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International shipping guide to Australia

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Are you looking for a freight forwarder in Australia, or one that specializes in shipping to that far-flung part of the world? Perhaps you are a business owner or executive based in Australia, with a need to get quotes for shipping your imports. Whatever your transportation needs, Shipa Freight’s network covers all the main trade routes for ocean and air freight to Australia and Tasmania.

While on the subject of routes, you’ll find some useful information on this page about the lanes used by freight companies in Australia and around the world, to move goods on behalf of international shippers. We have also provided some guidance on how to comply with Australian import rules and standards.

Procedures and Standards for Shipping to Australia

We are sharing the following details purely to help you stay informed about customs and border procedures for imports to Australia. 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. This includes the preparation and submission of customs declarations and supporting documents

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If you send a shipment via ocean or air freight to Australia, with a goods value of more than $1,000 (AUD) you or your freight forwarder must declare it to the customs authorities using an import declaration form. As a commercial importer, you will be required to use one of two types of declaration:

  • If you will be sending your imported goods directly to a customs-licensed warehouse, you must complete a Warehouse Declaration (N20).
  • If you will forward your goods directly to your own facilities or those of your customers, you must use the Import Declaration (N10).

Australia has an online solution for lodging import declarations, known as the integrated cargo system (ICS). However, you can declare your goods using paper documents if you prefer. If so, the document you will need to complete is called an Import Declaration (N10) (Form B650).

Importing is Easier with a Freight Forwarder

As is the case in most countries, you may complete your import declarations yourself if you wish, but the Australian government strongly recommends that you use a customs broker or freight forwarder in Australia to clear your shipments through customs.

You can also use a forwarder or broker based outside of Australia. For example, Shipa Freight is an online forwarder with expertise in shipping to Australia—and many other countries around the globe.

Restricted and Prohibited Imports to Australia

Unlike the customs websites of some countries, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service website is very user-friendly and easy to navigate.

This makes it very easy to check if the products or materials you are shipping to Australia are subject to any import restrictions or are prohibited. However, if you just want an ‘at a glance’ view of restricted imports, the main categories are listed below:

Products and Materials Subject to Import Restrictions in Australia

  • Anabolic/androgenic substances
  • Antibiotics
  • Asbestos
  • Dog and cat fur products
  • Glazed ceramic ware
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Cosmetics containing toxic materials
  • Crowd control equipment
  • Cultural heritage goods
  • Rough Diamonds
  • Protrusion-type Dog collars
  • Narcotics
  • Endangered animal and plant species
  • Novelty erasers
  • Plastic explosives
  • Firearms and Ammo
  • Fish
  • Electronic fly swatters
  • Growth hormones
  • Substances of human or animal origin
  • Ice Pipes
  • Incandescent lamps
  • Daggers and knives
  • Laser pointers
  • Ozone-depleting substances
  • Synthetic greenhouse gases
  • Pencils containing toxic materials
  • Pesticides and other hazardous chemicals
  • Pornography and objectionable material
  • Security Sensitive Ammonium Nitrate
  • Signal jamming devices
  • Suicide devices
  • Tablet Presses
  • Therapeutic substances and drugs
  • Unmanufactured leaf tobacco
  • Toys made from toxic materials
  • Warfare Goods and other Weapons

Primary Shipping Routes for Ocean Freight to Australia

The information shared here relates to some of the main ocean freight routes for shipping to Australia. You may notice that we only cover port-to-port shipping legs here, but Shipa Freight also provides port-to-door and door-to-door shipping services to any location within Australian borders.

While you can send very small shipments by courier to Australia, more sizeable consignments of goods for international shipping must be transported as less than container load (LCL) or full container load (FCL) ocean freight.

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5 Highest-volume Routes for Ocean Shipping to Australia

As container ships transport the largest proportion of inbound freight to Australia, there are many international shipping lanes connecting the country with its closest neighbors—as well as with faraway continents.

Shipping from the USA to Australia is rarely a problem, as most major shipping lines offer regular sailings between the two nations. The same is true for businesses wishing to export goods to Australia from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and especially Asia. In fact, with East Asia being the closest continental landmass to Australia, it’s hardly surprising that this where the busiest routes are.

Four out of our top five high-volume ocean freight routes to Australia originate in either China or Japan. Here is the actual list, presented in no particular order:

  • Shanghai (China) to Melbourne
  • Shanghai (China) to Sydney
  • Cartagena (Colombia) to Sydney
  • Yokohama (Japan) to Brisbane
  • Osaka (Japan) to Sydney

Shipping to Australia: Longest and Shortest Routes

With the exception of Australia’s closest neighbors, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, most centers of international trade with Australia are a long way away. For businesses shipping from the US to Australia, the distances and hence, the transit times, are not so bad though, especially from ports on the US’s West Coast.

The longest transit times are associated with trade lanes from Europe, with one of the longest being a route from Barcelona in Spain, to Melbourne (located toward the Eastern end of Australia), which can involve a transit time of more than 60 days.

The shortest transit times are on routes from Southeast Asia (we will discount New Zealand since it is almost a domestic trading partner with Australia). The fastest ships embarking from Singapore for instance, can reach the Australian West Coast port of Fremantle in a mere eight days.

Ocean Freight Routes to Australian Ports

From America

Country of Origin Port of Origin Destination Port Duration
Canada Vancouver Melbourne 26 Days
Canada Vancouver Sydney 43 Days
Canada Vancouver Brisbane 45 Days
Canada Vancouver Fremantle 37 Days
Colombia Cartagena Sydney 20 Days
Panama Balboa Sydney 18 Days
United States Oakland Sydney 33 Days
United States Miami Melbourne 59 Days
United States Oakland Brisbane 32 Days
United States Oakland Melbourne 38 Days
United States Philadelphia Sydney 36 Days
United States Norfolk Melbourne 37 Days
United States Seattle Sydney 40 Days
United States Seattle Melbourne 34 Days
United States Seattle Fremantle 37 Days
United States Seattle Adelaide 47 Days
United States Mobile Melbourne 52 Days
United States Mobile Sydney 52 Days
United States Los Angeles Melbourne 28 Days
United States Long Beach Sydney 33 Days
United States Long Beach Brisbane 36 Days
United States Long Beach Adelaide 45 Days
United States Los Angeles Sydney 32 Days
United States Tacoma Melbourne 34 Days
United States Tacoma Sydney 40 Days
United States Tacoma Brisbane 37 Days
United States Savannah Melbourne 49 Days
United States Savannah Sydney 48 Days
United States Savannah Brisbane 47 Days
United States Savannah Fremantle 34 Days
United States Charleston Melbourne 49 Days
United States Charleston Sydney 47 Days

From Europe

Country of Origin Port of Origin Destination Port Duration
Belgium Antwerp Sydney 58 Days
Belgium Antwerp Melbourne 44 Days
Belgium Antwerp Brisbane 56 Days
Belgium Antwerp Adelaide 49Days
Germany Bremerhaven Sydney 55 Days
Germany Bremerhaven Melbourne 57 Days
Slovenia Koper Melbourne 42 Days
Slovenia Koper Sydney 51 Days
Slovenia Koper Brisbane 39 Days
Slovenia Koper Fremantle 34 Days
Spain Barcelona Sydney 46 days
Spain Barcelona Melbourne 64 Days
Spain Barcelona Brisbane 44 Days
Spain Valencia Melbourne 41 Days
Spain Valencia Sydney 43 Days
Sweden Gothenburg Sydney 57 Days
Sweden Gothenburg Brisbane 51 Days
Sweden Gothenburg Fremantle 49 Days
Sweden Gothenburg Melbourne 57 Days
United Kingdom London Gateway Sydney 43 Days
United Kingdom London Gateway Brisbane 41 Days
United Kingdom London Gateway Melbourne 43 Days
United Kingdom London Gateway Fremantle 45 Days
United Kingdom London Gateway Adelaide 53 Days
United Kingdom Felixstowe Sydney 43 Days
United Kingdom Felixstowe Melbourne 43 Days
United Kingdom Felixstowe Brisbane 39 Days
United Kingdom Southampton Sydney 43 Days
United Kingdom Southampton Brisbane 41 Days
United Kingdom Southampton Melbourne 43 Days
United Kingdom Southampton Fremantle 45 Days
United Kingdom Southampton Adelaide 53 Days

From Asia

Country of Origin Port of Origin Destination Port Duration
Bangladesh Chittagong Sydney 21 Days
Bangladesh Chittagong Melbourne 23 Days
Bangladesh Chittagong Brisbane 22 Days
China Shanghai Brisbane 19 Days
China Xiamen Melbourne 21 Days
China Shanghai Adelaide 27 Days
China Ningbo Adelaide 24 Days
China Xiamen Sydney 23 Days
China Shanghai Sydney 15 Days
China Qingdao Fremantle 33 Days
China Qingdao Adelaide 28 Days
China Qingdao Melbourne 25 Days
China Qingdao Sydney 22 Days
China Qingdao Brisbane 19 Days
Hong Kong Hong Kong Melbourne 13 Days
Hong Kong Hong Kong Brisbane 15 Days
Hong Kong Hong Kong Sydney 22 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Sydney 19 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Melbourne 21 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Fremantle 13 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Adelaide 24 Days
Indonesia Jakarta Adelaide 23 Days
Indonesia Jakarta Sydney 18 Days
Indonesia Jakarta Brisbane 14 Days
Indonesia Jakarta Fremantle 14 Days
Japan Yokohama Sydney 24 Days
Japan Yokohama Fremantle 33 Days
Japan Yokohama Adelaide 29 Days
Japan Yokohama Melbourne 26 Days
Japan Yokohama Brisbane 21 Days
Japan Kobe Sydney 21 Days
Japan Kobe Fremantle 19 Days
Japan Osaka Brisbane 20 Days
Japan Kobe Brisbane 22 Days
Malaysia Port Klang Melbourne 17 Days
Malaysia Port Klang Brisbane 13 Days
Malaysia Port Klang Sydney 15 Days
Malaysia Port Klang Adelaide 20 Days
Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas Brisbane 23 Days
Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas Fremantle 13 Days
Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas Melbourne 21 Days
Malaysia Tanjung Pelepas Sydney 21 Days
Philippines Manila Sydney 19 Days
Philippines Manila Melbourne 22 Days
Philippines Manila Fremantle 21 Days
Singapore Singapore Melbourne 15 Days
Singapore Singapore Adelaide 18 Days
Singapore Singapore Fremantle 8 Days
Singapore Singapore Brisbane 10 Days
Singapore Singapore Sydney 19 Days
South Korea Busan Brisbane 21 Days
South Korea Busan Melbourne 20 Days
South Korea Busan Sydney 22 Days
South Korea Busan Adelaide 33 Days
South Korea Busan Fremantle 25 Days
Taiwan Kaohsiung Fremantle 15 Days
Taiwan Kaohsiung Brisbane 18 Days
Taiwan Kaohsiung Sydney 18 Days
Taiwan Kaohsiung Melbourne 19 Days
Thailand Laem Chabang Adelaide 23 Days
Thailand Laem Chabang Fremantle 15 Days
Thailand Laem Chabang Melbourne 20 Days
Thailand Laem Chabang Sydney 23 Days
Thailand Laem Chabang Brisbane 24 Days
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City Fremantle 14 Days
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City Sydney 20 Days
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City Melbourne 23 Days

Air Freight to Australia

The information presented here relates to some of the main air freight routes serving Australia. You may notice that we only cover airport-to-airport shipping legs on this page, but Shipa Freight also provides port-to-door and door-to-door services to any destination in Australia.

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Busiest Routes for Air Freight to Australia

A lot of air freight to Australia arrives as cargo on passenger airliners, which of course fly to the country from hundreds of worldwide locations. However, the number of dedicated freighters in use on Australian routes is not as high as in some other regions. The busiest routes are those coming in from New Zealand and Singapore, with the following five routes being among the most popular:

  • Auckland (New Zealand) to Sydney
  • Auckland (New Zealand) to Melbourne
  • Singapore to Sydney
  • Christchurch (New Zealand) to Sydney
  • Singapore to Melbourne

Shortest Routes for Air Freight to Australia…

Unless you slept through every geography class at school, you probably don’t need the wisdom of a freight forwarder in Australia to advise you that the country’s neighbor, New Zealand is, relatively speaking, not too far away. What might surprise you though is that the two countries are not quite as close together as they seem on a map.

Although air freight routes between New Zealand and Australia are the shortest in terms of distance and transit time, it is still a three-hour flight from Wellington in New Zealand, to the Eastern Australian city of Brisbane.

…And the Longest

If the shortest route to Australia is pretty long, the longest route is a major test of endurance for freighter flight crews. If you will be shipping from the US to Australia, try to avoid sending your freight from either Dallas or Houston in Texas, unless you have your production or distribution centers in either of those cities.

Houston and Dallas are the departure points for the longest flights to Australia, and your cargo will be in transit for a whopping 17 hours if it’s going to Sydney. Ideally, you won’t want the addition of major truck-freight mileage to increase the overall transit time of your shipments.

Air Freight: Some Examples of Routes to Australia

From America

Country of Origin Airport of Origin Destination Airport Duration(Approx.)
Canada Vancouver Sydney 15 Hours
Canada Vancouver Brisbane 14 Hours
United States Los Angeles Melbourne 15 Hours
United States Los Angeles Sydney 15 Hours
United States Los Angeles Brisbane 13 Hours
United States San Francisco Sydney 14 Hours
United States Dallas Sydney 17 Hours
United States Houston Sydney 17 Hours

From Asia and Oceania

Country of Origin Airport of Origin Destination Airport Duration(Approx.)
China Beijing Melbourne 11 Hours
China Beijing Sydney 11 Hours
China Shanghai Sydney 10 Hours
China Shanghai Melbourne 10 Hours
China Shanghai Brisbane 10 Hours
China Guangzhou Sydney 9 Hours
Hong Kong Hong Kong Sydney 9 Hours
Hong Kong Hong Kong Melbourne 9 Hours
Hong Kong Hong Kong Brisbane 8 Hours
Hong Kong Hong Kong Perth 8 Hours
Japan Tokyo Sydney 9 Hours
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Sydney 8 hours
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Melbourne 7 Hours
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Perth 6 Hours
New Zealand Auckland Sydney 4 Hours
New Zealand Auckland Melbourne 4 Hours
New Zealand Christchurch Brisbane 4 Hours
New Zealand Christchurch Sydney 3 Hours
New Zealand Christchurch Melbourne 4 Hours
New Zealand Auckland Adelaide 4 Hours
New Zealand Wellington Sydney 3 Hours
New Zealand Wellington Brisbane 3 Hours
New Zealand Wellington Melbourne 3 Hours
Singapore Singapore Brisbane 7 Hours
Singapore Singapore Melbourne 7 Hours
Singapore Singapore Perth 5 Hours
Singapore Singapore Darwin 5 Hours
Singapore Singapore Adelaide 6 Hours
South Korea Seoul Sydney 10 Hours
South Korea Seoul Brisbane 10 Hours
Thailand Bangkok Sydney 9 Hours

Need a Freight Forwarder for Australia… or Anywhere?

At Shipa Freight, we understand that importing and exporting to Australia can entail long transit times and high costs when compared to other regional markets.

We built our online platform on a database containing thousands of freight routes, and the global network of our parent company, Agility Logistics, includes offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.

In short, Shipa Freight is equipped to offer affordable shipping to Australia from hundreds of locations globally. We can also help you move your commercial imports and exports across borders without delays—a critical factor for success in global commerce.

Before you spend too much time looking up freight companies in Australia, try our platform by requesting a quick quote for your next air or ocean freight shipment.

“With Shipa Freight, I could do everything from quotation to booking with just a click”.

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