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Category Archives: Freight Forwarder Experience

Import and Export Shipping Between the UK and Egypt

The import and export shipping team at Mercator recently arranged the temporary import and re-export of this Land Rover from Egypt. The owner required a specialist repair in the UK, so our agent in Egypt arranged the shipping from Egypt to the UK. Once the vehicle arrived at the UK port, our import team arranged the temporary import paperwork and customs entries accordingly, and onwards delivery to the repair garage.

Arranging a temporary import into the UK usually means that no import VAT or duties are payable. There is a list of requirements for a shipment to be able to be entered as a temporary import with UK customs, in this instance the shipment qualified for a temporary import.

Our team kept in touch with the UK garage so when the vehicle was ready for shipping to Egypt we arranged the collection, loading and lashing of the vehicle in the container, and sea freight to Egypt.
Alexandria is one of the main sea freight ports in Egypt. Sea freight shipping from Egypt to the UK takes around 20 days from port to port.

Mercator has a good working relationship with our partner agent in Egypt, thanks to our founding membership of the global freight forwarding network MarcoPoloLine. As such, we can handle all kinds of commercial cargo shipments to and from Egypt. Our shipping services to and from Egypt include air freight and sea freight.

If you have a commercial shipment to or from Egypt, or a temporary import into the UK that you would like a freight forwarder to handle, get in touch +44 2392 756 575 or email


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Shipping Containerised Cargo From Canada to the UK

Mercator Cargo has been involved in the shipping of some unusual cargo over the past 25 years.  We recently arranged the shipping of this collectable aircraft from Canada to the UK.

The customer approached us and asked for a door to door shipping service from Montreal, Canada to Swindon, UK.  Our import team put their heads together to come up with the best solution to ship the vintage aircraft.  The customer had already planned to take the wings off for shipping, and as such, the body of the plane had the right dimensions to fit into a 40’ high cube shipping container.

Shipping a specialist piece of cargo such as an airplane can require specific paperwork in order to export the cargo.  In this case, an export licence was required in Canada.  Thanks to our freight forwarding partner in Canada, we were able to assist our customer in being able to obtain this for export from Canada.

Loading (and unloading) an unusual or bulky load takes time, and it is not always possible to load within the allotted timeframe for a haulier.  We regularly arrange to drop a container to the ground for loading or unloading, and to leave the container in place for a number of days.  For this shipment from Canada, we dropped the container to the ground for both loading in Canada and unloading in the UK.

The import team instructed the collection of the shipment in Montreal, the container was delivered to the port to be loaded onto the vessel bound to the UK.  Once the container arrived in Southampton 11 days later, we arranged the customs clearance and onward delivery to door in Swindon.

If you have a shipment from Canada to the UK, or an unusual load you need some specialist help with, get in touch with our freight forwarding team to see how we can assist you: +44 2392 756 575 or email


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Importing and international freight from Vietnam

At Mercator Cargo we closely monitor worldwide manufacturing and sourcing trends. The recent increase in trade from Vietnam shows the move away from China to other countries, demonstrating the region as one potential new area for traders and manufacturers looking to source cheap, reliable products.

This, of course, is nothing new – like the move away from Europe to China which has prevailed in the previous decades, driven by the increase in the standard of living in China which has increased labour costs driving up manufacturing costs.

The latest move by the USA President, Donald Trump, to increase tariff/duty rates on goods from China will add further pressure to the Chinese manufacturing community. Many US Companies are looking to source goods from outside of China. It makes sense for the rest of the world to follow this trend and begin to look elsewhere, facilities manufacturing goods for the USA will also be able to manage the production of goods for the EU and the rest of the world.

We have excellent partners in Vietnam who not only can provide us with low freight rates for both air and sea, but who can also assist in finding trusted, reliable partners for your manufacturing and sourcing needs. We can also bolt on added services such as warehousing and consolidation.

As Vietnam, and other Asian countries continue to grow we forecast these markets will be the “new” China in a few years’ time, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this new era.

Make sure that you choose a well-established and reputable freight forwarder who has direct connections locally in Vietnam. If you would like to discuss any aspect of shipping or supply chain from Vietnam or you would like a quotation, then get in touch: +44 2392 756 575 or email


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Land Rover and Vehicle Shipping

For many years Mercator Cargo have been involved in international vehicle shipments. We have had the pleasure of moving hundreds of vehicles both to and from the UK, from the rare to rust bucket we have moved them all. Over the years we have built a network of trusted partners all over the world, in some cases we can help source vehicles as well as organise shipping.

We have seen the recent trend around the ever-popular Land Rover Defender, these vehicles are in huge demand since production stopped in 2016. Mercator is at the forefront of the steep increase in Defender shipping from the UK and other countries mainly to the USA where they are highly coveted.

Contact us to discuss shipping requirements of Land Rovers, or any other vehicles.

If you have a vehicle shipment make sure that you choose a well-established and reputable freight forwarder. If you would like to discuss a vehicle shipment or you would like a quotation, then get in touch: +44 2392 756 575 or email


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Importing Vehicles from South Africa to the UK

Mercator has seen consistent requests over the years to arrange shipping of cars from South Africa to the UK. We receive the vehicles in Durban, organize the secure loading into containers for shipping and arrange customs clearance of these vehicles into the UK; we negotiate port costs and arrange the unpacking on arrival into the UK including NOVA documentation. The sea freight from South Africa to the UK takes around 20-23 days.

Our most recent shipments include 2x Ford Escorts and 1x Suzuki motorcycle which were all loaded into one 40’ container, 3x Volkswagen Campers loaded into another 40’ Container and lastly 2x Range Rovers both also loaded into one 40’ Container.


Containerized vehicle shipping is much more secure than it might sound.  All vehicles that are loaded into the container are secured with various lashing and padding around the cars so that they do not move in transit – making it a safe shipping option.  Our vehicle shipping service even goes as far as arranging detailed inspection of the vehicle before and after it is shipped to ensure there is no damaged made during transit.

As part of a worldwide network of freight forwarders, we have personal contacts around the globe with local knowledge. Our Partner in South Africa is able to assist with Export Customs, transport and other associated activities. We can advise our customers on all aspects of exporting from South Africa to the UK. Our services for importing from  South Africa can be fully comprehensive including insurance, door-to-door imports, or as little as arranging your ocean or air freight.

If you have a vehicle to ship to the UK from South Africa then get in touch with us for a quote. Our import shipping team will be more than happy to help:

+44 2392 756 575 or email


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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


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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

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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


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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


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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 or call +44 2392 756 575


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