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Shipping door-to-door: all your questions answered

ONE OF the first questions a shipper to Jamaica would ask a shipping agent is, ‘Do you ship door-to-door?’

Long before, they would have asked about the regularity of the service or the transit time, but things have changed.

What has created this door-to-door shipping culture amongst Jamaicans in particular?

“I don’t have to leave my home and face the madness at the ports in Kingston or Montego Bay,” one shipper noted. “I simply give my agent all the information they require, my ID etcetera and they tell me when the goods will be delivered. They notify me of the duties charged by customs; I agree to repay them on the delivery of my goods, on presentation of the Jamaica Customs receipt. This I have been doing for years and I am happy.”

While others simply said they did not like travelling to the island’s capital, Kingston. “I do not like Kingston, so I refuse to go there. If an agent does not offer door-to-door, I do not ship with them; I find an agent who does.”

“My parents are too old to take on the hassle at the port and they do not have the monies to pay the charges, so I pay everything here in the UK, including the Customs Duty. That way, all they have to do is wait for the items to be delivered to them in good order,” said a UK-based customer.

These responses are commonplace and establish why door-to-door service is most demanded by shippers to Jamaica.

The term door-to-door, though loosely used, covers the movement of shipments from the door of the shippers in the UK to the door of the receivers/ consignees (in Jamaica).

Along the way however, are numerous services and procedures that allow this to take place smoothly and the service will be determined by the freight forwarder the shipper chooses to ship their goods.

Freight forwarder A: Door-to-door service may be limited to three stages only - the collection, shipping and delivery of your goods
Freight forwarder B: Door-to-door service will be comprehensive to include the collection, repackaging (if required), shipping, the payment of port fees, customs clearance and delivery of your goods to the door of the consignee. A freight forwarder B service will extend to providing the labour to off-load your container at your destination, should this be required by the consignee.

What is important for the sender (shipper) and the receiver (the consignee) to note in the instance of freight forwarder A is the consignee will be responsible to pay the port fees and may even be asked to come to the port to clear the shipment themselves. However, with the service of freight forwarder B, the consignee would be notified of the arrival of their shipment and be asked to present the relevant documentation, such as a valid identification, their Tax Registration Number (TRN) and in some cases, a letter addressed to Jamaica Customs, duly signed by a JP, authorising the agent at the destination to clear the shipment on behalf.

Forwarder A and/or B would not be responsible, however, for the Customs Duty and Taxes, port storage, detention deposit or container demurrage. Where these fees are imposed by the respective operators, it is the responsibility of the consignee to settle these charges.

Shippers are, however, advised to establish with their UK freight forwarder the extent of the door-to-door service. Additionally, they should inquire of the (i) regularity of the shipping service; when will my shipment leave and when will it arrive (ii) the transit time – how long will it take to get to Jamaica? (iii) what are the clearance and customs procedures? (iii) delivery to my door in Jamaica; how will I identify the your driver?

The regularity of service is very important to shippers as this allows them to plan their trips and meet other deadlines, therefore, freight forwarders need to be honest about exactly when your cargo will be shipped and arrive. Delays may occur as a result of the Shipping Lines for which your freight forwarder has no control. These delays maybe as a result routing change, transshipment or vessel problems etc.

With door-to-door service, the transit time will be given in two parts:
(a) The time it takes for shipping from the UK to the Port in Jamaica
(b) The time it will take to strip the container, clear the goods through customs and deliver it to your door.

Shipping your barrels, boxes or full container loads from the UK takes approximately 21 to 28 days depending on the carrier chosen by the freight forwarding agent. Once the carrier has been paid by the forwarding agent and the container is released, the container should be stripped within 3-5 working days. Only after the container is stripped can the forwarder’s agent at destination begin the clearance process the door-to-door” shipments.

The customs clearance procedure: To expedite the clearance of door-to-door shipments, your freight forwarders’ agent will require the following from the consignee in order to clear your shipment on your behalf. These are usually requested prior to the arrival of the shipment in to the country.

Documents to be provided by the consignee:
• Valid national identification and Tax Registration Number, (TRN) – These are required by everyone doing business with any government authority in Jamaica. Ensure the copies are signed by a JP
• A letter to the agent addressed to Customs and duly signed by a Justice of the Peace, giving the forwarding agent permission to clear your shipment on your behalf.
• Copy of Bill of Lading or Air Way Bill - this is provided by your forwarding agent once you have paid them the freight charges
• Depending on the nature of your shipment a commercial invoice and packing list maybe required.

Delivery to your door: Once the agent has cleared your shipment through customs, they will now be ready make delivery to the “named” consignee as stated on the Bill of Lading or Air Way-bill.
The cheapest quote is not always the best service. Shippers are therefore encouraged to obtain at least three quotes and collect reviews from other shippers. When you are next shipping your goods home door-to-door, ask your freight forwarder all the pertinent questions. Once these are established, everyone will be happy.
Shipping door-to-door takes the hassle out of shipping when done professionally.

* Article contributed by Daneille Hylton of JLB International (Shipping) Ltd

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