Video of This Article
Hello, it’s IINO.
In this video, I would like to introduce you to the daily flow of Trade Operation working at a forwarder.
The work process may differ from company to company, but I hope you will view this as a reference only.
What Trade Operation is
When you hear the words “trade operation”, what do you think of in terms of job description?
You may imagine working on the front lines in a glamorous world.
You might have images such as to communicate with people overseas and conduct business negotiations or meetings in English, accompany people on overseas business trips and attend to customers who come to Japan.
However, as far as I know, there are not that many opportunities to speak English over the phone or in person in a forwarder’s trade operation.
The only time you will use English is to send English emails.
Trade operation has very different jobs depending on the type of business or industry.
If you work for a trading company or a manufacturer, you may be required to use English frequently and have advanced English conversation skills.
However, when you work for a forwarder, 90% of your communication with foreign countries is via e-mail.
Therefore, as long as you have English grammar skills at the junior high school level, you will be able to communicate with people overseas.
I feel that the skills needed to work as Trade Operation at a forwarder are not so much “English skill” as “the ability to carry out tasks accurately and speedily”.
Duties of Trade Operation
Now, I would like to introduce a real day in the life of one of our collaborators who was working as a trade operation at a Japanese forwarder company.
In Case of Export
Mainly, export operations include the following tasks.
・Preparation and confirmation of shipping documents.
・Scheduling of cargo delivery.
・Export customs clearance.
In Case of Import
And in the import business, the following are handled on a daily routine basis.
・Domestic delivery instructions and delivery date coordination.
・Import customs clearance.
・Payment of customs duties and consumption taxes.
What Correspondence is
For your information, “Correspondence” refers to the exchange of emails with foreign countries using English.
The reason why trade operation at forwarders is required to have a good command of English is because all the documents they handle are written in English.
Let’s take a look at them in order.
From AM9:00 : Chacking Mails
You start your day by opening my computer and checking e-mails.
As trade operation often communicates with overseas, you often receive mail in the middle of the night due to the time difference.
Therefore, the first thing in the morning is spent sorting through the large amount of mail that arrives from overseas.
In the case of exporting, you give information about the goods to the shipping company and send documents in advance.
On the other hand, when importing, you send e-mails to the exporter to ask for documents and product information.
In general, export work often requires more advanced English skills.
Emails with Overseas
It would be nice if you could get the response from overseas at this time. However, overseas people tend to be loose with communication, so sometimes they leave you alone for a few days.
It’s not uncommon for them to finally reply after three to five times a day of prompting.
Recently, many companies are adopting chat functions such as Skype and Teams to improve the efficiency of their operations.
From AM10:00 : Scheduling
If there is a shipping request from the exporter, you will make Booking arrangements with the shipping company.
Recently, there have been many container shortages, so it is often impossible to get space on the desired schedule, even if there is enough time before the ship leaves.
In such a case, you will inform the exporter of a potential vessel that can be loaded and ask them to adjust the schedule.
From AM10:30 : Payment Processing
If you receive an Arrival Notice from the shipping company by fax or e-mail, you will process the payment of ocean freight and other costs in CY on behalf of the importer.
In the case of same-day pickup, the payment needs to be processed in the morning of the same day. Therefore, you should work closely with the accounting department in the company and proceed as soon as possible.
Confirmation of Payment
After processing, call the shipping company to confirm that the payment has been received successfully.
In the past, I have had incidents where the shipping company did not confirm the payment due to payment confusion. At that time, we were not able to pick up the container at the container yard, so we had to check with the shipping company.
If you pick up the container on the same day, it is better to call the shipping company after the payment is processed to see if the payment has been confirmed.
From AM 11:00 : Booking Domestic Delivery
If there are import cargoes that need to be delivered domestically in a hurry, you will request delivery companies to do so.
Due to the recent shortage of drivers, it has been difficult to arrange for “same-day pick next day delivery”.
In cases where immediate delivery is required additional charges may be incurred as highway charges or handling fees. Arrangements must be made promptly by communicating the importer, shipping company and forwarder.
From PM13:00 : Preparing Shipping Documents
After the lunch break, starting afternoon work.
If there is no urgent work to be done, you will prepare and check the shipping documents.
Documentation is invoices and packing lists by using Word software. You make sure to enter the correct amounts and quantities.
You also prepare D/R.
D/R is the source of information for B/L, so you double-check it carefully to make sure there is not even a single mistake.
Then, checking L/C.
You check over and over again to make sure there are no spelling errors in the product name or banks of export side and import side.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that 50% of the work of trade operation is to check documents for errors and incompleteness.
To be honest, preparing documents and checking contents is a task that requires a lot of concentration and should be done in the morning.
However, it is difficult in actual.
It is because that in the morning urgent tasks are prioritized, such as checking e-mails, processing payments and arranging urgent deliveries.
From PM14:00 : Preparing of Documents for Customs
You finish the preparation of documents for export and import customs clearance.
You will order the product description sheet, MSDS, from the supplier. If it is applicable to other laws and regulations, you will check if the permission letter for other laws and regulations has been prepared.
For products that are being imported or exported for the first time, customs will often ask questions about their use. Checking with your suppliers beforehand will also help you save time.
From PM15:00 : Submitting B/L
You submit B/L to a shipping company for receiving D/O.
From PM16:00 : Scheduling
You coordinate delivery dates and give delivery instructions.
It is rare for a vessel to arrive at a port on time. When the arrival date approaches, you should inform the importer of the schedule as often as possible.
If the importer is in a hurry to deliver the location of the delivery may be changed, so the vessel’s movements should be carefully monitored.
From PM17:00 : Correspondence
This is the time when people in Europe go to work, so you exchange emails.
If you don’t receive a reply within this time frame, you will have to wait the confirmation until tomorrow morning. In case of urgent, you may have to send multiple e-mails or call to confirm.
From PM17:30 : Preparing for the Next Day
Organize the documents that you want to process first thing in the morning the next day.
Prepare in advance by listing the tasks to be done tomorrow in order of priority in a memo or notebook, so that you can work efficiently.
At PM18:00 : End of Work
When the work is finished, it is the time to leave for work.
However, you often have to work late due to waiting for contact from overseas.
What do you think of this video?
The job of Trade Operation is basically a desk job just like any other office job.
However, it is a highly specialized job that requires advanced knowledge of import and export and language skills to be able to communicate via e-mail.
We have to deal with problems and irregularities almost every day.
Some workplaces have heavy responsibilities and require a lot of overtime work, but I think it is a job that you can feel a strong sense of fulfillment.
I hope this video will help you get interested in the work of Trade Operation.
That’s all for this time!
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Contact to IINO san