.  To read more about certain countries we ship to and from, please see our Where We Ship Page.

Yes, we can add cargo insurance to a shipment we handle for you.  The cost is worked out based on the value of the goods plus the cost of the freight.

We require the size of the shipment (dimensions and weight), origin and destination details and the buying terms agreed.  It is also useful to understand at this stage the nature of the goods in case they require specialist documentation or handling.

INCOTERMS are a set of international terms of sale, which are recognised around the world.  They are agreed between the buyer and seller of goods.  INCOTERMS specify who is responsible for different parts of the shipping process.  For example, FOB is a favoured term for UK importers, in this case, the seller of the goods is responsible to carry out export customs at origin, and transport the goods to the port of departure, including loading the goods onto the vessel.  From thereon, the buyer is responsible for all costs (including ocean freight) to door at destination.

Yes, Mercator’s customer service is perfect for new importers or exporters.  When you work with us, your account will be assigned to one member of the team who will handle everything for you from start to finish.  That member of the team will keep you updated and be on the end of the phone or email for any queries.  We can advise you on everything you need to do to be able to ship successfully, guiding you around any pitfalls

Air Freight Questions.

Chargeable weight for air freight shipments is either based on the volume of the shipment, or the gross weight – whichever is larger.  Generally, if you have a heavy but small shipment, the actual weight will be chargeable.  Conversely, if your shipment is large but lightweight, the volume will be chargeable.  The volumetric weight is calculated by dividing the cubic meters by 0.006.

For example, 1 pallet measuring 1.4m x 1.0m x 0.9m = 1.26 cubic meters.  Divided by 0.006 = 210: the volumetric weight is 210kg.  If this pallet, for example, weighs 100kg, then 210kg is the chargeable weight as it is greater than the actual weight.

As standard air freight tends to transit on commercial passenger aircraft.  There are exceptions to this rule including the height of the shipment.  If your air freight shipment is over 160cm in height, then it will need to be scheduled onto a cargo aircraft.

Yes, we regularly handle air freight of dangerous goods both as imports into the UK and exports from the UK.  We have a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor who is expert in the field, offering help and advice with matters such as correct packaging procedures, classification and paperwork required.

Yes, unless the shipment requires special handling, such as an anomaly with the weight or dimensions, requiring temperature control or specific classification of dangerous goods.  Around 60 per cent of air freight is transported in the hold of passenger aircraft.

Sea Freight Questions.

FCL (full container load) is where you have sole use of the shipping container from origin right through to destination.  Your goods will be loaded and secured, then the shipping container will be sealed, not opened until it has reached the destination (unless there are any UK Customs holds which require the goods to be inspected).

LCL (less than container load) is where your goods are loaded into a shipping container with other consignments.  Your goods will be picked up at origin, and then packed into a shared container.  Once it has reached the destination port, the shipping container will be transported to a warehouse where the individual shipments are unloaded before making their onward journey to the delivery addresses.

Europallets (1.2m x 0.8m)

11 europallets will fit into a standard 20’ container

You can get 25 europallets in a standard 40’ container


Standard pallets (1.2m x 1.0m)

You can fit 10 standard pallets in a standard 20’ container

21 standard pallets fit into a standard 40’ container

The standard height and width of shipping containers is 8’ 6” high and 8’ wide.  The most common shipping containers are 40 foot containers, which, you guessed it, measure 40 feet long.  A 40 foot shipping container is available also in a “high cube” version, which is 9’ 6” high (great for taller cargo).  20 foot shipping containers are the next most common, which measure 20 feet long.

Specialist shipping containers include out of gauge options: open top containers, flat rack containers, and platforms.  There are also temperature-controlled containers, known as reefers in various sizes including 40 foot and 20 foot.

Customs Clearance Questions.

Customs Clearance in the UK is the notification to HMRC of goods entering or departing the country.  It is generally undertaken via specialist customs clearance software which links up to the ports in the UK and HMRC’s systems.

The requirement to pay import duties and taxes in the UK will depend on the nature of the goods you are importing.  Generally, import VAT (if applicable) is charged at 20% and duties will be applied according to the classification of the goods.  As part of our customs clearance service, we will calculate the total amount of import VAT and duty due.  You can either pay this directly to HMRC, or pay us and we will forward it on for you.

A commodity code is a universal classification system of goods.  Commonly, when you purchase goods from an overseas company, they will provide you with the commodity code(s).  You can look up codes and check UK VAT & duty rates here:

Yes, you will need to apply for an EORI number for your company.  You can do so here:

Thanks to our direct links with the major ports and airports throughout the UK, customs clearance can take a matter of hours.  This is reliant on the fact that you have provided all the information needed in advance and there are no extra checks required on your shipment.

A copy of the transport document (Sea freight – Bill of Lading; Road freight – CMR; Air freight – AWB); a copy of the commercial invoice detailing the commodity codes, incoterms i.e. FOB, CFR etc, value of the shipment and the currency; the routing of the shipment, including port of departure or arrival in the UK; and your company’s EORI number.

We require you to complete a “Letter of Direct Representation” on your company’s letterhead, this allows us to submit Customs Clearances for you.  Following the quoting stage, we will send you a template you can use for this purpose.

Depending on the nature of the consumables, you may require phytosanitary certificates, health certificates or licences to import.  If this is the first time you have imported food into the UK, then we would recommend checking what you need prior to departure.  Our team are knowledgeable and can point you in the right direction for any clarification required.

Still have more questions? Fill out the form below or give us a call on 023 9275 6575 and we'll be more than happy to help.