Why You Need to Work with a Shipping Agent in China and How to Find a Good One
Table Of Contents
- Shipping agents versus freight forwarders
- How to find the right shipping agent for your company
- Questions to ask when selecting a shipping agent/freight forwarder in China
- Consider CBIP for an all-in-one shipping agent and full-service logistics service in China
If you are an e-commerce seller trying to figure out how to source from China, you are sure to struggle on the journey of finding a reliable local partner to help you export your goods.
Tanking demand continues to push freight rates down, with rates from China to the US west coast down 90% year over year. Shipping lines are canceling ships last minute as freight rates bottom out, creating havoc for those trying to ship goods out of the region.
These issues highlight the necessity of having a trusted local partner on the ground overseeing your shipment.
In spite of recent concerns about freight rates and lockdowns, China remains a top location for manufacturing — and likely will for years to come.
Finding a good shipping agent can be a great help for your business, as they can help you to:
- Deal with international shipping, cargo loading, and customs clearance.
- Assure good relationships with shipping lines.
- Help you clear customs and complete the correct paperwork.
Whatever stage you’re at in your China exporting journey, read through our article to learn some tips and tricks on finding the right shipping agent.
Read about CBIP's Adaptable 4PL Logistics Services
Shipping agents versus freight forwarders
There’s an issue with terminology here; When you look for a shipping agent, you often find results for freight forwarders, and vice versa.
You are likely wondering if there is really a difference between these two terms; and if so, which one do you need?
In general, a shipping agent is someone who provides services to help transport your cargo. By that definition, a freight forwarder is seen as a shipping agent. Yet, not all shipping agents are freight forwarders because they do not always oversee the entire transportation process.
Freight forwarders are responsible for the importing and exporting of your goods, but they may also attend to a number of other factors in your logistics like warehousing and tracking your goods through their entire journey.
Services your shipping agent may provide for you include:
- Preparing the paperwork
- Reserving space on the vessel for your shipment
- Setting up and overseeing payments for all the different shipping departments
- Seeing your goods through the customs process
- Acting on your behalf when dealing with other logistics partners
- Providing transparent info on the status of your shipment
- Acting on your behalf to troubleshoot and carry out contingency plans if something goes awry
How to find the right shipping agent for your company
In China, the process of exporting your goods and getting them to customers may be fairly complicated, with a number of rules, regulations, and forms needed to clear customs. That is why you need a trusted shipping agent who knows their way around Chinese shipping regulations — not to mention one who speaks fluent Chinese.
There are plenty of shipping agents in China; that part is clear to anyone who has already typed “China shipping agent” into a Google search.
But how can you find out which are the quality ones?
Finding the right shipping agent comes down to three basic steps:
- Do some research on Google to find out what your options are.
- Reach out to companies that meet your criteria for a price quote and ask them further questions about their service.
- Pick the agent that works best for you.
Like any shopping experience, it helps to strategize about what you need and what is out there before you go to the store. Knowing what your needs are and what questions you should ask a potential partner will help you make the right choice for your company.
When you have your criteria established, you can start looking through lists of shipping agents in China searching by their area of specialty, or the province in which they are located.
Questions to ask when selecting a shipping agent/freight forwarder in China
What is their specialty?
There are agents who specialize in different product types, shipment sizes, and modes of shipping. Selecting your agent based on their experience in your product category and shipment type will give you a partner able to understand your needs and overcome obstacles without hesitation.
To learn more about industry-specific advantages in the different parts of China, look at our article: How to Source Logistics and Manufacturing in China.
What size do you need?
You will also want to pay attention to the size of the shipping agent service. Smaller companies often specialize in one mode of transportation— like airfreight, sea freight, post, or express courier. Additionally, smaller agencies have more time to dedicate to personalized service. This makes them a great option for small to mid-sized businesses looking for personalized attention.
On the other hand, larger shipping agents are more likely to offer perks that the smaller ones cannot. Larger e-commerce companies may choose to work with a big shipping agent to take advantage of things like multimodal shipping and discounts on bulk shipments.
What’s your price range?
If you have large shipments and work with a large agent, you can certainly get better rates on shipping. However, be careful searching for a good deal when it comes to these guys; If an agent quotes you a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The big shipping agents/freight forwarders usually own their own assets, meaning you can take advantage of better pricing by using their warehouses and vehicles/vessels.
Watch out for hidden costs and rates that will rise immediately after your first shipment. You may get offers with attractive pricing that rises unexpectedly later on, with the aim of locking you into a contract. Always keep in mind that saving a couple of hundred dollars on a shipment is not worth the risk and headache of working with a sketchy agency.
Consider CBIP for an all-in-one shipping agent and full-service logistics service in China
If you are based outside of China, you need a shipping agent who knows the region. Due to cultural expectations, speaking in person and building relationships with the chosen vendor is very important in China. If you don’t speak fluent Chinese and have existing relationships in China, that can be incredibly challenging.
That’s where CBIP comes in. Throughout the past decade, our work in Asia has given us the industry experience and partner rapport to navigate any logistical snafu.
At CBIP, your service is not limited to just freight forwarding, shipping, or last-mile services; we use partners from our extensive worldwide network to design and set up your entire logistics chain, tip to tail.
Adding to that, we make the whole chain a breeze for you to view and oversee at any time through our top-of-the-line Anchanto-powered CRM system.
Reach out to us at CBIP for a free consultation with one of our industry specialists.