Shipping to and from Germany

Do you want to know more about prices for shipments to Germany? Are you aware of specific shipment documents you might need to get your freight moving? Here you’ll find all the answers related to your questions around shipments to Germany.

  • Logistics
  • Pricing & payment
  • Local solutions

Relevant shipping information

In Germany you have 3 common modes of transportation: Rail-Road, Truck and Barge-Road.
The use of truck is common for short-distances within 300kms distance and urgently required cargo. The transit-time from Port to Door is between 24-48hrs.

The German ports also have an extensive access to the rail network. Especially from Bremerhaven and Hamburg you have a variety of rail departures to several inland container yards where the transfer for the last-mile by truck takes place. Rail-road saves CO2 and logistics costs. The transit time by rail-road is between 48hrs and 72hrs. A large portion of overall container volumes in Germany are transported by rail.

Barge-Road is frequently used when containers are being shipped through Rotterdam and Antwerp due to its access to the Rhine-River. Barges can carry up to 500TEU per vessel and are commonly used when door deliveries in short distances to the Rhine-Main-River Area need to take place. In case of low water, the barges cannot carry as many containers and might have longer transit times. The Transit Time can take between 5 to 8 days.

The preferred modes of transport for the pre-/on-carriage are available on Twill.

Transit times can vary depending on the vessel schedule, whether containers need to be connected to other vessels on their journey and how many calling ports there are on the route.

For example, you can ship a container from China to Germany in 32 days, from a main port like Shanghai, but an outlying port, like Nanjing, will normally need to move on a feeder or connecting vessel to a Chinese main port first. It will then be loaded on to an international (Mother) vessel bound for Germany. In these instances, it will take longer.

There are also instances where the (Mother) vessel is destined for a European Main Port like Rotterdam or Antwerp and not Germany. When this happens, the container is removed from the (Mother) vessel and loaded onto a feeder vessel for the last leg of the journey to Germany.

You will see if your shipment or tradeline is direct or a combination via a transshipment port when you are booking with us.

Insurance is not necessarily required to ship to Germany, but you should review whether this is something you should consider based on the Incoterms® you have agreed with your supplier.

Depending on the Incoterms® chosen, the risk associated with your purchase moves at a specific point in the shipping process. For example, if you chose to work with DAP (Delivered at Place) terms then the Seller bears all Risk until the Buyer receives the goods at their final destination, while if you chose FOB (Free On Board) terms the Risk moves to the Buyer at the point it loads on the vessel at Origin.

You should always ensure you read the fine print to ensure insurance coverage meets your needs, with policies varying on commodities, routes and value. Only specific policies cover delays, while most do not. Other policies cover you only for General Average Contribution, which are the costs associated with loss or damage to a ship or its cargo, with costs shared between the owners of the ship and owners of the cargo on board.

As we are supercharged by industry leader Maersk, this means that other liability regulations are involved compared to a transport with a forwarding agency. You can find out more here.

If you’re shipping your cargo across the sea, you want to know that you won’t lose money if your cargo is damaged or lost. This is why Twill offers Value Protect, giving you peace of mind that your cargo is protected during the transportation with us.

In Germany, the customs process is different between export and import. But for both scenarios, you need an “EORI” number. If you don’t have an EORI registration number, you can get one via the German Zoll (the German customs authorities).

As an importer, you’re obliged to tell the customs authorities which kind of goods you want to import in the territory of the “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” and therefore in the European Union. Mostly, you have to pay the Import VAT which is 19% of the value of goods as well as the duty. The duty rate depends on the country of origin as well as on the article itself. If you’ve got a deferral account at the German customs, we at Twill will need to know that.

Within Germany, it is possible to arrange a bonded transportation, meaning we´ll issue a so called “Transit” document which will be cleared at a customs office near the final delivery or maybe you want to clear the customs on your own. We can also do the customs clearance at port of discharge.

As an exporter, you’re obliged to tell the customs authorities which kind of goods you want to export outside of the territory of the “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” and therefore of the European Union. This process is separated in two steps because two different customs offices are involved. 

  1. At first, you have to declare your export and the goods at the responsible inland customs office nearby the loading address (export customs office). As a result, you’ll receive a document (Ausfuhrbegleitdokument) with a Movement Reference Number (MRN) that you can upload per shipment in your Twill dashboard.
  2. With the second step, you inform the customs office of exit which is seated near the port of loading (point of leaving the EU) about your plan to export the goods. This process is called Port Filing.

At Twill, we can handle both steps but it is also possible and common that we’re doing the Port Filing for you. You just have to book the additional service of Customs House Brokerage (CHB) that you need and give us the permission to do that via the Power of Attorney (POA). Afterwards, you’ll receive a “note of export” (Ausgangsvermerk) that you mostly need for your tax declaration at the end of the year.

The customs clearance process can differ from country-to-country and from port-to-port. At Twill we realise the need to get your goods through customs and understand the challenges it may cause. That’s why we can handle Customs House Brokerage (CHB) for you.

Ports and Offices in Germany

Pricing and payment

The cost of shipping containers to and from Germany varies depending on where you want to ship to and the size of the container you need to move.

Costs can also fluctuate depending on the time of year, for example, there are several spikes when shipping from China, before the Chinese New Year holiday and in the weeks leading up to Golden Week holiday in October and some weeks after, as capacity tightens and rates increase.

With Twill, you’ve got the possibility to choose between two different pricing models, the monthly fixed rate as well as the live price. You can find all details very transparent online. If you have more detailed questions, please reach out to our customer service or your responsible sales person.

Freight costs do move, for some routes daily, but you normally find that the associated landside costs in Germany tend to be more stable. Terminal Handling, Port Charges and Documentation should also be considered as part of your overall shipping costs, depending on the buying terms (Incoterms®) you agree with your buyer/supplier. There are also costs involved with the processing of customs procedures for both shipping to and from Germany.

Also, it depends of the mode of transport that you prefer. If you want to break down the freight costs per article, you´ll see that Airfreight is more expensive than a Full Container Load (FCL) Service or a Less Container Load (LCL) Service.

On average the cheapest time to ship from China to Germany is a few weeks after the peak of Chinese New Year in April & May, which are generally the low-cost months. Following Golden Week in October rates remain higher, with orders required to arrive before Christmas. You generally will see a softening of rates in December, unless Chinese New Year falls particularly early in the following calendar year.

Local solutions

When shipping containers into Germany, you are required to provide documentation to Customs for their review & approval to clear your goods into the country.

As well as your shipping documentation (Bill of Lading), common paperwork required is a Commercial Invoice, which details the goods you are buying, full details of the seller and the associated value of the goods. The Packing List is also needed, and gives a fuller breakdown of the items inside your container, including the product, number of items and the packed dimensions and weights. You will also be expected to provide the Customs Tariff Numbers (HS Code) associated with those products, which indicates the Duty and VAT tariffs.

In some instances, documents such as Certificate of Origin and GSP Certificates (Generalised System of Preferences) will also be used. The GSP Certificate for some commodities can mean you get a concession against the standard Germany import tariff, so a reduction of costs. The Certificate of Origin proves the source and therefore your eligibility for the duty reduction. In some cases, e.g. with a so called Form A, you are even exempt from paying the duty and/or the tax – but that depends on the goods you’re importing to Germany as well as on the country of Origin itself.

Overall before buying cargo overseas, please make sure the goods can be commercially imported or exported. This can be checked with the customs authorities in advanced.

Generally, before shipping your cargo, you need to have a VAT Identification number, starting with DE plus 9 Digits and a Customs “EORI” registration number. Both are mandatory to be able to customs clear cargo and smoothen the process of importing or exporting cargo.

Discover the most important documents when shipping here.

Each Incoterm option plays a factor in the overall cost of the goods & who is responsible for what part of the shipping journey costs.

For example, if you chose to work with DAP (Delivered at Place) terms then the Seller would be responsible for the full costs of shipping and costs would normally be added within the invoice for the goods the Buyer is purchasing.

If parties agree FOB (Free On Board) terms the Buyer can control when and who they ship with, taking on the associated costs of shipping from the origin port. The Seller would take on the costs & responsibility of having the container trucked to port and laden on board the vessel chosen by the Buyer.

But please be aware of the fact that Incoterms also affect the liability. The C-Terms (CIF, CFR,..) are also called 2-point-clauses because here the transition of the risk and the transition of the prices differ.

Find out more about Incoterms®.

An Original Bill of Lading (OBL) is a negotiable document, meaning that this document has got the same value of the cargo that is covered with this document. An OBL is commonly used in cases when you have involved an financial institute that requires that document, for example with a Letter of Credit (L/C). It is also quite common to print three original Documents.

To release your container, we need all issued documents with your company stamp and a signature on the back site of each document in our office in Hamburg.  

Often, it is enough to operate with a “Sea Waybill” which is a non-negotiable document. This is just a proof that there is a contract between you and your partner (buyer or seller) and that we as Twill by Maersk are responsible to arrange the shipping from A to B. The Letter of Credit is a tool which is used for instance with a new business relationship. There might not be too much trust involved to receive the payment or the ordered articles. For further information, please find more on the L/C below.

Let’s assume that you are an importer, buying products abroad. You have no experience with the chosen supplier and as a result, there is no trust yet if you really get the ordered articles. The same goes if you are an exporter, you might not be clear if you will receive the payment for the products.

The Letter of Credit has got five functions that help you out:

  • Guarantee
  • Credit
  • Proved document
  • Secure payment
  • Funding/financing

We highly recommend never to use a revocable Letter of Credit. You can find more detailed information in the UCP (Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits).

Yes, you are able to submit the L/C-text with the shipping instructions. This can be done manually as well as “copy-paste”. You just have to be aware of the fact that an Original Bill of Lading is required.

Please check “Do I need an Original Bill of Lading?” for any further information.

We have gathered all steps relevant to start the Letter of Credit (L/C) process:
  • Step 1: Sales contract between you and your business partner
  • Step 2: Open the L/C-order at your bank / financial institute
  • Step 3: Your Bank opens the L/C and will inform the bank of your business partner overseas
  • Step 4: Your business partner receives the information from his bank or financial institute that a L/C is opened
  • Step 5: You or your business partner arrange the transport to the port of Loading – this can be done via Twill
  • Step 6: Issuing of the original Bill of Lading that includes the L/C-text
  • Step 7: Your business partner sends the set of documents to his bank (within the deadline) that will proof the documents
  • Step 8: Everything is fine and your business partner receives the payment from his bank or financial institute
  • Step 9: The bank or financial institute sends the documents to your bank or financial institute and charges their account
  • Step 10: Your bank or financial institute will charge your account
  • Step 11: You send in the documents to our office in Hamburg to release the cargo from Port of Discharge

Discover our services

Value Protect

Even in the safest hands, accidents happen. If you’re shipping your cargo across the sea, you want to know that you won’t lose money if your cargo is damaged or lost. This is why Twill offers Value Protect, giving you peace of mind that your cargo is protected during transportation with us.

Monthly Fixed Rates

At Twill, we understand how important it is for you to have control over your freight shipping process. With our monthly fixed rates, we’re the first to give you quick and easy visibility of costs and the flexibility to plan your ocean freight in advance!

Inland Transportation

Your cargo’s journey never begins or ends at the port. When you’re shipping cargo, you want to get it transported from origin to destination. That’s why Twill offers Inland Transportation, enabling end-to-end shipping solutions to ensure your supply chain runs smoothly and without complications.

Customs House Brokerage

The customs clearance process can differ from country-to-country and from port-to-port. At Twill we realise the need to get your goods through customs and understand the challenges it may cause. That’s why we can handle Customs House Brokerage for you.

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