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Container Shipping to the Philippines

FCL and LCL freight forwarding: information and online quotes

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Updated on 29 Aug 202210 min read

The Philippines is a big player in the world of imports and exports, ranked as the 32nd largest importer globally. This can be owing to the country’s wealth in natural goods and products. If you want to expand your reach to the island archipelago, you have some options to ship to the Philippines.

Shipping a container to the Philippines is done via ocean freight. In this article, we lay down everything you need to know about importing to the Philippines, including your freight options, costs, requirements, transit time, main ports of arrival, and more.

What are your options for container shipping to the Philippines?

To ship a container to the Philippines, you will need to avail yourself of ocean freight services, which you can do with a reliable freight forwarder. Your goods can be shipped either via less than container load or full container load.

Less than Container Load (LCL) to the Philippines

Less than container load shipping is the most common and more economical ocean freight option. Here, your goods will be consolidated with consignments from other sellers. Together, the goods will be shipped to the destination country. Less than container load is the best option if you’re shipping in small quantities, i.e. your cargo does not take up half of the standard container.

Full Container Load (FCL) to the Philippines

On the other hand, there is the full container load freight service where your goods will be shipped exclusively and in isolation. No consolidation takes place in full container load shipping, which means that you have the container all to yourself. However, because of this, it does mean there is an added fee for the space of an entire standard container. But the advantage is that FCL can be a little faster than LCL.

How much does it cost to ship a container to the Philippines?

The cost of your shipment to the Philippines will depend upon a variety of different factors. Hence, there is no straightforward rate that would apply to all shipments. Some of the factors that will determine the cost of your shipment to the Philippines include:

  • The nature of the goods you are shipping
  • Your chosen ocean freight service, either LCL or FCL
  • The weight and volume of your cargo
  • The size of your cargo
  • The distance of your origin port and destination port
  • Selected movement type, i.e. door-to-door, port-to-port, port-to-door, or door-to-port.
  • A freight forwarder can provide you with a more accurate estimate for your shipment.

What type of cargo can be sent in a container to the Philippines?

Because you are shipping by sea, the type of cargo that you can ship is almost limitless. Ocean freight has fewer restrictions compared to air freight. You can ship anything from toys to clothes, gadgets to computers, and more. Some of the most common cargo that is shipped in a container include:

  • Dried food
  • Gas-based fuels
  • Cars
  • Machinery and factory parts
  • Dry bulk cargo
  • Goods in loose quantities

How long does it take to ship a container to the Philippines?

Transit times would differ greatly depending on several factors, including where your cargo is coming from, whether you’re shipping via LCL or FCL, if the shipping route is direct or has multiple stops, etc. On average, your shipment can take as long as 7 to 46 days.

Here are some estimated transit times for container shipping to the Philippines from different countries around the world.

Country of Origin LCL or FCL Average Duration
Australia 27 to 34 days
China 9 to 19 days 15 to 31 days
Germany 42 days 36 days
Hong Kong 20 days
India 18 days 20 to 22 days
Indonesia 11 to 18 days 9 to 24 days
Italy 35 days
Malaysia 13 days 16 to 21 days
Pakistan 31 days
Singapore 7 days 11 to 16 days
Taiwan 11 days
Thailand 10 days 17 to 21 days
The Netherlands 44 days 35 days
USA 33 to 34 days 29 to 46 days
Vietnam 8 days

What container capacity do I need for my cargo to the Philippines?

Containers used in ocean freight usually come in two standard sizes— either 20 feet or 40 feet. LCL shipments should not exceed half of the size of the container. To maximize LCL shipping cost efficiency, the cargo should ideally have a volume of less than 15 CBM. For goods with a volume higher than the recommended unit, you should compare the prices of LCL and FCL services as the ladder may become a more cost-attractive shipping method.

FCL shipment’s cost is not defined by the volume and weight of the cargo since the consignor is paying for the whole space in the standard container. The volume becomes less relevant as the goods simply need to fit in the container. However, weight should still be considered.

Maximum weight by container size:

  • 20-foot container: 20 tonnes
  • 40-foot container: 30 tonnes

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

You have a decision to make regarding the method of ocean shipping you should choose for your container shipment. Below are some pointers to help you decide what’s best for your particular situation.

Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to the Philippines

You should opt for LCL shipping if:

  • Your goods have a volume of less than 15 CBM
  • Your goods are not needed in the Philippines urgently
  • You are shipping in small quantities or small goods, but they are too large for air freight
  • Your goods are suitable to be shipped with other consignments in a shared container

Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to the Philippines

On the other hand, full container load shipping might be a better option for you if:

  • Your goods are expected in the Philippines at a specified time
  • Your cargo occupies half of a standard container or has a volume of more than 15 CBM
  • Your goods are delicate
  • Your cargo is heavy
  • Your cargo requires isolation while in transit.

Break Bulk

Goods that are too large for LCL or FCL can be shipped through breakbulk shipping. In this option, the goods will be shipped in separate containers and transported individually.

Customs Clearance in the Philippines

As with other countries, the Philippines requires customs clearance for goods before they can be imported to their country. This can be a complicated process, so it’s recommended to hire a freight forwarder to help you with customs clearance requirements.

The Filipino customs authorities will need the following documents and paperwork to clear your goods for import:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Letter of credit/ other payment terms depending on the contract between the parties
  • Packing list
  • Certificates of origin
  • Importer and exporter code obtained from the Indian Directorate General of Foreign Trade
  • Bill of lading or airway bill, which will be provided by Shipa Freight
  • Other documents, depending on the nature of goods being shipped.

We’ve outlined the standard customs clearance documents you need to prepare in this full documents list. See examples and get a better idea of what you need to pass customs clearance in the Philippines.

Which Incoterms would be the right choice for my shipment?

Shipping containers to the Philippines would require you to select the right Incoterm to properly outline and designate where your responsibilities and liabilities begin and end throughout the shipping process.

Best Incoterms for Exporters

CPT (Carriage Paid To): The seller is responsible for bringing the goods to the agreed destination. They carry out the contract of carriage and bears all risks until the goods have been handed over to the carrier.

CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): CIP is the same as CPT in terms of responsibilities and risks. There is only the added requirement on the seller’s part to obtain insurance for the goods.

DAP (Delivered At Place): The DAP Incoterm makes the seller responsible for delivering the goods at the destination nominated by the buyer. The seller takes charge of the majority of the shipping process.

DDP (Delivery Duty Paid): The seller has more responsibilities than the buyer in the DDP Incoterm, which makes it ideal for sellers who are seeking to provide great customer service.

FCA (Free Carrier): Under this Incoterm, the seller is responsible for bringing the goods to the carrier. The seller also shoulders customs costs.

Best Incoterms for Importers

FCA (Free Carrier): Under this Incoterm, the seller is responsible for bringing the goods to the carrier. The seller also shoulders customs costs.

EXW (Ex Works): The EXW Incoterm is recommended for experienced buyers since they will be the ones responsible for the majority of the shipping process. The buyer picks up the goods at the seller’s premises and arranges transport and international shipping.

Processes to follow to ship a container to the Philippines

Shipping to the Philippines can be a confusing process, which is why it’s recommended that you engage the services of a freight forwarder who can help make your shipping experiences more seamless and convenient.

After arranging your shipment with a freight forwarder, you select your shipping method. LCL shipping would require your goods to undergo consolidation to be grouped with other consignments. This usually happens in a station or warehouse.

Once the goods have been loaded by the carrier to the containers, they will be fumigated to get rid of pests, insects, and other harmful organisms. This process is conducted with proper authority and approval from licensing authorities.

Upon arrival in the destination country, LCL shipments are deconsolidated. Then, all imports go through customs clearance, which should be a quick process if all requirements and paperwork are provided.

When the goods have been cleared for import, they can be picked up from the port or delivered, depending on the selected movement type.

Main container ports of arrival in the Philippines


The Port of Manila is the largest port in the entire Philippines, located at the center of the metropolitan region. In fact, this port is ranked as the 28th busiest container port in the whole world. The Port of Manila has three facilities for container shipments. These include the Manila International Container Terminal, the Manila South Harbor, and the Manila North Harbor.

Owned By: Government of Manila Annual Container Volume: >4.5 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: PHMNL


The Port of Cebu is another large domestic port, catering to the areas in Central Visayas, Philippines. This port handles international shipments, which go through its large facilities that span 14 hectares of land and its berthing space measuring 512 meters.

Owned By: Cebu Port Authority Annual Container Volume: >181,000 TEUs UN/LOCODE: PHCEB


The Port of Davao is the busiest port in the Visayas and Mindanao islands of the Philippines, located 974 South of the capital city, Manila. The Port of Davao handles both international container shipments and inter-island shipments.

Owned By: City Government of Davao Annual Container Volume: >544,000 TEUs UN/LOCODE: PHDVO

Why Ship a Container to the Philippines With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight can help you ship your container to the Philippines with ease and confidence. Enjoy seamless importing with our digital and innovative platform where you can manage the entirety of your shipping process, including receiving quotes, booking your shipment, managing your shipments, accessing customer support, and more.

We can provide you with a simple and transparent approach to your shipping needs — free of hassle, stress, or complexity. Ship confidently with Shipa Freight.Get started today by requesting a FREE quote.

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