Essential Guide to Start an Export Company in Singapore

What is an Export Company

An export company, also known as an export trading company (ETC) or an export management company (EMC), is a business entity specialising in facilitating the export of products or services from one country to another. These companies play a crucial role in international trade by helping domestic businesses expand into global markets.

Singapore’s strategic location, world-class infrastructure, and business-friendly environment make it an attractive choice for those looking to start an export company. 

However, it’s crucial to understand and obtain the licences and permits to engage in export activities legally. This guide will help you understand the starting requirements for export businesses and different product categories.

Licences and Permits for Exporting from Singapore

The licences and permits required for exporting in Singapore vary depending on your product category, and compliance is essential to ensure the smooth flow of goods across borders. From customs permits to certificates of origin and various industry-specific licences, exporters must navigate a complex regulatory landscape. 

To legally export goods from Singapore, you must obtain the following licences and permits:

1. Business Registration

Register your business entity with the ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority). The specific type of registration will depend on your business structure.

2. Goods and Services Tax (GST) Registration

If your annual taxable turnover is expected to exceed SGD 1 million, you must register for GST with the IRAS (Internal Revenue Authority of Singapore). However, voluntary registration is also possible for businesses with a lower turnover. GST is a value-added tax applied to most goods and services in Singapore, including exports.

3. Customs Export Permit (CEP)

You must obtain a Customs Export Permit (CEP) from Singapore Customs for every export. The CEP must clear your goods through customs and demonstrate that the export complies with all relevant laws and regulations. You can apply for CEP through the TradeNet system, Singapore’s electronic single window for trade documentation and customs clearance.

4. Certificate of Origin (CO)

A Certificate of Origin is a document certifying the country where your goods are produced. It may be required by the importing country as part of their customs procedures or to benefit from preferential tariffs under trade agreements. The SICC (Singapore International Chamber of Commerce) can issue Certificates of Origin.

5. Certificates for Controlled Products

Depending on your product category, you may require additional certifications or licences. For instance, exporting medical devices may require registration with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). The Singapore Food Authority (SFA) may also issue permits to ship certain agricultural and food products. Search TradeNet to determine if the goods you are exporting are controlled.

Here are a few more examples of permits for controlled goods.

  • Strategic Trade (ST) Permit
    • If you plan to export goods subject to control under the Strategic Goods (Control) Act, you’ll need a Strategic Goods permit. These controlled items may include weapons, military technology, and other sensitive goods. The permit can be obtained from the Singapore Customs or the Singapore Police Force, depending on the nature of the controlled item.
  • Phytosanitary Certificates
    • If you intend to export agricultural products, plants, or plant products, you may need phytosanitary certificates issued by the National Parks Board (NParks) to demonstrate that your products meet the health and safety standards of the destination country.
  • Environmental Permits
  • Radio Communication Equipment License
    • If your business exports radio communication equipment, you may need a license from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protections
    • Ensure you have the intellectual property rights for your products. This is important for businesses dealing with patented or trademarked goods.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Import-Export Companies in Singapore and How to Start One

How to Apply for a CEP in Singapore

Applying for a Customs Export Permit is crucial for businesses exporting goods from Singapore. The permit is required to ship goods legally and helps to meet customs regulations and requirements. 

Step 1: Determine the Need for a Customs Export Permit

Before applying for a Customs Export Permit, determine whether your export activity requires one. In general, you will need a Customs Export Permit if you plan to export goods out of Singapore, regardless of whether they are dutiable or non-dutiable.

Step 2: Gather the Required Information

To apply for a Customs Export Permit, you will need the following information and documents:

  • Your business’s Unique Entity Number (UEN).
  • Details of the exporting company, including contact information.
  • The correct Harmonized System (HS) code for the goods you are exporting. The HS code classifies goods for customs purposes, and it’s essential to get it right.
  • Information about the exported goods, including their description, quantity, value, and weight.
  • Any relevant licences or permits are required for specific categories of goods, such as controlled items.
  • Information about the country of destination for the exported goods.

Step 3: Access the TradeNet System

The TradeNet system is the electronic platform for Singapore’s customs declaration and permit applications. You can access TradeNet through the Singapore Customs website.

Step 4: Register for a TradeNet Account

If your business does not have a TradeNet account, you must register for one. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Singapore Customs website and access the TradeNet system.
  2. Register for a TradeNet account by filling out the necessary information and providing the required documents. You’ll need your CorpPass account for registration.
  3. you will receive a TradeNet user ID and password upon successful registration.

Step 5: Log in to the TradeNet System

Using the TradeNet user ID and password, log in to the TradeNet system.

Step 6: Apply for a Customs Export Permit

Once logged in to TradeNet, you can apply for a Customs Export Permit:

  1. Select the “Declare” or “Permit” option within the TradeNet system.
  2. Choose “Export” as the type of permit you want to apply for.
  3. Provide the required information, such as the HS code, goods description, quantity, value, weight, and destination country.
  4. Verify that all information is accurate and complete.
  5. Pay any applicable permit fees. Fees may vary depending on the type of goods and permits being applied for.
  6. Apply.

Step 7: Review and Await Approval

After applying, Singapore Customs will review it. The approval process typically takes a short period, and you will receive a notification once your Customs Export Permit has been approved. Ensuring that all details are accurate and that the information provided complies with customs regulations is essential.

Step 8: Print the Customs Export Permit

You can log in to the TradeNet system to print the Customs Export Permit upon receiving approval. You must provide a printed permit copy to accompany your exported goods.

Step 9: Ensure Compliance

Throughout the export process, you must ensure that your exported goods and related activities comply with all customs regulations and laws. Failure to do so can result in penalties and delays in your export operations.

Step 10: Maintain Records

It’s essential to maintain accurate records of your export activities, including the Customs Export Permits, for auditing purposes and to demonstrate compliance with customs requirements.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Top 12 Logistics and Freight Companies in Singapore

Examples of Export Companies in Singapore

  1. OLAM International Ltd
    • Website: OLAM International
    • Competitive Advantages: OLAM is a global leader in agri-business, with a significant presence in various commodities, including coffee, cocoa, grains, and more. Their competitive advantage lies in their vast global network of sourcing and distribution and their commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing.
  2. Trafigura Group:
    • Website: Trafigura
    • Competitive Advantages: Trafigura is a leading commodities trading company with a strong presence in Singapore. Their competitive advantage includes a vast global network, expertise in commodity trading, and a focus on oil and energy trading. They also have capabilities in metals, minerals, and bulk commodities.
  3. Wilmar International Limited
    • Website: Wilmar International
    • Competitive Advantages: Wilmar is a leading agribusiness group focusing on palm oil, edible oils, and various agricultural products. Their competitive advantage lies in their integrated supply chain, from sourcing raw materials to processing, refining, and distributing consumer products.

Top Exports from Singapore

According to the Singapore government, these are the top exports from Singapore.

  1. Electronics and Electrical Machinery: Singapore is known for its strong presence in the electronics industry, including semiconductor manufacturing, integrated circuits, consumer electronics, and telecommunications equipment.
  2. Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals: Singapore’s pharmaceutical and chemical industries have been growing, with exports of pharmaceutical products, biotechnology goods, and speciality chemicals.
  3. Machinery and Equipment include industrial machinery, computers, and mechanical appliances. Singapore exports various types of machinery and equipment to international markets.
  4. Refined Petroleum and Petrochemical Products: Singapore hosts one of the world’s largest refining and petrochemical complexes. It exports refined petroleum products and a variety of petrochemicals.
  5. Biomedical and Medical Equipment: Singapore has a growing biomedical industry that exports medical devices, diagnostic equipment, and healthcare-related products.
  6. Chemicals and Chemical Products: This category includes industrial chemicals and plastics, which serve various industries, including construction and manufacturing.
  7. Food and Beverages: Singapore exports processed food, beverages, and seafood, often focusing on high-quality, value-added products.
  8. Transport Equipment: Transport equipment exports include motor vehicles, aircraft, and ships. Companies in aerospace and shipbuilding contribute to this category.
  9. Precision and Optical Instruments: Singapore exports precision instruments, optical lenses, medical equipment, and scientific instruments, often driven by a focus on research and development.
  10. Mineral Fuels: Singapore is involved in the trading and processing mineral fuels, including coal, petroleum oils, and natural gas.

How Luwjistik Helps

One of the critical sources of revenue growth for any export company is an efficient supply chain. Your business will need timely and cost-effective delivery of freight. That’s why you need a logistics platform like Luwjistik. It is a logistics platform solution designed to streamline processes and establish connections to a network of logistics service providers, simplifying the export supply chain without requiring investment in on-ground logistics assets. 

Here’s how Luwjistik can assist you:

  • Marketplace
    • Luwjistik’s Marketplace connects logistics service providers to a diverse network of over 80 partners across 22 countries. This extensive network offers a wide range of logistics and freight options and transparent cost management, facilitating well-informed decision-making.
  • L-Freight
    • L-Freight offers an all-in-one platform for businesses engaged in B2B shipments. This platform streamlines selecting suitable freight, submitting comprehensive shipment orders, and efficiently managing customs documentation. It also provides cost-saving benefits through group buy rates, allowing businesses to optimise transportation costs, thus improving overall operational efficiency for export shipments within a single logistics framework.
  • Unified API
    • Luwjistik streamlines your export delivery operations by offering a Unified API, allowing seamless integration with multiple logistics service providers through a single interface. This simplification reduces complexity, making it easier to compare and select the most suitable logistics and freight partners worldwide, including in Singapore. It enhances the efficiency of your supply chain and logistics processes without additional resources.

To embark on a transformative journey and explore these strategic logistics approaches, visit our website at or contact our representative at today.