Ocean & Air Freight Shipping to China [Updated: Sep 2021]
Get information and quote for FCL, LCL and Air shipping
China is the 2nd largest importer globally after the United States. The largest chunk of its imports originates from South Korea, Japan, the USA, Germany, and Australia. In 2018, China imported goods to a staggering value of $2.13 trillion (USD).
Maybe you are already importing to China actively or are preparing to do so for the first time. In either case, information about the available shipping options, rates, transit times, and customs clearance procedures will come in handy. On this page, we’ve gathered some of the guidance that you will need to enjoy more efficient and effective ocean and air shipping to China.
The majority of commercial goods arrive in China via sea or air. We will explain both alternatives and their pros and cons in the relevant sections of this page.
Ocean Freight to China
Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL ocean freight services are a great option for shippers not in a position to hire a full container for transporting their freight to China. Your goods can instead travel in a shared container alongside the products of other shippers. It’s often the most affordable option for small shipments.
Full Container Load (FCL): With FCL shipping, you are paying to rent and ship a container at a flat rate. Most shippers do that when they have large quantities of freight to move. The main advantage is that your cargo will remain fully sealed in your container for the entire journey.
Air Freight to China
Air freight services typically outperform ocean shipping when it comes to speed and flexibility. Even if your cargo doesn’t travel on a direct flight to China, it will still arrive much faster by air than by sea. When choosing air freight, you have to be prepared to pay a hefty price, though.
The ultimate cost of shipping your cargo to China depends on several different factors, such as:
- The nature of the goods
- Chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
- Weight of the cargo
- Dimension of the cargo
- Distance between origin and destination
- Type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)
The weight of your consignment is one of the factors that influence the price the most. Here’s a handy rule of thumb to remember: Sea freight is likely to be the most economical option for cargo weighing 100 kg or more. If you are transporting less than 100 kg, though, then you probably won’t find much of a difference in cost between air and ocean shipping.
But, if you want to move light goods of 35 kg or less, it’s usually better to engage an international courier service instead of a freight forwarder. The reason is that most freight forwarding companies, including Shipa Freight, won’t deal with such a small quantity of cargo.
The seaport or airport of origin will largely determine how long it will take your cargo to reach China. Air freight can arrive in just one day but might also take up to nine days. Ocean shipping, on the other hand, will be slower. You have to plan on transit times ranging from four to 68 days.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea to China?
Here are a few examples of sea freight transit times to China from various ports around the world:
|Country of Origin||Port of Origin||Destination Port||Transit Time LCL||Transit Time FCL|
|Belgium||Antwerp||Shanghai||37 Days||38 Days|
|Chile||San Antonio||Shanghai||46 Days|
|France||Le Havre||Ningbo||40 Days||40 Days|
|France||Le Havre||Shanghai||38 Days|
|Germany||Hamburg||Shanghai||39 Days||42 Days|
|Germany||Hamburg||Shekou||45 Days||37 Days|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||Shanghai||4 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Shanghai||23 Days||23 Days|
|India||Chennai||Shanghai||18 Days||31 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Dalian||19 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Huangpu||25 Days|
|India||Nhava Sheva||Ningbo||20 Days|
|Indonesia||Jakarta||Shanghai||18 Days||13 Days|
|Ireland||Dublin||Shanghai||47 Days||42 Days|
|Malaysia||Port Klang||Shanghai||11 Days||15 Days|
|Malaysia||Port Klang||Guangzhou||31 Days|
|New Zealand||Lyttelton||Shenzhen||26 Days|
|New Zealand||Lyttelton||Qingdao||32 Days|
|New Zealand||Lyttelton||Shanghai||22 Days|
|Saudi Arabia||Ad Dammam||Shanghai||24 Days|
|Singapore||Singapore||Shanghai||11 Days||12 Days|
|Thailand||Bangkok||Shanghai||15 Days||13 Days|
|Thailand||Laem Chabang||Dalian||31 Days|
|Thailand||Laem Chabang||Qingdao||31 Days|
|Thailand||Laem Chabang||Shanghai||19 Days|
|UAE||Jebel Ali||Nansha||24 Days|
|UAE||Jebel Ali||Dalian||36 Days|
|UAE||Jebel Ali||Ningbo||22 Days|
|UAE||Jebel Ali||26 Days|
|USA||Boston||Shanghai||50 Days||42 Days|
|USA||Chicago||Shanghai||36 Days||44 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Shanghai||35 Days||20 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Shenzhen||46 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Ningbo||34 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Qingdao||28 Days|
|USA||New York||Shanghai||46 Days||51 Days|
|USA||New York||Zhuhai||46 Days|
|Vietnam||Ho Chi Minh City||Huangpu||25 Days|
|Vietnam||Ho Chi Minh City||Shanghai||20 Days|
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air to China?
Here are a few examples of transit times for air freight bound for China from major international airports:
|Country of Origin||Airport of Origin||Destination Airport||Transit Time|
|Brazil||São Paulo-Guarulhos||Shanghai-Pudong||9 Days|
|Malaysia||Kuala Lumpur||Shenzhen||8 Days|
|Malaysia||Kuala Lumpur||Chengdu||3 Days|
|Malaysia||Kuala Lumpur||Guangzhou||6 Days|
|Malaysia||Kuala Lumpur||Nanjing||8 Days|
|Saudi Arabia||Riyadh||Guangzhou||8 Days|
|South Korea||Seoul-Incheon||Ningbo||2 Days|
|South Korea||Seoul-Incheon||Xiamen||2 Days|
|The Netherlands||Amsterdam||Shanghai-Pudong||3 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Shanghai-Pudong||6 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Beijing-Capital||7 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Guangzhou||5 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Tianjin||5 Days|
|USA||Los Angeles||Shenzhen||5 Days|
|USA||New York||Beijing-Capital||5 Days|
|USA||New York||Shanghai-Pudong||5 Days|
|USA||San Francisco||Xiamen||5 Days|
|USA||San Francisco||Shanghai-Pudong||5 Days|
|Vietnam||Ho Chi Minh City||Shanghai-Pudong||1 Day|
|Vietnam||Ho Chi Minh City||Chengdu||4 Days|
Before a buyer in China can receive an inbound shipment, the goods have to clear Chinese customs. It’s a compulsory part of the shipping process. Most businesses prefer to delegate this important task to experts as they want to avoid any issues or delays. Freight forwarders are perfectly equipped to clear your cargo through customs and can guarantee that Chinese customs regulations are followed to the letter.
Certain documents have to be present before the clearance process can start. Chinese customs officials will request at least the following paperwork:
- 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)
You might also have to obtain other forms, such as certificates, permits, and licenses, depending on the nature of your goods. Your freight forwarder can explain the exact requirements to you.
Have a look at our documents list if you want to familiarize yourself a bit more with the different forms and see some examples.
The majority of commercial goods reach Chinese ports in 20ft or 40ft shipping containers carried onboard dedicated cargo ships. In the case that your sea freight doesn’t fit into a standard unit, your freight forwarder or carrier can offer alternatives, such as break-bulk shipping or other container types.
Here, we will explain LCL or FCL— the two options for containerized ocean shipping. The following sections will help you determine which method best meets your logistics needs.
Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to China
LCL shipping is usually the right mode of transport for freight that:
- Fits on less than six standard pallets (a volume of around 14 CBM).
- Can be transported next to consignments of other shippers in the same container.
- Is not needed in China immediately.
- Is too large or otherwise unsuitable for shipping as air freight.
However, you might wish to refrain from using LCL if your shipment:
- Is very big and/or heavy.
- Comprises fragile, delicate, or high-value goods
- Could incur damages through excessive movements and handling.
- Has to arrive in China at a specific date without delays.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to China
FCL shipping is usually best for freight that:
- Has a volume of at least 14 CBM or will occupy more than half the capacity of a 20ft container.
- Is delicate, fragile, or very heavy.
- Has a fixed delivery date in China.
- Should remain isolated in a container for the entire journey to China.
There’s one major downside to FCL, though. To handle a whole container and facilitate the loading and unloading process, suppliers and buyers need the necessary equipment. Not all businesses have this in place, which can restrict your options for pick-up and delivery.
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
Cargo Ports of Arrival in China
- Ninth-largest port globally and the largest in China’s north.
- Ideal for importers based near the capital of Beijing.
- Offers routes to 115 destinations around the world.
Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.
- Situated on the Yellow Sea in the Shandong Province.
- Among the ten busiest ports worldwide.
- Receives cargo ships from over 700 destinations.
Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.
- Busiest container port globally and China’s most crucial foreign trade gateway.
- Home to the largest automated container terminal in the world.
- Infrastructure includes a deep-sea and a river port.
Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.
- Eighth-largest container seaport in China.
- Offers routes to the major ports in 50 countries.
- Facilities include nine container terminals and 74 berths.
Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.
- Located on the Pearl River, which flows into the South China Sea.
- Largest port in South China.
- Connected to 300 ports in more than 80 countries.
- Ideal for importers in Guangdong province.
Owned By: Guangzhou Port Group Co.
Annual Container Volume: >15 million TEUs.
- Among the top five largest container ports in the world.
- Multiple ports with 140 berths along 260 km of coastline.
- Ideal for consignees located in Macau and Hong Kong.
- Connected to over 220 ports globally.
Owned By: Shenzhen government.
Annual Container Volume: >25.2 million TEUs.
- Closest Chinese port to Taiwan.
- Located on the southeastern coast of Fujian province.
- In the top 10 of the busiest container ports in China.
- Importers benefit from direct express rail connections to China's hinterland.
Owned By: Fuzhou Port Group Corporation Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: > 3 million TEUs.
- Known as the largest inland port worldwide.
- Built into the delta of the Yangtze river.
- Located in the Jiangsu province.
- Established as a major seaport in 229 AD.
Owned By: Nanjing Port (Group) Co Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.
- Natural river port with access to the South China Sea.
- Main port for the Eastern part of Guangdong province.
- Key gateway for the manufacturing hubs in the province.
Owned By: Shantou Port Affairs Bureau.
Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.
- Major import point for China’s Northeastern region.
- Situated on the Yellow Sea.
- The port has 80 berths.
Owned By: Dalian Port Group Co., Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.
- Established as an overflow port for the nearby Port of Shanghai.
- Boasts five terminals with over 300 berths.
- Gateway for imports destined for Zhejiang Province.
Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Co., Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >26 million TEUs.
- Located at the intersection of the Yangtze and Hanjiang Rivers.
- Infrastructure includes 244 berths for sea vessels.
- Expansion of the port is planned.
Owned By: Wuhan Port Group Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
- Located in the Dawan District of Guangdong Province.
- Offers extensive container terminal facilities.
- Alternative to the nearby larger and busier port of Shenzhen.
Owned By: China Merchants Shekou Port Service Company Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >46,000 TEUs.
- Situated on the west bank of the Pearl River estuary in Guangdong Province.
- Throughput exceeded 100 million tonnes for the first time in 2013.
- Facilities include 131 berths.
Owned By: Zhuhai Port Corporation.
Annual Container Volume: >2.25 million TEUs.
Ranks among the top 30 ports globally. Located in the north of Jiangsu Province, near the mouth of the Qianqwei River. Serves one of the cities that opened up to foreign trade and investment.
Owned By: Lianyungang Port Group Co. Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >4.7 million TEUs.
- Fifth largest port alongside the Yangtze River.
- One of China’s smaller container ports.
- Serves the Anhui Province and surrounding areas.
Owned By: Wuhu Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
Air shipping offers a fast, reliable, and flexible service for shippers who need their cargo in China urgently. However, due to the high cost, most shippers utilize this mode of transport only for small quantities of freight.
Air freight is a viable option for cargo that:
- Needs to arrive in China as soon as possible.
- Occupies two to three pallets at the most.
- Is perishable and has a short shelf-life.
- Requires the tight security that only airport operators and airlines can provide.
- Will be received by a consignee based close to an international airport.
Airports of Arrival in China
Shanghai Pudong (IATA Code: PVG)
- The third-busiest air freight gateway globally.
- Crucial Asia-Pacific hub for freight carriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL.
- Received an award for “top cargo airport in the world” by Air Cargo World in 2019.
- Capacity to be extended to six million tons of cargo per year.
Beijing-Capital (IATA Code: PEK)
- 13th-busiest cargo airport in the world.
- Had a freight throughput of two million tonnes in 2019.
- Located 32 kilometers to the northeast of Beijing’s city center.
- Boasts three terminals and three runways.
Shenzhen (IATA Code: SZX)
- 24th-busiest cargo airport globally.
- Located in the heart of the Pearl River Delta, 32 kilometers northwest of downtown Shenzhen.
- Handled more than 1.2 million tons of cargo in 2018.
- Important hub for freight carriers UPS and SF Airlines.
Zhengzhou (IATA Code: TSN)
- Seventh-busiest airport for cargo traffic in China.
- Airport with the highest freight volume in central China.
- Located in Henan Province, 37 kilometers southeast of central Zhengzhou.
- Processes a freight throughput of around 502,000 tonnes per year.
Chengdu (IATA Code: CTU)
- Fourth-busiest airport in the country for cargo traffic.
- Most important cargo hub for western China.
- Situated in the Sichuan province, 16 kilometers southwest of central Chengdu.
- Connected to 50 international and 170 domestic destinations.
Guangzhou (IATA Code: CAN)
- Third-busiest airport in the country.
- Main airfreight gateway for Guangdong province.
- Facilities include two terminals and three runways.
Wuhan (IATA Code: WUH)
- Located 26 kilometers from Wuhan’s city center in Hubei province.
- Most important airport in central China.
- Has one terminal and two runways.
Fuzhou (IATA Code: FOC)
- Situated 50 kilometers east of central Fuzhou.
- 23rd-busiest airport in the country for freight traffic.
- Planned capacity expansion to 450,000 tonnes of freight per year.
Qingdao (IATA Code: TAO)
- Situated 31 km from Qingdao’s city center.
- Located in an urban area with limited room for expansion.
- Due to be replaced by Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport.
Chongqing (IATA Code: CKG)
- Tenth-busiest airport in China for cargo.
- Located 19 kilometers north of Chongqing in the Yubei District in Western China.
- Has three terminals with a fourth scheduled for completion within a decade.
Nanjing (IATA Code: NKG)
- Serves the capital of Jiangsu Province.
- Facilities include a 34,000 square meter cargo center.
- Expressways rail links connect the airport to other regions close to the Yangtze River Delta.
Xiamen (IATA Code: XMN)
- Located on the north side of Xiamen Island in the Fujian Province.
- Eighth-busiest airport in China in terms of cargo traffic.
- With little room to expand, a new airport is already under construction.
Tianjin (IATA Code: TSN)
- Located in the Dongli District of Tianjin city.
- One of the major air cargo centers in China.
- New terminal and runway upgrade increases capacity to over 500,000 tons of cargo per year.
Ningbo (IATA Code: NGB)
- 29th-busiest airport in the country for cargo traffic.
- Serves the second-largest city in Zhejiang Province.
- Opened in 1990.
Dalian (IATA Code: DLC)
- Located 10 kilometers northwest of Dalian’s city center in Ganjingzi District.
- Busiest airport in Northeast China.
- Due to be replaced by another airport, having reached maximum capacity.
Shipa Freight is an experienced digital-first freight forwarder, serving businesses of all sizes. We aim to make shipping your air and sea freight to China as easy as possible. You can now benefit from our state-of-the-art online platform to manage all your imports and exports.
Take advantage of the following benefits when you ship your cargo to China with us:
Easy-to-compare online quotes, ready instantaneously.
Quick and straightforward online booking and payment.
Your entire shipping process on one single platform.
Helpful customer support, available 24/7 via phone, email, and online chat.
Transparent shipping documents. No customs complexities – we will manage them for you. Full compliance with international and local shipping rules and regulations.
- What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight to China?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo to China?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo to China?
- Import Customs Clearance in China
- Ship Ocean Freight to China: FCL or LCL?
- Air Shipping for Your Freight to China
- Ocean and Air Shipping to China: Why Choose Shipa Freight?
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