Tips for Importing American Hardwood Lumber

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Not to overstate the obvious, but we live in a global marketplace!  Companies have been importing American Hardwood Lumber for decades, and the process, albeit somewhat streamlined, can still be complex and cumbersome. So here are a few best practices we suggest to customers when they prepare to receive a new shipment of hardwood lumber.

Be Accurate

Dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” makes a big difference!  Take the time to review all the forms in detail and verify the information is correct.  Pay specific attention to all instructions included to avoid any future delays or potential order modifications.

Understand the freight bill in detail.  Have a clear understanding of the miscellaneous fees or handing charges at the port of destination and how they are to be paid and by whom.Importing American Hardwood Lumber

We suggest you not assume anything.  If in doubt, make sure it is provided in writing.  The differences in language, culture, sentence structure, number listings, and even writing styles can often lead to misunderstandings if not carefully inspected.  Just think what the movement of one placement of a decimal point could mean for an order!

Be Complete

One of the best ways to ensure your shipment arrives properly and on time is to make sure your paperwork for the order is complete from the outset.

One of the largest problem areas we see is partial or incorrect bank information.  It is best to verify all your bank information is correct. Double check to make sure the bank name, address, and account numbers are all accurate.  Be sure that sufficient funds are available in the account and be clear as to what the payment method is to be when the product arrives in your country.

To improve completeness, special instructions can be helpful.  Include any specific remarks you need for your business.  Product descriptions, grade comments, and even measurement specifications, (such as gross or net), can be of great importance on a document package.

It is always better to find clerical errors or clarify misunderstandings that might be present at the beginning of the process.  Something as basic as confusing Red Oak and White Oak within an order form can make for a very difficult situation to correct once the product ships.

Be Communicative

Everyone knows that in the world of business things change.  It is inevitable. That is why it is important to establish and maintain an open line of communication between supplier and customer.  The best situations are those where an open relationship is forged and communication occurs on a frequent basis. 

It is always better to communicate a changed requirement early versus waiting to later in the process.  With early notification almost all situations can be rectified.

Be Knowledgeable

It is important that you take it upon yourself to be as knowledgeable as you possibly can.  Know as much as you can about the rules and guidelines of importing as well as the specifics of your order.

Be sure to understand when and where your shipment will arrive. Be clear as to what you will need to pick up your shipment from the dock.  Be timely and avoid unnecessary demurrage or storage charges.  We have seen situations were demurrage charges accumulated in fees in excess of the value of the shipment because the customer did not claim their shipment on a timely basis.

Also, familiarize yourself with the plethora of industry resources that are out there today.  The International Chamber of Commerce publishes and maintains what is called the Incoterms.  Revised and updated in 2010, these Incoterms help clarify the responsibilities of both the buyer and seller when it comes to international trade.  (


Importing hardwood lumber is not hard.  It just requires the proper information, an attention to detail, and an honest and open line of communication.

Baillie Lumber would be happy to help you with any and all of your hardwood lumber needs.  Let us know how we can help you succeed.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact your Baillie Lumber account representative.

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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