Guide to Choosing and Working with Shipping Agents in China

Release time:2024-01-04 16:49

Finding an excellent shipping agent in China for transporting goods to the United States requires a systematic approach. Here's a comprehensive guide covering how to find a shipping agent, negotiate lower fees, understand trade terms, handle customs duties, and prepare for door-to-door service.

1. Finding a Shipping Agent in China

Channels to Find Shipping Agents:

Online Platforms: Websites like Alibaba and Made-in-China list numerous shipping agents.

Trade Fairs: Attend industry-specific fairs in China where shipping companies exhibit.

Referrals: Ask for recommendations from business contacts or industry associations.

B2B Marketplaces: Use platforms like Global Sources to find reputable agents.

Social Media: LinkedIn and similar platforms can be useful for finding and vetting agents.

2. Negotiating Lower Shipping Fees

Compare Quotes: Gather quotes from multiple agents to leverage in negotiations.

Volume Discounts: Discuss discounts for shipping in larger volumes.

Long-term Contracts: Consider negotiating for long-term contracts for better rates.

Off-Peak Shipping: Explore off-peak times for potentially lower rates.

3. Understanding EXW and FOB

EXW (Ex Works): The buyer is responsible for all transportation costs, risks, and duties from the seller's premises. Ideal for buyers with strong logistics networks.

FOB (Free on Board): The seller is responsible for local transportation and loading costs in China. The buyer handles the sea freight, insurance, and unloading in the U.S.

Impact on Shipping Agents: Agents typically handle more responsibilities under FOB compared to EXW.

4. Working with Shipping Agents on Different Terms

EXW: Agents focus on the international leg of the journey, with less involvement in local Chinese logistics.

FOB: Agents might offer comprehensive services including local transportation in China.

5. Paying Customs Duties

Duty Calculation: Understand how duties are calculated based on the Harmonized Tariff System.

Payment Methods: Duties can be paid online via the U.S. Customs and Border Protection portal or through a customs broker.

Role of Shipping Agent: Some agents offer customs brokerage services, facilitating duty payment.

6. Preparing for Door-to-Door Service

Required Documents:

Commercial Invoice: Details about the goods and the transaction.

Packing List: Details of how goods are packed.

Bill of Lading or Air Waybill: Contract of carriage between shipper and carrier.

Insurance Documents: If applicable, for claiming any losses during transit.

Import/Export Declarations: As required by customs authorities.

Shipping Agent's Role: They often coordinate the preparation and submission of these documents.

7. Conclusion and Best Practices

Due Diligence: Always conduct thorough background checks on potential shipping agents.

Clear Communication: Maintain clear and regular communication with your chosen agent.

Understand Incoterms: A clear understanding of trade terms helps in smooth transactions.

Insurance: Ensure your goods are adequately insured for international transportation.


Selecting a reliable shipping agent and understanding the nuances of international logistics can significantly impact the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your supply chain. By following these guidelines, you can streamline your shipping process and mitigate potential risks.