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Container Shipping to New Zealand

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Updated on 29 Aug 20228 min read

Major countries around the world, including the United States, China, and Australia, are importing a broad range of commodities into New Zealand. A huge bulk of these imports are machinery and equipment. If your business offers the high-demand commodities in New Zealand and you’re looking to expand your services there, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we lay down everything you need to know about shipping a container to New Zealand. Learn your options for container shipping, estimated costs and transit time, container capacities, customs clearance, and more.

What are your options for container shipping to New Zealand?

To ship a container to New Zealand, you will need to avail of ocean freight shipping. You have two options: less than container load or LCL and full container load or FCL.

Less than Container Load (LCL) to New Zealand

Less than container load shipping typically accommodates small cargo. This is because the goods will be consolidated with other cargo and shipped together in one container. LCL is an economical option especially for those shipping in small quantities.

Full Container Load (FCL) to New Zealand

Full container load, on the other hand, is a more exclusive mode of shipping. Your goods will be shipped alone in one container. Because of that, it’s a little more expensive than LCL but is a good choice if you are shipping heavy, big, and delicate items.

How much does it cost to ship a container to New Zealand?

There is no standard value for shipping to New Zealand because the costs would depend on a variety of factors. These include:

  • 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.)

Your freight forwarder can give you an estimate of your shipping costs.

What type of cargo can be sent in a container?

Shipping by sea has fewer restrictions when it comes to the type of goods that can be transported. Hence, you can ship anything in a container, from foodstuff and dry bulk to vehicles and machinery. However, you should be aware of the prohibited and restricted goods for import in New Zealand in order to avoid problems with customs.

How long does it take to ship a container to New Zealand?

New Zealand is a rather isolated country in the Southwest Pacific, which is why your shipping could take longer. Your cargo’s transit time would depend on a variety of factors, such as the mode of ocean shipping you select, whether the ship is direct or stops at multiple destination, and the distance between your port of origin and New Zealand.

It can take anywhere from 13 to 63 days for your cargo to arrive in New Zealand. Below are some estimated transit times by country of origin.

Country of Origin|LCL Transit Time|FCL Transit Time| ------- | ---------------- | ---------------- |----------: Australia|13 to 22 days|26 to 37 days Canada|49 days|47 days China|23 days|21 to 46 days Germany||55 days India|38 days|29 to 39 days Indonesia||24 to 35 days Japan||60 to 63 days Malaysia|24 days| Thailand||41 days UAE|39 days|38 days United Kingdom||51 to 53 days USA|26 to 35 days|36 to 33 days

What container capacity do I need for my cargo?

Shipping containers come in various sizes, with the smallest ones measuring 2 feet and the largest ones up to 45 feet. Which one you choose would depend on the size of your cargo. However, if you select LCL, we advise that your cargo does not occupy more than half of a standard container. Otherwise, it’s best to select FCL or compare the prices between the two and select the more cost advantageous option.

On the other hand, if you choose to ship via FCL, you can select any container size. Since you engage the entire container for your shipments exclusively, you don’t have to worry about the size, weight, and volume of your cargo.

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

The right mode of ocean freight for you would depend on your priorities and the characteristics of the goods you will be shipping. Below are some tips to help.

Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to New Zealand

LCL is the best option if your cargo is:

  • Small in size or quantity
  • Not delicate or fragile
  • Suitable for shipping with other cargo
  • Suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Not expected in New Zealand urgently

Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to New Zealand

FCL is the best choice for your shipment if your cargo is:

  • Large, bulky, heavy, or oversized
  • Large in quantity
  • Fragile, delicate, or perishable
  • Not suitable for shipping with other cargo and requires isolation
  • Not suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Expected in New Zealand quickly

Break Bulk

Break bulk shipping may be recommended by your freight forwarder if your goods do not fit in a single container. In this mode of shipment, your goods will be shipped individually instead of in a single container.

Customs Clearance in New Zealand

Before your goods can be accepted in New Zealand, it has to go through customs clearance. It’s important that you submit your documents and paperwork early on to avoid any problems with customs. You will need to provide the following documents:

  • 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

Depending on the nature of your shipment, you may also need other permits or certifications. Check our full documents list for examples of the paperwork required for customs clearance.

Which Incoterms would be the right choice for my shipment?

Choosing the right Incoterms protects you and your buyer throughout the shipping process. Here are some of the best Incoterms that you can use.

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 New Zealand

We highly recommend that you engage the services of a freight forwarder to enjoy more convenience throughout the shipping process. Freight forwarders are industry experts who can guide you through all the requirements of shipping to New Zealand.

All LCL shipments will be transferred to a container freight station for consolidation. They are then loaded to containers, together with other FCL shipments. All cargo must go through the fumigation process to eliminate pests, insects, and other harmful organisms.

When the consignments have arrived in New Zealand, LCL goods will be deconsolidated and everything goes through customs clearance. Once cleared for import, they can be picked up or will be delivered to the nominated destination.

Main container ports of arrival in New Zealand


The port of Tauranga has the highest throughput level out of all the ports in New Zealand, making it the largest ocean port in the country. It is located in Sulphur Point, in between the areas of Auckland and Wellington.

Owned By: Port of Tauranga Ltd Annual Container Volume: >1.2 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: NZTRG


The port of Lyttelton is located in South Island in New Zealand and is considered a gateway to the areas of Christchurch and Canterbury. It is the third largest container port in the country. The port of Lyttelton is also known by the names Te Whaka or Te Whakaraupo.

Owned By: Lyttelton Port Company Annual Container Volume: >420,000 TEUs UN/LOCODE: NZLYT


The port of Auckland is located in Northern New Zealand and has 55 hectares of storage areas and wharves. It houses two container terminals, namely Bledisloe and Fergusson. The port of Auckland is in the process of reducing its emissions and aims to achieve zero by the year 2040.

Owned By: Ports of Auckland Annual Container Volume: >930,000 TEUs UN/LOCODE: NZAKL.

Why Ship a Container to New Zealand With Shipa Freight?

Whether shipping to New Zealand or other parts of the world, Shipa Freight is your reliable freight forwarder who can help make your shipping experience easy and stress-free. Our digital platform enables you to manage your entire shipment through your smartphone, from requesting a quote and making an order all the way to tracking and paying for your shipment.

As a digital-first forwarder, we offer the convenience of modern technology to aid your shipping needs. Get started today, request a quote for your shipment to New Zealand.

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