How to Start a Freight Forwarding Business in Singapore

Start Your Own Freight Forwarding Business in Singapore for $395

Singapore is a leading logistical player in the Asia Pacific region, with 20 of the top 25 global logistics firms such as DHL, Schenker, UPS, etc conducting their operations here.
The Logistics and Transportation industry is a key cornerstone of Singapore’s economy, contributing $27.9 billion or 6.9% of the country’s GDP.
Singapore’s prime location provides excellent geographic connectivity to every major market in the world. Approximate 80% of the world’s maritime trade among Europe, Asia and the U.S pass through the strait of Malacca.
In 2016, the Ministry of Trade and Industry launched the Logistics Industry Transformation Map (ITM) scheme. The transformation of the industry is expected to value-add S$8.3 billion.

Freight Forwarding

Freight Transportation is an integral part of the supply chain that makes it possible for producers to export their goods beyond their immediate geographical reach. However, Freight Forwarders are not the actual deliverer of the goods, but rather experts in transporting goods from one place to another in the most seamless and cost efficient way, via air, sea or land, depending on their customer’s needs. In other words, they operate as an intermediary between the various transportation services and a shipper (customer). Therefore, a Freight Forwarder must be knowledgeable in export processes and shipping requirements for all modes of transportation, as well as the licences and permits relevant to different types of cargo and goods, as they must handle all trade and finance documentation, customs clearances and inspections, the tracking of cargo, even storage, if necessary, and all other requirements and situations that might arise.

Top Priorities for a Freight Forwarding Business Start-up

Incorporating Your Company On ACRA

Registering your company on the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore is the first step to kicking off your business venture. Successfully registered, your company will receive a Unique Entity Number (UEN), which is required when making applications for other licences and permits.

Registering with Singapore Customs

Any Import, Export or Transshipment of goods will require activating an account with Singapore Customs (SC) using the company UEN. Account activation, which is free, is generally completed in less than 48 hours. As long as business entities remain registered on ACRA, their Customs Account will remain valid.

Other Legal Formalities

Depending on their assets, operational model and scope of business, and specific needs of clients, Freight Forwarding Companies may require one or more permits from the following authorities:

  • Singapore Customs (SC)
  • Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS)
  • Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
  • Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
  • Land Transport Authority (LTA)
  • Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
  • Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)
  • National Environment Agency (NEA)

Contact VentureHaven if you require clarification or extra information regarding any legal requirement.

A Special Note on the Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading is the most important document a Freight Forwarder must prepare.  It:

  • is a legally binding document between the Freight Forwarder and the freight carrier that details the type, quantity and destination of the goods being transported;
  • serves as a shipment receipt when the freight carrier delivers the goods at the predetermined destination;
  • must accompany the shipped goods, no matter the mode of transportation, and an authorized representative from the Freight Forwarder, freight shipper and receiver must sign it.

Information to include on the Bill of Lading:

  • shipper and receiver names and complete address
  • date of the shipment
  • number of shipping units
  • freight classification
  • exact weight of every shipment item
  • type of packaging, including cartons, pallets, skids and drums
  • description of the item being shipped
  • PO or special account numbers used between businesses for order tracking
  • special instructions for the carrier
  • note if the freight is classified as Hazardous (special rules and requirements apply)
  • declared value of the freight being shipped

Licences to be obtained from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) for Sea Freight Forwarding

  • Harbour Craft Licence – To operate vessels within Singapore’s port
  • Port Clearance Certificate – To operate vessels beyond Singapore’s port
  • Ship Registration Certificate – To transport passengers or goods
  • Port Limit Manning Licence – For crew members to work on-board your ships and vessels
  • Launch a New Vessel Permit – To launch a new vessel more than 15 meters long in the port
  • Ship Station Licence – To operate radio-communication equipment on your Singapore registered ship
  • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate – To certify your vessel’s sanitary condition to transport goods
  • Permit to discharge/load/transit dangerous goods and dock vessels carrying such goods
  • Other Licences and Permits for related activities

Need more specific information relevant to your business strategy? Contact one of our Business Incorporation Experts now for a free consultation.

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