Last week I scoured the internet in hopes of finding a local Thailand freight forwarder who spoke English. Surprisingly, there wasn’t as many as I had imagined. Perhaps SEO isn’t a thing in Thailand or most freight forwarders don’t pay too much attention to their online presence. This is conveyed by the number outdated sites landscaped across google like forgotten landmines in previous wars.
Fortunately, I was able to find Luc, a driven and outspoken French individual who has grown his business substantially in the past two years. I messaged a couple of sites, but Luc was the only individual who had responded and only within a few hours of submission. Luc is a straight shooter who seems to have his eye focused on helping other foreigners import and export containers within Thailand. That seems to be his niche. Luc is a passable English speaking logistics professional who prides himself on the quality of his own services. He does have a French accent, but as you may guess, many foreigners would choose him precisely for his English, cultural understanding of Thailand, and his no-bullshit approach to getting the job done.
Luc had provided me with some invaluable advice that I wish to share. In fact, I sent him a questionnaire that may help get straight to the point. Luc was not able to set up an audio interview at the time, so we spoke over skype.
Here is a list of the questions I asked so you can skip what you may consider as fluff. There isn’t any particular order.
- How many ports are there?
- What are the main ports?
- What are Thailands largest imports and exports?
- Where do you see some potential room for importing & exporting?
- What is the average cost of a LCL and FCL to USA/UK/HONG KONG?
- What is the basic customs paperwork you need for exports? Imports?
- What industries or products are regulated with imports and exports?
- Are there any weird rules in Thailand that can help others (ie: gambling is illegal, may limit specific imports like playing cards)
- How is distribution of products handled?
- Can you give me example of what happens step by step when a client wants to export products form Thailand?
- Same as above, but when someone wants to export into Thailand?
- Do you have any resources for people to find more importers, exporters, or suppliers in Thailand?
- How is customs handled, are they corrupted like many other places?
- What are basic duties like on imports and exports? Give some examples (ie: electronics, laptops, cars, etc)
- How is the average thai business person, are they easy to deal with? Are they difficult to deal with?
The Interview with Luc – LWS Logistics
1. How many ports are there?
“International sea port in Thailand 2 ( bangkok and laem chabang ). There are other ports near to Phuket in South, but they discharge in Laemchabang before a news vessel come.”
2. What are the main ports of Thailand?
“The main port of Thailand is Laem Chabang.
Example for some destinations we sent directly from Bangkok Port ( Klong thoey )
But we often take the container to the Bangkok Port ( lat krabang ) and after that the liner will take the container to Laem chabang”
4. What are Thailands largest imports and exports?
“From my experience, I would say one of Thailand’s most popular exports revolve around the seafood industry. In terms of importing, most of my clients import furniture from China.
This isn’t the end all be all, this is just what my clients tend to import and export.”
5. Where do you see some potential room for importing & exporting?
“Importing parts and used cars from United Kingdom to Thailand has much potential.
You need to understand the market, however, and know the right people in customs. Importing cars can be costly with VATs.”
Side note: One of the only workarounds in this industry are relationships. Relationships with your buyers, sellers, logistic professionals, and custom officers. It is imperative that you’re a trustworthy person and treat these relationships with the upmost priority.
6. What is the average (example) costs of LCL and FCL to USA/UK/HONG KONG?
“As you may know, prices fluctuate every day and can be determined by a number of variables. For example – Dimensions, weights type of products, which port your container leaves from or enters into can effect the price.
The list below, however, will give you an idea of the average price for the average products under the average scenario.
LCL USA = 150 USD PER CBM AROUND
LCL to UK = 20 USD PER CBM
Hong kong = refund 30 usd per cbm
FCL USA = 2000 USD PER 20 FT AROUND
FCL TO UK = 1200 USD PER 20 FT
HONG KONG = 200 USD PER 20 FT
Beware all LCL will be highly charged at destination by a coloader, you can find free freight, refund freight, cheap freight but at the destination there will always be charges per cbm ( can be 50 usd – 200 usd ). Try and find out prior to booking this shipment. Please noted above rates and doesn’t include without trucking, packing, charges of port, doc, customs clearance, license, and any additional fees if any exist.”
7. What is the basic customs paperwork you need for exports? Imports?
“paperless for individuals and an import and export license for companies.”
8. What industries or products are regulated with imports and exports?
As in many other countries, you have the more regulated industries such as:
- Agricultural Goods
- CANDY (from personal experience)
There also tends to be a quota for incoming goods and are generally given by the Chamber of Commerce.
Imports are becoming more regulated. Rules change daily. Internal relationships can change daily. Because so, we always contact customs prior to approving any imports for our clients.
9. Are there any weird rules in Thailand that others should know about (ie: gambling is illegal, may limit specific imports like playing cards)
“Gambling is illegal in this country. Playing cards have limitations on them, I believe you can only have up to 120 playing cards. I haven’t seen them around here to purchase, but I believe it’s okay if people bring a deck in when visiting.
This may sound funny – although there are limitations on playing cards, the Thai government actually owns the card manufacturing company.”
10. Can you give me an example of what happens when a client wants to export products form Thailand?
“Sure, I’ll keep it short.
- Customer provides weight, size, and type of cargo
- We contact customs to make sure nothing will go wrong
- We calculate cost of logistics on our end
- We calculate labor on our end
- We provide the customer with a quotation
- Once accepted, we ask for payment and start preparing the packaging list and documents”
11. Same as above, but when someone wants to export into Thailand?
“Customer give to LWS logistics the bill of landing and packing list, we submit to customs at port of arrival, customs ask to paid the tax then we forward to customer, he paid and we delivery .
This kinds of import operation take only 2 days but in some case if miss documentation or whatever not ok for customs, we bounce and do as soon possible.
Time of clearance are Subject to customs inspection if any ( times of customs inspection for full container 3 days )”
12. Do you have any resources for people to find more importers, exporters, or suppliers in Thailand?
“Suppliers are difficult to find. Unfortunately you’ll have to dig deep, this line of work is usually what the sourcers will do for you. Not only do they find and contact the distributor/supplier, but in some cases, they also meet them at their warehouse.”
13. How is customs handled, are they corrupted like many other places?
“I’d imagine so. But I play by the rules. I’d rather make $20 of clean money than $200 not clean. It’s simply not worth the risk for myself or my clients”
14. What are basic duties like on imports and exports? Give some examples (ie: electronics, laptops, cars, etc)
“Personal effect 30% duties + 7 % vat / electronic depend HS code but around 20% and 7 % of vat / cars 110% to 320 % (depends used cars or not, or even personal cars or being resold you can expect a different price.
Note however, for thai citizens, cargos less than 20,000 thb (EST. $600 US) are not subject to duties and vat. ”
15. How is the average thai business person, are they easy to deal with? Are they difficult to deal with?
“For the freight business the thai’s tend to promise a little bit more for your money even if it is unrealistic.
If you deal with farangs (western people) chances are you’ll be given realistic expectations while Thai’s will tell you everything is OK. They aren’t as bad as other cultures however.
In addition to the overpromising, culture and language will be a barrier. You pretty much get what you pay for. Just about all of my clients are OK with paying a little bit more as there will be less surprises down the road. By personal experience, when we export client’s products, we spend a lot of time ensuring the products are packaged correctly to mitigate any errors or breakage down the line. I’ve seen the way some Thai’s pack their client’s products, and suffice to say I’m sure there was an unhappy client on the otherside of the world.
Point blank, you pay more with a foreigner (such as myself) but the quality will most likely be better.
Moreover the thai company working in 30 days payment. You can understand the ease and difficult of this situations and benefit are low and risk hight.”