International Trade Imports and Exports
Federal Clearing & Forwarding
What are imports and exports? This represents goods arriving in and leaving the country. In a country like South Africa, export and import goods aid in the growth of the national economy, and export and import also expand the global market. South African Revenue Services (Customs & Excise division) controls the movement of all Goods being exported, imported or passing through the South African borders (in transit).

For new exporters and importers, it is essential that your register your company with South African Revenue Services (SARS) to obtain a Customs Client Number (CCN). The CCN is often referred to as an export or import license or customs code number. SARS refer to this process as registering, licensing and accreditation (RLA). The CCN can be applied for via your company’s E-Filing profile. There are forms that you will complete, including the DA185, DA185.4A1 for imports and DA185.4A2 for exports. The system should also guide you to the documents that should be completed if you wish to register to export under any of the trade agreements.

As exporters and importers it would be wise to immediately begin the process of registering for the SARS Authorised Economic Operator Program, or AEO. “What is an AEO? An Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) is a company involved in the international movement of goods and approved by SARS Customs as complying with World Customs Organisation or equivalent compliance and supply chain security standards. AEOs may include manufacturers, importers, exporters, brokers, carriers, consolidators, intermediaries, ports, airports, terminal operators, integrated operators, warehouses, distributors and freight forwarders. The programme aims to enhance international supply chain security and facilitate the movement of legitimate goods. SARS introduced different levels of accreditation with benefits assigned to each accreditation level with the aim to provide specific benefits to Accredited clients trading in the regional market (SACU) as well as the international market. The Authorized Economic Operator compliance programme also known as Level 1 Accreditation is a voluntary programme in which participating entities or traders cooperate with SARS customs in maintaining high-quality measures in terms of internal operational processes and computer systems, appropriate records of compliance, sufficient financial resources as well as display sufficient customs knowledge to be held responsible for Customs matters.

Benefits of AEO accreditation include; the appointment of a relationship manager at SARS, prioritised expedited and flexible inspections, prioritisation of requests for valuation determinations, authorisation to use the SARS AEO logo, reduction in the amount of security required to register for certain client types, and fewer routine, documentary and physical inspections.

When trading internationally, we recommend that the starting point for any successful export or import is choosing the correct International Commercial Term (incoterm) you will use for your transaction. Incoterm rules are three-letter trade terms, specifically created to facilitate international trade. The terms denote the obligations of the parties to the transaction, where the risk transfers from the buyer to the seller, and which party is responsible for which costs. Examples of three letter incoterms are EXW (Ex Works or Ex-Factory), FCA (Free Carrier), CPT (Carriage Paid To), CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To, DAP (Delivered at Place), DPU (Delivered at Place Unloaded, and DDP (Delivered Duty Paid).

Sometimes it is necessary to procure quotes under a few different terms before you can decide which incoterm to settle on. When procuring the quotes be careful to examine what you are paying for because you might be influenced into accepting a certain quote/inco term without realising that there are hidden fees that are applicable at the destination because the agent has reduced their fees at the origin but agreed with a destination agent to inflate destination release and delivery costs. For this reason, we recommend developing a relationship with an export or import agent to make use of their knowledge and relationships within the supply chain, specifically with agents and operators at the origin and destination. Third-party logistics (3PL) providers as they are often referred to maintain networks, that include relationships with shipping lines, airlines, container operators (FCL/LCL/FCLG), transporters (truckers/haulers) and warehouses for bonded storage, or storage for later distribution.

A good export or import agent will be able to point you to the obvious regulations and regulatory bodies so that you can make sure that you are compliant and in possession of the necessary permits, certificates, or permissions before goods are shipped. As an exporter and importer, it is important that you become (if you are not already) a product expert in the goods you are trading. When there are discussions about tariff classifications or regulatory requirements your knowledge is essential in determining the classification. Regulatory requirements, trade agreements, and taxes (duty, vat, surcharges) are linked directly to the Hs code or tariff classification.

Note that the harmonised classification system (HS or Tariff Classification) means that countries that are aligned with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) will usually use the same first six digits to classify products, so it is always a good idea if you are an exporter to make the classification available to the importer, and likewise, if you are an importer to ask your supplier who is a product expert to advise which hs classification they use when exporting. This does not mean that customs in the importing country will accept the classification, but it will at least carry persuasive weight when there is debate over classification. When importing to South Africa it is important to note that SARS Customs South Africa is the only entity other than the courts that can issue a tariff determination.

Goods are exported from and imported to South Africa by any of the following modes of transport: Air, Sea, Road and Rail. Federal Clearing & Forwarding deal mostly with air and sea; however, we are happy to procure road or rail services should an exporter or importer need this type of transport.

Federal Clearing offers a full logistics service from pick up at the factory, to packing, palletising, weighing, measuring, loading or unloading (stuffing or destuffing) containers, insuring, delivering, customs clearance (export or import, at origin and destination), storing or warehousing and distributing. Federal Clearing is able to provide a purchase order management system or a warehouse management system for our clients. Federal Clearing even assists some of our clients with overseas, foreign currency payments. We are very happy to quote on the services that you need and note that as part of our service we offer automated vessel tracking and automatic updates. Don’t let your goods arrive at a harbour or airport without having an agent ready to assist with the customs clearance process. If your goods have already been shipped you should make sure to supply an agent with the following documents well in advance of the good’s expected time of arrival (ETA): Seaway bills (ocean OBL or house bills HBL), airway bills (master or house bills MAWB or HAWB), supplier or commercial invoice, packing list, certificates of origin, trade certificates (EUR1 or SADC etc.)

As a reputable Customs Clearing and Forwarding agent, Federal Clearing and Forwarding has developed relationships with likeminded agents throughout the world. We belong to the World Cargo Alliance (WCA), the world’s largest and most powerful network of independent freight forwarders. They say that the combined logistics might of WCAworld membership exceeds that of even the world’s largest multinational freight forwarders.

Whether you are just starting out and are just looking to courier your export or import, or if you have developed your export or import business to the point that you are looking for great airfreight rates and routes, or if you are shipping part loads and want containerised cargo, full container loads or even breakbulk we can assist you.