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Import & Export: all you need to know


Regardless of the product sector and size, the activity of a company tends to be increasingly oriented towards processes and functions, to maximize management and the achievement of results. In this context, the transport of goods plays an extremely important strategic role and the care of all aspects related to it is what can make or not effective commercial negotiation, ensure competitiveness and optimize business results. Before organizing an import or export shipment it is therefore good to know every aspect of the international transport of goods, starting from the shipping contracts and the main figures of the whole process, the logistics actors:

  • THE SENDER: The sender, or customer, is the person who requests the transport service, signing in his own name the transport contract with the carrier.
  • THE FORWARDER: The forwarder, or shipper, is the company that takes on the task of organizing the transport of things entrusting them, depending on the place of destination and the instructions received, to land, sea and air carriers.
  • THE CARRIER: This defines the person who, on behalf of the shipper, provides for the physical transport of the goods, by his own means or others, from the point of departure to that of destination. He has the obligation to preserve the integrity of the goods that have been entrusted to him until delivery to the recipient and, almost always, he signs the transport document.
  • THE RECIPIENT: The consignee is the one who receives the goods being transported, at the established place. If the sender sent the goods to a branch of his company, the figures of sender and recipient will coincide.
  • THE OWNER OF THE GOODS: The owner of the goods is the enterprise or public legal entity that has ownership of the things object of the transport activity at the time of delivery to the carrier.

At the base of any shipment there is an agreement between the parties, a contract in which the roles, obligations and responsibilities (and related exemptions) to which the different subjects must be subject are specified. Depending on whether the shipment is entrusted to a freight forwarder, a carrier (or a freight forwarder-carrier) or a customs officer (or a freight forwarder-customs agent) we will have different types of mandate, respectively a shipping assignment a transport assignment or a customs representative assignment.
The shipping mandate is negotiated in advance and agreed by telephone, fax or e-mail and, by law, it is not mandatory to formalize it in writing. It is, however, strongly recommended to put in writing, signed and countersigned, all the provisions, because, in case of dispute, the principal will not have any official document to prove any shortcomings of the forwarder regarding the agreements made. Specifically, the mandate to the forwarder is a contract, according to which the forwarder undertakes to conclude, in his own name and on behalf of the principal, the transport contracts with a carrier, so as to implement all the operations suitable for transport for the delivery of the goods entrusted to him by the sender. Since there are no mandatory rules applicable to freight forwarders in the international arena, in addition to the articles of the Civil Code, reference can be made to the contractual conditions defined by the shipper organization (FIATA) and to the general conditions approved by the trade association to which the freight forwarder belongs. Once the forwarder accepts the letter of assignment, he must comply with the agreed instructions and assignments ancillary to transport, relating, for example, to constraints on delivery, payment of the supply, terms of delivery of the goods, etc., always acting in the best interests of the principal. The forwarder is not in fact responsible for the success of the transport (role of the carrier) but is responsible for the choices he will adopt regarding the transport itself.


Unlike the previous shipping contract, in this case it is a real contract of carriage, an agreement according to which the carrier undertakes to transfer things or people from a place of departure to a place of destination, assuming the risks of execution and specific obligations, against the obligation to pay the price by the sender.
Under the new Union Customs Code (UCC), anyone has the right to appoint a representative (direct or indirect) for his relations with the customs authorities. This representation of the owner of the goods at customs can be direct, in the event that the representative acts in the name and on behalf of third parties (possibility previously reserved only for customs brokers registered in the professional register), or indirect, if the representative acts in his own name but on behalf of third parties (as resolved by Reg. 952/2013, art. 18). The power of representation by customs representatives is acquired through a mandate (with representation) or by power of attorney (without representation), documents without which it is not possible to operate in customs on behalf of third parties.

Attention to detail is a fundamental aspect in  the transport of goods, especially with regard to international trade, due to distances, type of transport, loading, unloading, stowage, fixing, storage, custody, handling of goods, use of suitable means to transport the goods covered by the purchase contract, the risks that goods may suffer during transport,  of the customs, documentary, payment of goods, insurance, transfer of costs, risks and liability from the seller to the buyer.