Do you want to learn how to import from China?

Then you need to understand how importing works. It’s essential to know the costs involved as well as the time frame for delivery amongst others. Importing simply means buying goods from a supplier outside your country. China and United States are the top countries that people usually import from. However, in this article, I will shed light on terms used when you importing from China.

EXWEXW (Ex Works) is an international trade that refers to the agreement whereby the supplier is expected to make goods ready for pickup at his or her business place. The buyer will be responsible for the while shipment from door to door (including all costs and liabilities).

When using these terms, the cost and risks of shipping lie with the buyer alone. This implies that Ex Works enables the buyer to have a clearer picture of the costs involved ahead of time. The buyer will also be in control of the whole shipment thereby preventing the seller from increasing their local costs.

FOBFOB (Free on Board) shows whether the buyer or seller has liability for goods that are damaged while shipping. “FOB shipping point” implies that the buyer will bear the risk if the goods are shipped while “FOB destination” implies that the seller will bear the risk of any loss until the buyer gets the goods.

The term FOB is employed in non-containerized sea freight or inland waterway transport. It does not refer to the transfer ownership of goods.

C & F (Cost and Freight) refers to a legal term that is employed in international trade whereby the seller does not need to procure marine insurance against the risk of loss or damage to the goods being purchased while shipping. Under this term, the seller is expected to cater for the carriage of goods by sea to a port of destination and give the buyer the necessary documents.

CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) is a trade term that requires the supplier to arrange for the transportation of the goods by sea to a port of destination and also provide the buyer with the necessary documents. EU countries use the CIF value for calculating the duty that must be paid on an import.


B/L (Bill of Landing) refers to a document issued by a carrier or its agent to a shipper. It stands as a contract of carriage of goods. It also acts as a receipt for a cargo that is accepted for transportation and needs to be presented before the goods’ delivery can be taken at the destination.

A bill of landing usually contain the consignor’s and consignee’s names, the names of the ports of departure and destination, vessel name, dates of departure and arrival, list of goods being transported and the number and kind of packaging, marks and numbers on the packages, weight or volume of the cargo and freight rate and amount.

AWBAWB (Airway bill) is a type of bill of landing that enables tracking of the cargo. Once the airplane departs, the cargo rights will be changed from the supplier to that of the consignee. Airway Bill serves as a receipt of goods by a carrier, contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. It provides information about the conditions of carriage and the carrier’s limits of liability and claims procedures. AWB is a non-negotiable instrument and does not state the flight that the shipment will arrive with or the time of delivery.

ETA and ETDETA and ETD (Estimated Time of Arrival and Estimated Time of Delivery respectively) refer to the time and date that a ship will arrive at a particular port. The estimated delivery date depends on the supplier’s handling time, the shipping service used and when the supplier receives the cleared payment. Knowing the estimated delivery date will enable you to determine how long it will take you to get your item.

FCL and LCLFCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less Container Load) are terms used in shipping under international trade business. FCL refers to one full container load (20” or 40”) that contains cargo for one importer. It is the cheapest means of transportation when importing from China.

LCL refers to a cargo that is owned by different importers and grouped together in one and the same container. It enables importers to ship smaller amounts of cargo that are not large enough to fit into the FCL option.

POD and POLPOD (Port of Destination) refers to the intended final point of arrival of a shipment.

POL (Port of Loading) refers to the place where the cargo is loaded by the carrier onto the ocean vessel.

RMBRMB (Renminbi) is the official currency of the People’s Republic of China. Its basic unit is the yuan.


PI (Proforma Invoice) signifies a sales contract or an estimated invoice that is being sent by a supplier to an importer in advance of a shipment or delivery of goods. It portrays the nature and quantity of goods, their value and other important information like weight and transportation charges. They are often used as preliminary invoices with a quotation or for customs purposes while importing goods.

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Author's Bio: 

Jack Zhou

International Trade Specialist * Import/ Export ManagerDuring my experience as a Buyer Agent, I experienced lots of challenges such as delay in shipment, quality issues, huge Minimum Order Quantity and after-sale problems amongst others. The need to find solution to these challenges gave birth to my new business- Sourcingbro. The business is aimed at developing effective supply chain and cost control for clients.

Do you need help with sourcing for goods and importing from China?

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