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International shipping guide from China

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Updated on 04 Jul 202111 min read

If you have plans to begin importing or exporting from China, this page will be a good starting point in your search for information. It provides some basic guidance for shipping from China to other countries around the globe, covering fundamentals such as:

  • China export standards and customs procedures;
  • Transit times for international shipping from China to the US and other countries;
  • The busiest routes for ocean and air freight from China.


International Shipping from China: Customs Standards and Procedures

The details we share in this section are primarily for your information. As a Shipa Freight customer, you will not have to worry unduly about the obligations described here, as we take care of most border formalities, including the preparation and submission of documents on your behalf. However, you will need to take responsibility for all export-licensing arrangements.

Perhaps the first thing to be aware of is that there is currently no standardization of customs requirements and procedures in China. They vary from region to region, so before your company or your Chinese supplier begins exporting, it will be necessary to determine the exact protocols in use at the Chinese port where your goods will be declared for export.


Common Customs Documentation Requirements

As a rule, you should expect the following minimum documentation requirements to be in effect, regardless of which Chinese port of origin you choose:

  • A customs entry document
  • A customs declaration
  • A commercial invoice
  • A Packing list
  • An export license

It is rarely, if ever, possible to export commercial goods or materials from China without an export license. The onus is on the Chinese exporter to be in possession of a license, or else to use the services of a licensed trading company or export agency.

Importers’ and Exporters’ Responsibilities

The exporter is responsible for the preparation and submission of customs entry and declaration documents, although it is common for shippers to seek help with this, typically turning to professional specialists, such as:

  • An international freight forwarder with a Chinese branch;
  • One of the many international shipping companies in China;
  • A Chinese customs broker.

These types of agency can assist exporters by ensuring documents are completed correctly and by filing them according to appropriate procedures. Of course, if you are a Shipa Freight customer, we will be pleased to take care of all documentation, and ask only that you have the relevant information available for us.

If you will be the consignee, or recipient of goods from China, you won’t need to take any direct responsibility until the shipment legally passes into your ownership, but you should still make sure your Chinese supplier has all requirements covered, to ensure your goods don’t get delayed or even held indefinitely at a Chinese port.


China Export Restrictions and Limitations

As mentioned above, the Chinese government requires that all exports comply with licensing regulations, unlike the United States for example, where licensing only applies to certain specific types of products and materials.

Other Chinese export restrictions are more akin to those imposed on exports from many nations, such as those relating to goods and materials classified as having a dual military/commercial use.

China also restricts the export of a range of raw materials, particularly those that are known as rare earth elements. These restrictions are apparently in breach of a World Trade Organization ruling, but the Chinese government applies them nevertheless, although the range of restricted materials is decreasing as China seeks to become more compliant with WTO laws.

China also maintains a list of materials that may not be exported at all. You can find details of prohibited exports on the Chinese Customs Administration website.

Other products, apart from those mentioned above, may also be subject to export regulation in China, so it’s important to get advice from a China freight forwarder or directly from the customs service, relating to any goods you are planning to export or import from China.

Ocean Freight Shipping from China

The following information will help you to familiarize yourself with some of the main ocean freight routes for shipping from China. While the information here only covers port-to-port transportation, Shipa Freight also offers port-to-door and door-to-door shipping to locations in 100 countries.

International Ocean Freight Shipping from China: Busiest Routes

The last couple of decades have seen international shipping companies in China flourish, as the nation has grown to become a major offshore manufacturing center for companies in the West.

As a result, there are few countries left unserved today by ocean trade lanes from China. That said, intra-Asia trade lanes tend to be the busiest of all. The following five ocean routes form some of the most heavily used connections, plied frequently by vessels belonging to China’s international shipping lines, and those sailing under the flags of other Asian nations.

  • Shanghai to Busan (South Korea)
  • Ningbo to Busan
  • Shanghai to Singapore
  • Ningbo to Singapore
  • Ningbo to Port Kelang (Malaysia)

Shortest and Longest Transit Times for Shipping from China

If you have freight that needs shipping from China to US destinations, or anywhere in the Americas, you should prepare for some substantial lead times. Consignees on the American continent must endure some of the longest transit times for containers originating in China, with a cargo vessel taking, for example, up to 30 days to travel from the port of Ningbo to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, or from Shanghai to Boston in the United States.

Of course, if you are based in an Asian country and will be receiving an ocean freight shipment from China, you may not have to wait very long at all, with routes from Xiamen to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam or Japan’s Nagoya port taking just three and five days respectively.

List of Ocean Routes for Shipping from China

While it’s not practicable to provide a full list of all shipping trade lanes from China, those below should give you an idea of the transit times and availability of shipping between China and various locations around the world.

As an international freight forwarder, Shipa Freight can certainly provide you with quotes for the routes listed here, along with many more. Even if you don’t see your preferred route below, please do request an online quote from us, as we’re very likely to have the route in our vast database.

Please note that all transit times shown in the list below are for your interest and general guidance only. They are not guaranteed to be precise, and your freight may be in transit for more or less time than the charts indicate.

To Europe

Port of Origin Destination Country Destination Port Approximate Duration
Shanghai Croatia Rijeka 25 Days
Ningbo France Le Havre 30 Days
Shanghai Germany Bremerhaven 28 Days
Ningbo Italy La Spezia 30 Days
Shanghai Italy Genoa 29 Days
Shanghai Netherlands Rotterdam 29 Days
Ningbo Russia Vladivostok 6 Days
Shanghai Russia Vostockny 7 Days
Ningbo Slovenia Koper 25 Days
Shanghai Spain Valencia 27 Days
Shanghai Spain Algeciras 24 Days
Ningbo Spain Algeciras 27 Days
Ningbo Spain Valencia 26 Days
Nanjing United Kingdom Felixstowe 36 Days
Nanjing United Kingdom London Gateway 36 Days
Nanjing United Kingdom Southampton 36 Days
Lianyungang United Kingdom London Gateway 38 Days
Lianyungang United Kingdom Felixstowe 38 Days
Lianyungang United Kingdom Southampton 38 Days
Dalian United Kingdom London Gateway 41 Days
Dalian United Kingdom Felixstowe 41 Days
Dalian United Kingdom London Gateway 41 Days
Qingdao United Kingdom Felixstowe 35 Days
Qingdao United Kingdom London Gateway 43 Days
Qingdao United Kingdom Southampton 43 Days
Ningbo United Kingdom Southampton 30 Days
Ningbo United Kingdom London Gateway 30 Days
Shenzhen United Kingdom London Gateway 29 Days
Shanghai United Kingdom London Gateway 29 Days
Xiamen United Kingdom London Gateway 27 Days
Xiamen United Kingdom Southampton 27 Days
Ningbo United Kingdom Felixstowe 33 Days
Shenzhen United Kingdom Felixstowe 29 Days
Shanghai United Kingdom Felixstowe 31 Days
Xiamen United Kingdom Felixstowe 29 Days
Shenzhen United Kingdom Southampton 29 Days
Shanghai United Kingdom Southampton 29 Days

To America

Port of Origin Destination Country Destination Port Approximate Duration
Ningbo Brazil Rio De Janeiro 30 Days
Qingdao Canada Vancouver 24 Days
Ningbo Canada Vancouver 17 Days
Shanghai Canada Vancouver 15 Days
Ningbo Chile Valparaiso 30 Days
Ningbo Colombia Buenaventura 27 Days
Shanghai Colombia Buenaventura 25 Days
Shanghai Ecuador Guayaquil 29 Days
Shanghai Guatemala Puerto Quetzal 19 Days
Shanghai Mexico Manzanillo 21 Days
Ningbo Mexico Manzanillo 18 Days
Qingdao Mexico Manzanillo 19 Days
Shanghai Panama Colon 20 Days
Ningbo Panama Colon 22 Days
Qingdao Panama Colon 24 Days
Qingdao Panama Manzanillo 26 Days
Shanghai Peru Callao 26 Days
Ningbo Peru Callao 26 Days
Qingdao Peru Callao 28 Days
Dalian USA Long Beach 24 Days
Shanghai USA Boston 30 Days
Shanghai USA Tacoma 12 Days
Ningbo USA Charleston 29 Days
Qingdao USA Los Angeles 19 Days
Qingdao USA Oakland 26 Days
Qingdao USA Long Beach 19 Days
Xiamen USA New York 28 Days
Ningbo USA Seattle 17 Days
Ningbo USA Savannah 27 Days
Ningbo USA Oakland 19 Days
Ningbo USA Long Beach 15 Days
Ningbo USA Los Angeles 20 Days
Qingdao USA Savannah 29 Days
Qingdao USA Tacoma 21 Days
Shanghai USA Charleston 29 Days
Shanghai USA Los Angeles 18 Days
Shanghai USA Long Beach 17 Days
Shanghai USA Portland 22 Days
Shanghai USA Savannah 26 Days
Shanghai USA Oakland 22 Days
Shanghai USA Seattle 13 Days

To Asia and Oceania

Port of Origin Destination Country Destination Port Approximate Duration
Xiamen Australia Melbourne 16 Days
Shanghai Australia Melbourne 18 Days
Qingdao Australia Melbourne 18 Days
Qingdao Australia Brisbane 17 Days
Qingdao Australia Sydney 20 Days
Shanghai Australia Fremantle 28 Days
Shanghai Australia Sydney 16 Days
Shanghai Australia Brisbane 18 Days
Ningbo Australia Brisbane 18 Days
Ningbo Australia Melbourne 16 Days
Ningbo Australia Sydney 17 Days
Ningbo India Nhava Sheva 17 Days
Ningbo India Mundra 17 Days
Ningbo India Chennai 12 Days
Ningbo India Kattupalli 14 Days
Ningbo India Hazira 18 Days
Shanghai India Hazira 20 Days
Nansha India Nhava Sheva 13 Days
Nansha India Haldia 11 Days
Shanghai India Nhava Sheva 18 Days
Shanghai India Mundra 17 Days
Shanghai India Kattupalli 15 Days
Qingdao India Nhava Sheva 22 Days
Qingdao India Mundra 21 Days
Qingdao India Hazira 22 Days
Xiamen India Nhava Sheva 16 Days
Xiamen India Haldia 16 Days
Tianjin India Visakhapatnam 26 Days
Tianjin India Haldia 24 Days
Tianjin India Nhava Sheva 27 Days
Dalian India Chennai 25 Days
Shenzhen India Mundra 15 Days
Ningbo Indonesia Jakarta 9 Days
Qingdao Indonesia Jakarta 13 Days
Shanghai Indonesia Jakarta 10 Days
Ningbo Indonesia Surabaya 11 Days
Shanghai Indonesia Surabaya 12 Days
Qingdao Indonesia Surabaya 15 Days
Nansha Japan Kobe 5 Days
Ningbo Japan Yokohama 6 Days
Xiamen Japan Nagoya 5 Days
Shanghai Japan Yokohama 5 Days
Shanghai Japan Kobe 3 Days
Dalian Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas 18 Days
Nansha Malaysia Port Klang 6 Days
Shanghai Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas 11 Days
Ningbo Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas 9 Days
Qingdao Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas 12 Days
Qingdao Malaysia Port Klang 11 Days
Ningbo Malaysia Port Klang 17 Days
Shanghai Malaysia Port Klang 17 Days
Shanghai New Zealand Tauranga 19 Days
Ningbo New Zealand Tauranga 17 Days
Shanghai Philippines Manila 5 Days
Ningbo Philippines Davao 17 Days
Ningbo Philippines Manila 5 Days
Qingdao Philippines Manila 7 Days
Qingdao Taiwan Kaohsiung 3 Days
Ningbo Taiwan Kaohsiung 12 Days
Shanghai Taiwan Kaohsiung 10 Days
Dalian Taiwan Kaohsiung 4 Days
Shanghai Singapore Singapore 10 Days
Ningbo Singapore Singapore 9 Days
Qingdao Singapore Singapore 8 Days
Dalian Singapore Singapore 18 Days
Dalian South Korea Busan 4 Days
Shanghai South Korea Busan 7 Days
Ningbo South Korea Busan 5 Days
Qingdao South Korea Busan 3 Days
Ningbo Thailand Laem Chabang 10 Days
Shanghai Thailand Laem Chabang 10 Days
Qingdao Thailand Laem Chabang 13 Days
Ningbo Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City 5 Days
Shanghai Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City 5 Days
Qingdao Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City 8 Days
Xiamen Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City 3 Days

Air Freight from China: Some Useful Trade Lane Information

The following information covers some of the main air freight routes for shipping from China. While the information here only covers airport-to-airport services, Shipa Freight also offers port-to-door and door-to-door transportation to locations in 100 countries worldwide.

Important International Air Freight Routes from China

If your shipments from China comprise high-value goods or are time-critical, you might want to ask your China freight forwarder to provide you with some quotes for shipping by air. This is of course much faster than ocean shipping, but you should also expect the price to be considerably higher.

Fortunately, availability of flights is good, as freight is shipped using passenger airliners as well as dedicated freighter aircraft. Five of the busiest air freight routes from China are:

  • Shanghai to Frankfurt (Germany)
  • Shanghai to Los Angeles (USA)
  • Shanghai to Singapore
  • Beijing to Tokyo (Japan)
  • Shanghai to London (UK)

Air Freight from China: Longest and Shortest Transit Times

Air freight from China to the rest of Asia is very fast, with shipments from Beijing or Shanghai to Seoul in South Korea taking less than two hours. In fact, the longest element of air freight lead times for Asian consignees is made up of the hours (or perhaps days) spent waiting for border formalities to be completed.

Even the transit time from the air cargo terminal to your business premises can take longer than the flight itself, especially if you are located a long way from the destination airport. The opposite will be true though, if you are shipping freight from China to the United States. Routes from Shanghai to Dallas or Chicago are some of the longest, involving flight times of up to 13 hours.

Examples of Air Freight Routes from China

The lists below should give you a good idea of how long it might take for shipments from China to arrive at an air freight terminal near you. They provide only a few examples of air-cargo trade lanes, though, and we can provide you with quotes for shipments between hundreds of different airports, and even for complete door-to-door transportation between consignor and consignee.

Please note that all transit times shown in the list below are for your interest and general guidance. They show flight durations for direct routes only, and your freight may be in transit for more or less time than the charts indicate.

To Europe

Airport of Origin Destination Country Destination Airport Approximate Duration
Beijing Austria Vienna 10 Hours
Shanghai Austria Vienna 11 Hours
Beijing Denmark Copenhagen 9 Hours
Shanghai Germany Frankfurt 11 Hours
Nanjing Germany Frankfurt 11 Hours
Guangzhou Germany Frankfurt 11 Hours
Shanghai Netherlands Amsterdam 11 Hours
Zhengzhou Russia Moscow 8 Hours
Beijing Ukraine Kiev 10 Hours
Shanghai United Kingdom London 11 Hours
Guangzhou United Kingdom London 12 Hours

To Americas

Airport of Origin Destination Country Destination Airport Approximate Duration
Beijing Canada Vancouver 10 Hours
Beijing Canada Toronto 12 Hours
Shanghai USA Los Angeles 12 Hours
Beijing USA Chicago 12 Hours
Beijing USA San Francisco 11 Hours
Beijing USA Dallas 12 Hours
Beijing USA Los Angeles 12 Hours
Beijing USA Detroit 13 Hours
Beijing USA Seattle 11 Hours
Beijing USA New York 13 Hours
Guangzhou USA Los Angeles 13 Hours
Guangzhou USA New York 15 Hours
Guangzhou USA San Francisco 13 Hours
Shanghai USA Dallas 13 Hours
Shanghai USA Chicago 13 Hours
Shanghai USA San Francisco 11 Hours
Shanghai USA New York 14 Hours
Shanghai USA Atlanta 11 Hours
Shanghai USA Detroit 13 Hours
Shanghai USA Seattle 11 Hours

To Asia

Airport of Origin Destination Country Destination Airport Approximate Duration
Guangzhou India Mumbai 6 Hours
Beijing India Delhi 7 Hours
Shanghai India Chennai 8 Hours
Shanghai India Mumbai 8 Hours
Guangzhou India Delhi 6 Hours
Shanghai India Delhi 6 Hours
Shenzhen India Chennai 5 Hours
Shanghai Japan Osaka 2 Hours
Beijing Japan Tokyo 2 Hours
Beijing Japan Osaka 2 Hours
Beijing Malaysia Kuala Lumpur 6 Hours
Shanghai Singapore Singapore 5 Hours
Beijing Singapore Singapore 6 Hours
Beijing South Korea Seoul 1 Hour
Shanghai South Korea Seoul 2 Hours
Shanghai Thailand Bangkok 4 Hours

China Freight: Forwarder Services are Faster Online

At Shipa Freight, we understand that business success can depend on trouble-free, fast imports and exports from China. Our online freight-forwarding platform makes it a quick and simple task to get a quote, book, pay, and track your shipments.

At the same time, our logistics experts help you ensure that your shipping documentation is all in order, reducing the likelihood of delays in transit or at customs facilities.

Every moment counts when your business depends on trouble-free shipping from China, so speed up the process with quotes and bookings from Shipa Freight.

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