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Why do Surcharges Exist and How to Avoid Import Surcharges?

If you want to know why surcharges exist, you must look at the businesses that charge them. One of the most common and now almost accepted as standard is the China Import Surcharge on sea freight consignments, this is charged by Chinese Consolidators. This is a surcharge billed on import consignments from China, often this amount is not known until the consignment arrives in the UK.

How does this work?

China is a competitive market for freight and the consolidators will often charge a rate below the actual cost to the shipper, we have even heard of shippers being paid to give their freight to the shipping agent. They cannot lose money on the container, so the China Import Surcharge is forwarded to the agent in the UK to collect it from the consignee. If the freight is included in the cost from the shipper, the consignee still pays it in the UK through the China Import Surcharge.

Is this legal? We thought not, but when this practice first started, we reported it to BIFA the British International Freight Association, they didn't think that anything could be done. It is now an accepted practice.

The best way to avoid this is to book the cargo through a local company (In our case UK) the rates may seem a little higher, but you should be able to avoid a surcharge, making the overall price lower.