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Container Shipping to Mexico

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Updated on 29 Aug 20229 min read

Mexico is one of the most popular Latin American nations, with a rich market for a broad range of different goods. If you are thinking of expanding your reach to the Mexican market and shipping a container to the colorful country of Mexico, you need to know as much as you can about the shipping process so that you can make the best decisions and ensure a successful and stress-free shipment.

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re letting you in on everything you need to know to ship a container to Mexico, including your options, estimate cost of your shipment, Incoterms to use, transit time, customs clearance, and more.

What are your options for container shipping to Mexico?

To ship a container to Mexico, your commodities will need to go through ocean freight. Under this mode of transport, you have two options: full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL).

Less than Container Load (LCL) to Mexico

Best for small quantities of cargo, LCL is a mode of ocean freight shipment wherein your goods will be consolidated with consignments from other sellers and shipped as a group in one unit. Because of this, you are sharing the space with other sellers, including the cost for the shipment. LCL is a more economical option, but to give way for the time spent in consolidation, it may take a little while for your package to arrive in Mexico.

Full Container Load (FCL) to Mexico

If you prefer that your goods are shipped exclusively, you can select FCL as your mode of shipment. In this freight option, you have a single container all to yourself and can ship any size of cargo that you need. Although it may cost more because you don’t share the space of a unit with other sellers, the shipping time can be faster.

How much does it cost to ship a container to Mexico?

A lot of things come into play to determine the cost of your container shipment to Mexico. You will need to consider the following factors:

  • Type of goods you are shipping
  • Your choice of shipping service (LCL or FCL)
  • Weight of your cargo
  • Volume of your cargo
  • Distance between your port of origin and destination
  • Movement type (door-to-door, port-to-port, etc.)

Get a more accurate estimate of your shipping cost by requesting a quote from your freight forwarder.

What type of cargo can be sent in a container?

Because you are shipping via ocean freight, you are not limited in terms of the type of cargo you can ship. Containers can accommodate anything from appliances and foodstuffs to larger items like vehicles and machinery.

However, it’s important that you do your research on the prohibited and restricted goods for import in Mexico so that you don’t run into any problems with customs authorities.

How long does it take to ship a container to Mexico?

The transit time of your container shipment would depend on a variety of factors, such as your choice of ocean freight, the distance between your port of origin and port of destination, as well as whether your ship is direct or has multiple stops.

On average, it can take anywhere from 13 to 56 days for your cargo to arrive in Mexico. Here are some estimated transit times arranged by country of origin.

Country of Origin|LCL Transit Time|FCL Transit Time| ------- | ---------------- | ---------------- |----------: Australia|61 days Belgium|22 days|20 days Brazil|40 days|23 days China|24 to 29 days|28 to 46 days Germany|21 to 23 days|18 to 25 days India|47 to 51 days|37 to 49 days Indonesia||56 days Italy|21 days|28 days Spain|22 to 26 days|21 to 31 days Thailand|37 to 54 days|31 days United States|13 days

What container capacity do I need for my cargo?

Containers for ocean freight come in the sizes of 20 feet to 45 feet, specifically:

  • 20-foot - 33.2 CBM
  • 40-foot regular - 63.5 CBM
  • 40-foot high cube - 76.4 CBM
  • 45-foot high cube - 86 CBM

Which capacity you select would depend on the measurements of your cargo. However, we recommend that if you choose LCL, your goods do not occupy more than half of a standard container. Otherwise, it may be more economical to simply ship via FCL.

On the other hand, if FCL is your chosen mode of shipment, you are not limited in terms of the size of your cargo. You can ship big or small items in your container because your shipment is exclusive.

Which mode of ocean shipping should I choose, FCL, LCL, or Break Bulk?

The mode of ocean shipping you should select would depend on the particulars of the goods you are shipping, as well as your priorities. Below, we give you pointers to help you make the best decision.

Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to Mexico

LCL is the right choice of ocean freight for you if your cargo is:

  • Small in size and quantity
  • Delicate, perishable, and fragile
  • Capable of withstanding frequent movement and handling
  • Suitable for consolidation with other cargo
  • Not needed urgently.

Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to Mexico

You should choose FCL as your mode of shipping if your cargo is:

  • Large, bulky, oversized, or heavy
  • Fragile, delicate, or perishable
  • More suitable for isolated shipping
  • Not suited for frequent movement or handling
  • Expected in Mexico within a short period of time

Break Bulk

Your freight forwarder may recommend break bulk shipping. if your goods cannot fit in a single container. In this mode of shipment, your cargo will be separated and shipped in different units.

Customs Clearance in Mexico

Before your goods can enter Mexico, they first need to go through customs clearance. In this process, you will need to prepare and submit the following paperwork:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Letter of credit/ other payment terms
  • Packing list
  • Certificates of origin
  • Import licenses
  • Bill of lading or airway bill, provided by Shipa Freight

We have a full documents list that you can refer to for all the required documents as well as examples of each.

Which Incoterms would be the right choice for my shipment?

Incoterms govern your cargo during the shipping process and outlines your responsibilities and liabilities, as well as that of your buyers. Here are some Incoterms that you can use for your container shipment to Mexico:

Best Incoterms for Exporters

CPT (Carriage Paid To): The seller must bring the goods to the agreed destination and carry out a contract of carriage. The seller is liable until the goods have been handed to the carrier.

CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): Similar responsibilities as CPT, but with the added requirement on the seller’s part to obtain insurance.

DAP (Delivered At Place): The seller should deliver the goods to the buyer’s selected location and is responsible for the majority of the shipping process.

DDP (Delivery Duty Paid): The seller is responsible from the beginning to the end of the shipping process. This leaves the buyer with minimal responsibilities.

FCA (Free Carrier): The seller must deliver the goods to the carrier and shoulder the costs of customs.

Best Incoterms for Importers

FCA (Free Carrier): The seller must deliver the goods to the carrier and shoulder the costs of customs.

EXW (Ex Works): More responsibility is put on the buyer’s part, from picking up the goods at the seller’s premises or warehouse to arranging transport.

Processes to follow to ship a container to Mexico

To ship a container to Mexico, we highly recommend that you work with a freight forwarder who has the experience and technical knowledge to ensure a smooth and successful shipment.

If you select LCL as your shipping option, your goods will be consolidated with other consignments in a container freight station and loaded into a standard container altogether. FCL shipments do not need to go through this process.

Once all goods are loaded in the container, they undergo the process of fumigation to eliminate all pests, insects, and other harmful organisms.

When the goods arrive in Mexico, LCL goods will be deconsolidated and along with FCL cargo, will go through customs clearance. This process should be easy and quick as long as you submit complete and correct documents.

Once customs authorities have cleared the goods for import, they can be picked up at the port of destination. If you select a specific movement type, such as door-to-door or port-to-door shipping, your goods will be delivered to your specified location.

Main container ports of arrival in Mexico


The port of Veracruz is located on the east coast of Mexico near its capital city. Its location gives it easy access to the hinterland and other areas in its State via road or rail transportation. This port is the best option for shippers who are looking to transport cargo to Central and Southern parts of the country. The port of Veracruz adopts advanced technology in its operations and was the first port in the country to improve cargo flow by utilizing block chain technology.

Owned By: Administración Portuaria Integral de Veracruz Annual Container Volume: >900,000 TEUs UN/LOCODE: MXVER


The port of Manzanillo is the largest seaport for containerized goods in Mexico. It is located on the country’s west coast and is the main port for goods arriving from Aguililla, Colima, San Patricio, and Tecoman. The port is currently constructing a new container terminal with 1.75m TEU capacity.

Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: MXZLO

Lazaro Cardenas

The port of Lazaro Cardenas is situated on the pacific coast of Mexico, a couple of kilometers from California. Its location makes it the ideal port of arrival for goods coming from Tijuana and Ensenada. The port of Lazardo Cardenas is Mexico’s third-largest seaport. In 2017, it opened a new container terminal that cost $533 million to build.

Owned By: Port Authority of Lazaro Cardenas Annual Container Volume: >1.3 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: MXLZC

Why Ship a Container to Mexico With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight can help you ship your container to Mexico easily and conveniently through our digital platform. As a digital-first freight forwarder, we empower you to manage your entire shipment from your mobile device. Our platform allows you to:

  • Request quotes
  • Start a shipment
  • Settle payments
  • Manage your shipment
  • Track your cargo
  • Access customer service 24/7
  • And more

Get started with a convenient and modern way of shipping containers to Mexico. Request your FREE quote today.

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