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Importing Freight Best Practices: Information, Supplier Choice, Your Team, Documentation, and Invoices

importing freight best practices

In this second part about best practices and need to knows when importing freight, I will cover the importance of information in the import process,  supplier importance, your internal team set up, documentation, and what should be included on invoices. In yesterday’s post I covered the introduction to best practices when importing freight covering the important rules, so make sure you give it a read as well. While Cerasis does not directly offer products and services as an international freight forwarder,our affiliates and partners do, as well as Chuck can lead you to the best international freight forwarder through his consultancy. Cerasis focuses on the freight management for shippers in North America, specifically using freight technology, a TMS, to automate process in the shipment of LTL, TL, and Small Package freight.

Importing Freight Best Practices Part 2

Information Flow is Key

To manage imports effectively, the business community needs to have a better mechanism for managing information flow. You need an automated system for information flow that uses a central database so that you can manage all the way through the supply chain. If you manage your information flow and supply chain from a security point of view, the long-range benefits will outweigh the short-term costs in the process of importing freight.

Your Suppliers are Critical

importing freight suppliersImporting freight starts with a purchase order to an offshore supplier. The supplier has to get things right so problems are solved in advanced and this will eliminate delays. Whatever the approach, working with suppliers will become even more important to importers, as it is a crucial part of the C-TPAT certification process.

When the Supplier gets ready to ship, they should work with Freight forwarder to consolidate the goods into a container load.

Port strikes do occur and have to be managed by all parties involved in importation. The customer, at times, has to visit the port to where the vessel is sent to and work with longshoremen and steamship lines to expedite their shipment right on the spot. At Schwinn, I was the International Purchasing Manager and Import Manager and flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia to expedite bicycle parts for Schwinn’s assembly line during the New York dock strike. The ships were lined up for miles in Halifax, and efforts to get around it were a challenge, but being on there certainly helped.

Create your Own Import Team

Select forwarders and brokers that will work on their own process improvement when importing freight, and challenge you and your organization to do the same. Then measure their performance, such as evaluating how long it takes the freight forwarder to turn documents over to the customs broker, and how fast the broker clears shipments.

Additionally, provide effective oversight of your providers. About ten years ago, Customs changed the rules of the game with the Customs Modernization Act. This included the concept we now know as ‘reasonable care.

Many companies have not recognized what reasonable care has done in shifting responsibility to the importer. They still lean heavily on their broker, and may not recognize that they’re ultimately liable if the broker makes a mistake. Importers must select and manage brokers carefully, and use the broker as a source of information rather than as the ultimate decision-maker.

Educate, educate, educate

International trade skills are an important part of a logistics or supply chain manager’s knowledge. “Logistics managers need to control the timing and cost of moving goods across the border,” Gould says.

He urges logisticians to get smart about imports. Take courses, and look at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection web site and stay abreast of the state-of-the–art in importation!

And study INCOTERMS for translation of where responsibility for imports lie.

Documents that shall be submitted when Importing Freight

The following import documents shall be submitted with an import declaration, as far as applicable:

  • An invoice
  • A bill of lading or a transport document issued in connection with the transport of the goods; however when there is submitted a bill covering freight charges or a notice from the transporter to the consignee concerning a consignment of goods, and these documents contain the same information as specified in regular bills of lading, a bill of lading need not be submitted unless specially requested,
  • A bill covering freight charges,
  • A certificate of origin when preferential customs treatment is requested in accordance with international agreements to which Iceland is a party, unless a declaration of origin has been entered on the invoice,
  • other documents concerning the imported goods which are of relevance to their customs treatment, e.g. an import license when required, a confirmation of an authorization for special customs treatment when such is the case, or other certificates required in special circumstances.


Invoices shall contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the seller (consignor),
  • Name and address of the buyer (consignee),
  • Place and date of issue,
  • When the sale took place,
  • Number of pieces, type of packing, weight, marks and numbers,
  • The goods contained in a consignment, type, make and quantity (number, weight or measurements, as the case may be),
  • The selling price of individual articles and the currency in which the price is specified,
  • Terms of payment, payment conditions and delivery conditions, discounts and other deductions and the reasons for granting such discounts or making such deductions.

Importing freight, while may seem complicated, can easily be mastered by following the fundamental best practices. What thoughts would you like to share when importing freight not discussed in this two part series. Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email to discuss further.