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    1. T.Seller's Avatar
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      #1

      What is a C&F? Definition of Customs Clearing & Forwarding agent

      As my business has grown, keeping up with and coordinating overseas shipments has become a full-time job in itself. A colleague suggested I look into a C&F agent. What do I need to know about a C&F? How will using one be beneficial to me?
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      C&Fs (Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agent) grew out of the need to provide businesses with smart shipping resources and provide up-to-date knowledge to get through customs quickly and easily.

      One of the primary jobs of a C&F is to keep your shipping costs low, by providing a range of available transportation modes with services related to shipping, like packaging, and acting as experts in clearing customs.

      The best service they can provide for you is tailoring shipping needs particularly suited for your business according to the goods that you ship and where they are sourced. For importing clients, they work to get the best mode of transportation from the manufacturer or wholesaler to the local customs office upon arrival. For exporting, they choose the best method to take goods from your doorstep to the destination’s customs office. A C&F can greatly reduce shipping expenses and the time you spend on customs forms, etc.
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      #3
      How does the process work? What will they take care of that I can free myself from doing?

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      #4
      Shipping

      C&F agents have access to several modes of transportation: motor, water, rail, air, and pipeline. Freight costs are determined by the size of goods, weight and its destination. They will do the work for you to determine which mode is most cost effective and quickest.

      Often, C&F agents, because they deal with many clients, consolidate shipments among several businesses to get the best deal. For example, an agent may “buy” space on a ship and then “sell” smaller lots within that space to its clients.

      Customs

      Keeping track of what documents you need and who needs them can get really time consuming, and, frankly, it’s a bit of a headache. C&F agents work on your behalf to gather all the necessary documents to clear your goods through customs. They also keep up with changes in customs and staying abreast of updated regulations is essential, especially if you ship internationally from multiple countries,

      The C&F agent I use is invaluable, because I can rely on them to help me with:

      • Customs and duty forms

      • Legal documents

      • Certificate of origin

      • L/C (if necessary)

      • Estimating costs for entering the country

      • Choosing the most efficient mode of transport and packaging for clearing customs

      • Door to Door service. This is a comprehensive service of what agents can offer. The inclusive service includes filing all documentation needed for export/import, arranging carriers, packaging, and storage. This is particularly helpful for the small or medium business, whereas a larger business typically has its own people to do this. This is worth checking out, because rates for the service are usually pretty reasonable.

      The knowledge that a clearing and forwarding agent has for documents required, customs regulations, transportation modes and costs, along with bank regulations are invaluable if you’re ready to take the next step with your business.

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      #5
      A good C&F agent will also have access to warehouses that can store your goods as they move along the shipping process from the point of origin to delivery. In some countries, having access to a secure warehouse facility is vital to avoid loss of goods or damaged goods.

      Also, they provide packaging services, and most agents will provide for custom packaging, if necessary, depending on the goods you purchase and the mode of transportation. The way goods are packaged can also speed your shipment through customs.

      Some agents will act as the conduit to facilitate any inspections required by customs or your own business needs.

      When choosing an agent, one thing you want to look for is what type of goods they deal with and what they specialize in. If you’re shipping cars, for example, it makes sense to choose an agent that is highly experienced with vehicles and knows the paperwork to get them through.

      Agents not only specialize in different types of goods, but some will specialize in personal, business, small or large shipments. Know what kind you need before securing one.

      C&F agents should be diversified, in my opinion, because that gives you more access to options; however, if you deal strictly with one or two types of products, you might want to find one who services that particular industry.

      One more thing: if you’re dealing internationally, get an international agent. It’ll be worth the cost to pay for the knowledge and accessibility to shipping and packaging. If you’re only domestic, a domestic agent should suffice. A small domestic agency might be more affordable if you’re shipping within the country.

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      A good C&F agent should also have connections to link via the web to various customs and port authorities to access current information about your shipments.

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