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Dien Rice
August 30, 2016, 07:52 PM
Last year, I formed a business partnership to export products from Australia to Gambia, in West Africa...

That's what led to me finding out the following true "horror story"...

When you're dealing with "non-Western" countries in terms of import/export - it's always a good idea to have good contacts in the ports.

We had such a person, who worked in the port in Gambia - let's call him John. He told me this story, as it was happening, while I was in Gambia earlier this year for our business.

The port of Banjul, Gambia, is the major port of West Africa. It is probably that way because in Gambia, people speak English, and also it probably has the least amount of corruption, compared to other West African ports.

John told me the following real case, while it was happening.

A guy had decided to ship a 40-foot shipping container full of products to Gambia, from Germany. It was his first time doing import/export. But he forgot one very important detail.

When you send a shipping container to any country, you have to pay customs duties to get your container out of the port. If you don't pay customs duties, your products get stuck at the port!

Customs for a shipping container generally costs at least a few thousand dollars. (It varies, depending on what the goods are inside the shipping container.)

John told me that this guy hadn't budgeted for paying customs! As a result, he didn't have the money to pay!

So, his container was sitting in the port. You generally have a grace period of around a week to get your shipping container out of the port. After that, the port starts charging you a large daily fee to keep your shipping container there.

This guy was in a dilemma. He didn't have the money to pay customs, so he couldn't get his container out of the port and into the country. He couldn't ship it back out, back to Germany, as that would cost probably even more money.

And, as this was happening, the clock was ticking... After the container sat at the port a week, the fees were getting higher and higher every day!

What happened in the end?

The guy never paid the customs duty, since he didn't have the money. The Gambian government, as a result, eventually seized the container, including all the goods inside, which they probably ended up selling.

The money that guy spent to stock and ship that container - probably tens of thousands of dollars - went up in smoke - all because he didn't plan well.

What's the moral of the story? Perhaps it's to think through what you're doing, so you don't make simple mistakes...

In this case, it was a simple mistake, since having to pay for customs duty is something everyone involved in international trade knows. He could have simply asked someone, or partnered with someone with experience.

Just thought I'd share that wild but true "horror story" from international trade!

Best wishes,


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