Ocean & Air Freight Shipping to Canada [Updated: Sep 2021]
Get information and quote for FCL, LCL and Air shipping
Consumer goods account for 20% of Canadian imports, with motor vehicles, electronics, machinery, and chemical products also ranking highly. The United States is by far the most dominant origin of imported goods into Canada, with China a distant second.
Wherever you’re looking to export or import to Canada from, and whatever your product, this page is for you. It’s a source of information to help you ship ocean or air freight to Canada with greater ease and success.
You can ship commercial goods to Canada via ocean carriers or air freight companies. Each has plus-points and drawbacks, which you will find outlined on this page.
Ocean Freight to Canada
Less than Container Load (LCL): You don’t have to hire a whole container to ship your freight to Canada. LCL shipping lets your goods occupy space in a shared container. You might find this the most economical way to ship smaller consignments.
Full Container Load (FCL): This form of international shipping requires you to rent a whole container for the transportation of your cargo. It gives businesses the chance to seal their container at source and for it to remain sealed until it reaches the recipient in Canada. FCL shipping can be both quicker and cheaper than LCL.
Air Freight to Canada
Whether it’s via a direct cargo-only flight or indirect passenger services, air freight will be the quickest way to ship your goods. It is, however, by far the most expensive option.
A freight forwarder can provide you with quotes for ocean and air shipping to Canada based on the following criteria:
- The nature of the goods you wish to ship
- Your chosen mode of transport, be that air freight or ocean shipping via FCL or LCL
- How big your cargo is and how much it weighs
- The distance the freight needs to be moved
- Your choice of door-to-port, port-to-door, port-to-port or door-to-door delivery
As mentioned above, the weight of your consignment affects the price of shipping. It can also affect your choice of air or ocean freight. If your goods weigh over 100kg, sea freight is usually the most cost-effective option. Under 100kg (but over 35kg) and there’s little difference between the cost of ocean or air shipping, so you might prefer to use the faster option (almost certainly air freight). Consignments weighing 35kg or under won’t be handled by a freight forwarder, so you should look to international couriers to transport these goods.
Of course, the distance to Canada from your chosen seaport or airport of origin will affect the shipping times. Generally speaking, you can expect an air shipment from a major international airport anywhere in the world to take between two and eight days to reach its destination in Canada.
Ocean shipping is a slower process. The cargo vessels transporting containers to Canada move at an average speed of 35km per hour. So shipments can take from as little as 11 days to as many as 53 days to reach consignees in Canada. Your choice of FCL or LCL will also have a bearing on transit time.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea to Canada?
Below are some samples of ocean shipping durations for Canada-bound consignments from various locations:
|Country of Origin||Port of Origin||Destination Port||Transit Time LCL||Transit Time FCL|
|Australia||Brisbane||Montreal||41 Days||45 Days|
|Australia||Brisbane||Vancouver||43 Days||45 Days|
|China||Shanghai||Toronto||31 Days||30 Days|
|Germany||Hamburg||Montreal||25 Days||15 Days|
|India||Cochin||Toronto||20 Days||34 Days|
|India||Chennai||Toronto||32 Days||33 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Toronto||42 Days||40 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Vancouver||42 Days||51 Days|
|Malaysia||Port Klang||Toronto||40 Days|
|Mexico||Veracruz||Montreal||57 Days||26 Days|
|United Arab Emirates||Dubai||Toronto||50 Days||39 Days|
|United Arab Emirates||Dubai||Montreal||43 Days|
|United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi||Toronto||53 days|
|United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi||Montreal||56 Days||38 Days|
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air to Canada?
As the examples below show, you can expect an air shipment to Canada from a major international airport anywhere in the world to take between two and eight days:
|Country of Origin||Airport of Origin||Destination Airport||Transit Time|
|Brazil||São Paulo||Montreal||6 Days|
|Brazil||São Paulo||Vancouver||6 Days|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||Calgary||8 Days|
|South Korea||Seoul||Toronto||6 Days|
|United Arab Emirates||Dubai||Toronto||4 Days|
|United Arab Emirates||Dubai||Calgary||4 Days|
|United Kingdom||London||Vancouver||4 Days|
|United Kingdom||London||Toronto||6 Days|
|United Kingdom||Glasgow||Toronto||2 Days|
|United Kingdom||London||Calgary||2 Days|
|United Kingdom||London||Vancouver||2 Days|
All commercial shippers seeking to import goods into Canada have to observe customs regulations. As these can be confusing, many businesses choose to hire a freight forwarder to manage the process. By engaging the services of experts, businesses can avoid unnecessary shipping delays and ensure their consignments comply with Canadian customs rules.
Even when using international shipping experts, it’s still essential for a business to prepare and submit certain documents. Here are the documents that Canadian customs officials are most likely to require:
- Commercial Invoice
- Packing List
- Certificate of Origin
- Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
- Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)
The above list is not exhaustive, as other documents, such as certificates, permits, and licenses might also be necessary for your goods. Your freight forwarder will advise you on the precise requirements.
If you want to see samples and discover more about each of the documents, we’ve gathered them all for your scrutiny on this documents list page.
Depending on where in the world your shipment begins its journey to Canada, you can expect ocean freight to take anywhere between 11 and 53 days to reach your consignee. Most of the world’s major ports are served by ocean shipping lines ready to convey your goods to North America. A forwarder can help arrange and coordinate your shipment and get you the best port-to-port sea freight rates.
It’s highly likely that your goods will be transported aboard a cargo vessel inside a standard 20ft or 40ft container. If your shipment should require a specialist container your freight forwarder will outline your options. In any event, there are two ways to ship your goods in a container to Canada—FCL or LCL.
Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to Canada
This form of shipping is likely to be best for your Canada-bound freight if it’s:
- A relatively small shipment.
- Not urgently required by your consignee in Canada.
- Able to be shipped alongside other goods from other businesses in a shared container.
- Too big for air shipping, or not suitable to be flown aboard an aircraft.
You should be aware that although LCL is often the most cost-effective way to ship to Canada, it can have a downside. Because your goods will be sharing container space with others, they will need to be consolidated in your port of origin. They will also need to be deconsolidated at your port of arrival in Canada. Both are essential logistics steps that can result in longer transit times than other forms of shipping.
You should avoid LCL shipping to Canada if:
- Your freight is high-value, fragile or perishable.
- Frequent moving or handling of your goods might damage them.
- You cannot accept shipping delays.
- Your goods are very large and/or extremely heavy.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to Canada
This could be the right shipping option for your consignment if:
- It’s needed in Canada by a specified date.
- It will occupy at least half the capacity of a standard 20ft container—14CBM or more.
- It’s delicate or heavy freight.
- You want your container sealed at the point of origin and to remain sealed until received by the consignee..
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Canada
- Situated on Quebec’s St. Lawrence River.
- Only 17km from Montreal Trudeau Airport.
- Located 1,600km inland from the Atlantic Ocean.
- Offers the shortest direct shipping route into Canada for ocean carriers from North America and Europe.
- Its three cargo terminals handled more than 2,000 vessels in 2019.
- Easy onward distribution from the port to Ottawa, Drummondville, and Sherbrooke.
Owned By: Montreal Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >1.6 million TEUs.
- Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario.
- It provides easy access to over 25% of Canada’s population.
- Quick onward distribution of goods to consignees in Brampton, Mississauga, Markham, and Hamilton.
Owned By: Ports Toronto.
Annual Container Volume: >Unknown.
- A gateway into Canada for over 170 global trading economies.
- Situated at the mouth of the Fraser River.
- Easy access to Kerrisdale, Burnaby, Delta, and New Westminster.
- Cargo traffic is expected to triple by 2030.
Owned By: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >3.3 million TEUs.
- You should seriously consider shipping your goods as air freight if any of the following apply:
- Your cargo is fragile or has a short shelf-life.
- Your goods are required urgently in Canada.
- Your consignment is small, comprising just a few pallets of goods.
- Your recipient in Canada is situated closer to an international airport than a seaport.
- Your cargo is valuable and will benefit from the tight security measures taken by airlines and airport operators..
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Airports of Arrival in Canada
Edmonton International (IATA Code: YEG)
- Located 26km outside Edmonton city center.
- Ranked Canada’s fifth-busiest airport for cargo.
- Boasts six freight terminals, three with temperature-control facilities.
- Aprons and runways accommodate the world’s largest air freighters.
Calgary (IATA Code: YYC)
- Gateway to Northwestern Canada for air cargo from Europe and Asia.
- Infrastructure includes four runways, including Canada’s longest at 4,260 meters.
- 50 million people live within a day’s drive of the airport.
- Adjacent to three trade parks: McCall South, McCall North, and Deerfoot South.
- Lies at the crossroads of the north-south Canamex corridor and the east-west Trans-Canada highway.
Toronto Pearson (IATA Code: YYZ)
- Canada’s biggest and busiest airport.
- Situated 14km northwest of downtown Toronto.
- The facility handles over half of Canada’s air cargo.
Winnipeg (IATA Code: YWG)
- Full name is James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
- Easy access to major trucking routes including the Trans-Canada highway.
- Strategically located in the heart of the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor.
- Ideal port of arrival for goods destined for Grande Pointe, Headingley, Rosser, Lockport, and others in Manitoba Province.
Montreal Pierre Trudeau (IATA Code: YUL)
- Canada’s third-busiest airport for freight.
- Serves Canada’s second-biggest city, Montreal.
- Strategic gateway between Europe and North America.
Vancouver (IATA Code: YVR)
- 12km from Vancouver city center.
- 302,000 tonnes of air freight was processed here in 2019.
- Winner of ‘Best North American Airport Award’ for ten years in a row.
Shipa Freight is a digital-first freight forwarder. Our online platform makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to ship to Canada by air or sea. Our consignment tracking features and quick quote, booking, and payment functionality simplify the international shipping process.
Here are some other benefits of using us to coordinate your shipping to Canada:
- Friendly 24/7 customer support service available via phone, email, and online chat.
- Rely on us to let you know the shipping documents your consignment needs.
- Expert help and advice to simplify customs complexity.
- Your shipment will adhere to international shipping rules and regulations.
- What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight to Canada?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo to Canada?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo to Canada?
- Import Customs Clearance in Canada
- Ship Ocean Freight to Canada: FCL or LCL?
- Air Shipping for Your Freight to Canada
- Ocean and Air Shipping to Canada: Why Choose Shipa Freight?