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An export guide to transporting cargo from Hong Kong [Updated: Nov 2021]

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Updated on 21 Nov 202111 min read

Hong Kong SAR, China enjoys many freedoms as a port city. Its government has endorsed the 'market-driven with minimal government interference' policy to create a business-friendly environment in the nation.

The Chinese mainland guides Hong Kong’s foreign and defense policies, but the territory maintains its own currency and customs status. The region is a major corporate and banking center as well as an outlet for China's flourishing exports.

What are Your Options for Shipping Freight From Hong Kong?

Shipping freight from Hong Kong can be conducted via ocean or air freight.

Ocean Freight From Hong Kong

The Port of Hong Kong is a deep-water port that deals with high volumes of trade in containerized manufactured products, raw materials, and passengers. It is managed by the Hong Kong Marine Department. The port is able to berth and handle all types of vessels, thanks to the deep waters and natural shelter of Victoria Harbour.

In terms of shipping movements, cargo handled, and passengers, this is one of the world’s busiest ports. It features nine container terminals, situated at Kwai Chung, Stonecutters Island, and Tsing Yi. The River Trade Terminal at Tuen Mun handles substantial container throughput.

Ocean freight from Hong Kong gives you two shipping options: less than container load and full container load. In LCL, your cargo will be consolidated with consignments from other sellers, to be shipped together in one container. In FCL, on the other hand, your goods will be shipped in isolation.

Air Freight From Hong Kong

Despite the global pandemic, air freight continues to remain a viable mode of shipping to Hong Kong. Several direct and indirect flights are operating from Hong Kong International Airport to the United States each week, along with select Middle Eastern destinations.

Air freight is the best choice if you’re looking to ship from Hong Kong in a fast and flexible manner. The only downside is the extra costs as plane travel can be more expensive compared to ocean freight.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Hong Kong?

The cost of your shipment will differ depending on various factors. These include:

  • The type of goods you are shipping
  • Your chosen mode of shipment (ocean freight or air freight)
  • The weight and volume of your cargo
  • The size/ dimensions of your cargo
  • The distance between Hong Kong and your destination country
  • Specific movement types, i.e. door-to-door, port-to-door, door-to-port, port-to-port

Your freight forwarder can provide you with a more accurate estimate of your shipping costs.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Hong Kong?

How long your shipment will take will depend on factors such as your chosen mode of shipment, whether the ship or plane is direct or has multiple stops and the distance between Hong Kong and your port or airport of destination. Here are some estimated shipping durations:

Ocean Freight From Hong Kong

Destination Country Transit Time LCL Transit Time FCL
Australia 28 days 27 - 29 days
Bangladesh 12 days
Cambodia 21 days
China 9 days 4 - 7 days
Denmark 35 - 38 days
Finland 48 days
Germany 35 days
India 15 - 17 days 15 - 27 days
Indonesia 11 - 13 days 10 - 13 days
Italy 40 days
Japan 6 - 11 days
Kenya 19 days
Malaysia 10 - 13 days 9 - 11 days
Netherlands 33 days
Peru 43 days
Philippines 10 - 20 days
Saudi Arabia 22 - 25 days
Singapore 7 days
Spain 31 days
UAE 19 - 25 days
UK 32 - 35 days 33 - 40 days
USA 21 - 37 days 17 - 43 days
Vietnam 12 - 20 days

Air Freight From Hong Kong

Destination Country **Transit Time **
Australia 5 days
Bangladesh 5 days
Brazil 6 - 9 days
Canada 8 days
China 3 days
France 5 - 7 days
Germany 1 - 8 days
India 2 - 5 days
Indonesia 8 days
Japan 2 - 5 days
Malaysia 3 days
Netherlands 5 - 7 days
New Zealand 8 days
Oman 6 days
Pakistan 6 - 8 days
Peru 8 days
Philippines 4 - 5 days
Portugal 8 days
Qatar 2 - 8 days
Saudi Arabia 6 - 8 days
Singapore 2 - 8 days
South Africa 2 - 7 days
Spain 8 days
Switzerland 6 - 8 days
Sweden 6 days
Taiwan 2 days
Thailand 1 - 5 day
Tukey 5 days
UAE 0 - 8 days
UK 4 - 17 days
USA 2 - 8 days
Vietnam 3 days

Export Licenses and Permits

Depending on the type of goods you intend to export, a valid export license must be obtained from the relevant government departments in Hong Kong.

Detailed below are the various goods or products that require an export license in Hong Kong.

Export license for dutiable goods

If you plan to export dutiable goods, you should obtain an export license from the Customs and Excise Department of Hong Kong. According to the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, dutiable goods include:

  • Alcoholic liquors
  • Tobacco products
  • Hydrocarbon oil
  • Methyl alcohol

Export license for optical disc mastering and replication equipment

If you wish to export optical disc mastering and replication equipment, an export license is needed from the Customs and Excise Department of Hong Kong.

Export license for controlled chemicals

If you wish to export controlled chemicals, you must acquire an export license from the Customs and Excise Department of Hong Kong.

Export license for the export of animals or birds

For the export of endangered animals, plants, or species, an export license from the Endangered Species Protection Division, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department must be garnered.

Export license for pharmaceutical products, medicines, and dangerous drugs

If you wish to export pharmaceutical products, medicines (including Chinese medicine), and certain dangerous drugs, you must obtain an export license from the Pharmaceuticals Export Control Unit, Pharmaceutical Service, Department of Health.

The common types of dangerous drugs are stimulants, hypnotics, tranquilizers, and sedatives. Some examples include opium, morphine, heroin, cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines. For the export of Chinese herbal medicines, the export license must be obtained from the Chinese Medical Council of Hong Kong.

Export license for hazardous chemicals

An export license is required in order to export scheduled chemicals. At present, non-pesticide hazardous chemicals include chemicals that are subject to regulation under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants or the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

Export license for pesticides

If you wish to export pesticides, you must obtain an export license from the Plant and Pesticides Regulatory Division, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department.

Export license for rice

Rice is a staple food in Hong Kong and is therefore scheduled as a reserved commodity under the subsidiary regulations of the Reserved Commodities Ordinance. If you wish to export rice into or from Hong Kong, you must apply for an export license under the Trade and Industry Department’s Rice Control Unit.

Export license for rough diamonds

The export of rough diamonds must be covered by valid Kimberley Process Certificates issued by the Director-General of Trade and Industry.

Export license for strategic commodities

Although Hong Kong is a free trade port, certain commodities are subject to control. The export of such controlled commodities requires a specific export license, issued by the Strategic Trade Controls Branch of the Trade and Industry Department. Note that controlled goods that are being re-exported or transshipped are also subject to the same licensing requirement.

However, controlled goods that are in transit i.e. goods which at all times remain in the vessel or aircraft throughout their passage through Hong Kong, are normally not required to be covered by a license, except for particularly sensitive items such as nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Strategic commodities include arms and ammunition, explosives, high precision machine tools, high-performance computers, sophisticated communication systems, nuclear materials, high speed, and high-density integrated circuits.

Export license for textiles

The export of textiles (including the export of non-Hong Kong origin textiles) must be covered by a valid export license, issued by the Director-General of Trade and Industry unless specifically exempted.

Note that the licensing requirements vary for sensitive markets and non-sensitive markets. Sensitive markets include imports from and exports to mainland China, and exports to the USA.

Export Declaration

According to the Export Regulations, every person who exports any goods or articles (except exempt goods/articles) must file an Export Declaration with the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, within 14 days after the goods or articles have been exported. The declaration can be filed electronically via service providers that are appointed by the Government.

Export Clearance Procedures

In order to clear goods that are to be exported, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department will thoroughly inspect all export-related documents. The Customs Department may also undertake a physical examination of the cargo, as and when it deems fit.

Required Documents for Export Clearance

The documents that are required for export clearance include:

  • Manifests,
  • Bill of lading, airway bill, or any other similar document,
  • Invoice or packing list, and
  • Other documents such as export license, removal permit, etc.

Export Fees and Taxes

  • Customs Fees: Hong Kong is a free port and does not impose any customs fees on exports.
  • VAT or GST: Hong Kong does not impose any value-added tax or goods and services tax.

Export Financing

With the growth of international trade, the importance of trade finance has also increased. At present, there are a number of financing options available for trading companies in Hong Kong. The major trade finance instruments that facilitate trade in Hong Kong include:

Letters of Credit

The Letter of Credit is the most widely used trade finance instrument and is an effective means for banks to finance export trade. A Letter of Credit is a letter issued by the buyer’s bank and guarantees payment to the exporter.

Short-term finance

Almost all major banks in Hong Kong offer short-term finance options to trading companies. Some of the short-term financial products include term loans, overdrafts, revolving loans, export loans, etc.

Export credit insurance

Export credit insurance is cargo insurance on goods that insures the goods against damage, theft, and loss and protects the exporter against non-payment by the buyer. The insurance policy can aid financing as it can be used as collateral against which banks charge lower rates for loans since the risks are reduced.

The Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation (ECIC) issues insurance policies that are accepted by banks as useful collateral for trade finance. Around 70 banks in Hong Kong have accepted ECIC policies as useful collateral.

Shipping From Hong Kong: FCL or LCL?

If ocean freight is your chosen mode of shipment, you need to select between FCL or LCL. In order to make the best decision, consider your priorities, as well as the particulars of your cargo.

Less than Container Load from Hong Kong

You should choose LCL if your cargo is:

  • Small in size and quantity
  • Suitable for consolidation with cargo from other sellers
  • Not expected in your destination country at a specified time
  • Suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Not perishable, fragile, or delicate

Full Container Load from Hong Kong

On the other hand, FCL may be a better choice if your cargo is:

  • Large, bulky, and oversized
  • Better of shipped in isolation
  • Expected in your destination country at a specified time
  • Not suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Perishable, fragile, or delicate

Port of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of several hub ports serving the South-East and East Asia region and is an economic gateway to mainland China. Hong Kong set a record in its container throughput in 2007 by handling 23.9 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units of containers), maintaining its status as the largest container port serving southern China and one of the busiest ports in the world.

Some 456,000 vessels arrived in and departed from Hong Kong during the year, carrying 243 million tons of cargo and about 25 million passengers. The average turnaround time for container vessels in Hong Kong is about 10 hours. For conventional vessels working in mid-stream at buoys or anchorages, it is 42 and 52 hours respectively.

The Hong Kong Airport Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG, ICAO: VHHH) is Hong Kong's main airport, built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok. The airport is also referred to as Chek Lap Kok International Airport or Chek Lap Kok Airport, to distinguish it from its predecessor, the former Kai Tak Airport.

Having been operational since 1998, Hong Kong International Airport is an important regional trans-shipment center, passenger hub, and gateway for destinations in China (with 45 destinations) and the rest of Asia. The airport is the world's busiest cargo gateway and one of the world's busiest passenger airports.

Top Commodities Exported from Hong Kong (2018)

  1. Gold 9.55%
  2. Broadcasting Equipment 8.25%%
  3. Diamonds 5.4%
  4. Office Machine Parts 3.23%
  5. Gas Turbines 2.54%

Top Tradelanes from Hong Kong

  1. China 20%
  2. India 12.6%
  3. Vietnam 8.3%
  4. Netherlands 5.57%
  5. Macau 4.95%

Ocean and Air Shipping From Hong Kong: Why Choose Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight is a digital-first freight forwarder that offers you all the functionalities of traditional freight forwarding but with the convenience of modern technology. We have a digital platform where you can control and manage the entirety of your shipment with ease. Through a mobile device, you can get:

  • Online quotes
  • Online booking and payment
  • Managed shipping process
  • Helpful customer support
  • Transparent shipping documents
  • And more

Get started with Shipa Freight today.