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Ocean & Air Shipping from Australia to the United Kingdom [Updated: Jul 2021]

FCL, LCL and Air freight forwarding: information and online quote

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Updated on 04 Jul 202113 min read

Trade between Australia and the United Kingdom totaled $30.3 billion in 2018-2019. The figure makes the UK Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner. Your business may be about to export from Australia to the UK for the first time, or you may already have experience of trading between the two nations.

Either way, this page will help businesses like yours understand what’s required to import from Australia to the United Kingdom. You’ll find profiles of key ports and airports in both nations.

Transit times for air and ocean cargo are also included here, plus information about navigating the complexities of customs clearance in the countries of origin and destination.

Know Your Options for Shipping From Australia to the UK

Nearly 17,000 kilometers separate Canberra and London, the respective capital cities of Australia and Great Britain. The only feasible ways of transporting commodities across such a vast distance are by air and sea. Let’s take a closer look at both options.

Ocean Freight From Australia to the United Kingdom

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL often provides businesses with the most economical way to move freight from Australia to the United Kingdom. It involves renting space in a container that’s shared by multiple shippers and transported to the UK aboard a cargo vessel.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping will provide your business with exclusive use of a shipping container. An ocean carrier will transport the container from Australia to the United Kingdom. Because no other shippers’ goods will share the container, no consolidation or deconsolidation is required, making this (typically) a faster option than LCL shipping.

Air Freight from Australia to the United Kingdom

The quickest method of importing from Australia to the United Kingdom is to have your goods shipped as air freight. However, this is also the most expensive mode of transportation.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Australia to the UK?

Freight forwarders need to assess several factors to calculate the cost of a shipment. These include:

  • The nature of the freight being exported
  • Whether air or ocean shipping is required
  • The cargo’s weight
  • How big the consignment is
  • How far the goods need to be transported
  • If a port-to-port, door-to-port, door-to-door, or port-to-door delivery service is required

If you’re unsure whether to choose air or ocean freight, there’s no harm in seeking quotes for both. As a general rule, freight weighing more than 100 kg is usually most cost-effectively shipped by ocean. Consignments weighing under 100 kg usually cost a similar amount whether shipped by air or sea. So choosing air freight from Australia to the United Kingdom may make sense for your business as it’s so much faster.

Please note that freight forwarders don’t quote for consignments weighing less than 35 kg, but international couriers will carry shipments in this weight bracket for you.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Australia to the UK?

Exporting from Australia to the United Kingdom by sea is a long process. Container vessels heading west to Europe must travel across the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal, along the Mediterranean Sea, and into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a journey that takes between 42 and 52 days.

Air freight is much quicker, with most shipments from Australian airports to their UK counterparts taking between three and eight days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From Australia to the UK?

Below are sample transit times typically required to transport a shipping container from Australia to the United Kingdom:

  • Adelaide to Southampton—42 days LCL
  • Brisbane to Southampton—52 days FCL
  • Fremantle to Southampton—47 days FCL
  • Melbourne to Felixstowe—50 days FCL
  • Melbourne to London Gateway—48 days FCL
  • Sydney to Felixstowe—50 days FCL
  • Sydney to London Gateway—51 days FCL
  • Sydney to Southampton—44 days FCL, 49 days LCL

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From Australia to the UK?

Air freight from Australia to the United Kingdom takes considerably less time to ship than ocean freight. The typical shipping duration, including the time that consignments spend in ground handling and customs clearance, is around six days from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, or Sydney to London.

Customs Clearance in Australia and the United Kingdom

Several customs formalities must be adhered to when shipping freight from Australia to the UK. Many businesses find the process so complicated, they’d rather engage the services of a freight forwarder to handle the formalities for them. Unless your business has in-house shipping experts, this is a good idea. A forwarder can help avoid delays and ensure your shipment complies with local and international rules and regulations.

That said, you will still need to perform essential tasks to help ensure your goods meet customs requirements. A key role you will play is supplying your forwarder with the information needed for completion of the following shipping documents:

  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Packing List
  3. Certificate of Origin
  4. Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
  5. Airway Bill for air shipments, or a Bill of Lading for ocean cargo (this will be provided by the freight forwarder or carrier)

You can see examples of the paperwork listed above on our dedicated documents list page. Note though, that it may be necessary to supply additional documentation to accompany your freight, maybe a license, permit, or certificate, for instance.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

It takes at least six weeks to transport a shipping container from Australia to the United Kingdom. That should be no surprise when you take into account the distance between the two nations and the speed at which ocean vessels travel (an average of 35 km/h).

If your consignee in the UK can wait at least 42 days for goods to arrive in port, ocean shipping offers a cost-effective way of transporting freight between the Southern and Northern Hemisphere.

Usually, goods will ship onboard a cargo vessel inside a 20ft or 40ft-long shipping container. Some types of sea freight will require a different type of container, perhaps one with ventilation or refrigeration. This is another aspect of shipping that a freight forwarder can help you with.

A forwarder can also help you decide which of the two ways of shipping your goods by sea is best for your freight and your business. Let’s take a closer look at FCL and LCL shipping to help you come to a decision.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL stands for less-than-container-load. It’s usually the best option if :

  • The size of your consignment is 14 CBM or under (around six standard pallets)
  • The consignee in the United Kingdom is in no rush to receive the goods
  • Your goods can be safely shipped in a shared container
  • Air freight isn’t an option

LCL shipping is best avoided if:

  • Your freight is of a delicate or perishable nature
  • Frequent handling of your cargo could lead to damage
  • Delays to the shipment aren’t acceptable
  • Your freight is high value, very large, extremely heavy, or awkwardly shaped

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

  • FCL stands for full container load. This could be your best shipping option if:
  • Your cargo must be in the United Kingdom by a certain date
  • You can load/seal your container in Australia, and want it to remain sealed throughout shipping
  • Your cargo is extremely delicate or very heavy
  • Your consignment is greater than 14 CBM (equivalent to half the load capacity of a 20ft container)

Air Freight

Businesses tend to choose air shipping to import from Australia to the United Kingdom when:

  • The cargo is urgently needed in the UK
  • Speed of delivery matters more than costs
  • The freight is high-value, requiring the tight security provided by airlines and airport operators
  • The goods are perishable and won’t survive at least six weeks at sea
  • The consignment is small and/or light—occupying three to four pallets at most

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Australia

Melbourne

Port Facts:

  • Located at the mouth of the River Yarra
  • Australia’s biggest ocean cargo hub
  • A top-four container port in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Accommodates the world’s biggest container vessels

Owned By: The Lonsdale Consortium. Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUMEL.

Fremantle

Port Facts:

  • Situated at the mouth of the Swan River
  • Western Australia’s biggest freight hub and sole containerized goods port
  • Approximately 1,000 container vessels visit the port every year

Owned By: Fremantle Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >780,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUFRE.

Adelaide

Port Facts:

  • Situated 14 kilometers outside of Central Adelaide
  • The container vessel quay stretches for 510 meters
  • The freight terminal covers 23 hectares with warehouses taking up 3,000 square meters of space
  • Commodities handled here include grain, seeds, motor vehicles, metals, and petroleum products

Owned By: Flinders Ports Ltd. Annual Container Volume: >322,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUADL.

Sydney

Port Facts:

  • Situated in an inlet of the Tasman Sea
  • Serves the capital of New South Wales
  • The port occupies a site of over 40 hectares
  • More than 33% of Australia’s annual container traffic is processed here

Owned By: Sydney Ports Corporation. Annual Container Volume: >2.6 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUSTD.

Brisbane

Port Facts:

  • Situated off the east coast of Queensland on Fisherman’s Island
  • Ranks as one of Australia’s fastest-growing freight hubs
  • Infrastructure includes nine deepwater container berths
  • This port is ideal if your supply chain moves goods from any location in Queensland

Owned By: Port of Brisbane Corporation. Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUBNE.

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the United Kingdom

London Gateway

Port Facts:

  • Located at the mouth of the River Thames, east of Central London
  • The UK’s most technologically-advanced port
  • Accommodates the world’s largest cargo vessels
  • Around half of London’s container freight is handled here
  • Plans are in the pipeline to build a fourth berth for cargo vessels

Owned By: DP World. Annual Container Volume: >2.7 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBLGP.

Teesport

Port Facts:

Situated on the River Tees close to Middlesbrough on England’s east coast A major gateway for international shipping in Northeastern England Ideal port of discharge for goods destined for northern cities, including Newcastle, Sunderland, York, and Leeds

Owned By: PD Ports. Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBTEE.

Felixstowe

Port Facts:

  • Situated on the east coast of England
  • Almost half of the United Kingdom’s containerized goods are processed at the port
  • Ranks as Europe’s seventh-busiest freight hub, and the 50th busiest port in the world
  • Goods arriving here can be easily transported to London and cities in Eastern England, such as Cambridge, Ipswich, and Norwich

Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings. Annual Container Volume: >3.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBFXT.

Grangemouth

Port Facts:

  • Central Scotland’s primary sea port
  • Located on the Firth of Forth
  • Accessed via a 237-meter-long lock
  • Over two-thirds of Scotland’s population lives within an hour’s drive of the port

Owned By: Forth Ports. Annual Container Volume: >250,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBGRG.

Southampton

Port Facts:

  • Located on The Solent in Southern England
  • The largest container port on the south coast of England
  • Infrastructure includes facilities for handling perishables such as fresh fruit and vegetables

Owned By: Associated British Ports. Annual Container Volume: >1.9 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBSOU.

Belfast

Port Facts:

  • A vital gateway for consumer goods
  • Handles close to 70% of Northern Ireland’s ocean freight
  • 24.6 million tonnes of freight was processed here in 2019
  • Generated a turnover of $88m in 2019

Owned By: Belfast Harbor Commissioners. Annual Container Volume: >125,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBBEL.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Australia

Melbourne

Airport Facts:

  • Located 23 kilometers outside of Melbourne
  • Sometimes called Tullamarine Airport
  • Australia’s second busiest air cargo facility
  • Over 30% of Australian air cargo is processed here

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow. Melbourne to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MEL.

Adelaide

Airport Facts:

  • Located six kilometers outside Central Adelaide
  • Saw a 50% rise in air-cargo exports in 2019
  • Serves nine international destinations
  • No direct flights to the United Kingdom

United Kingdom Airports Served: None. Adelaide to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: ADL.

Perth

Airport Facts:

  • Australia’s fourth-biggest airport
  • Situated ten kilometers outside Central Perth
  • Infrastructure includes two runways
  • Idea airport of loading for any supplier based in Western Australia

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow Perth to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: PER.

Brisbane

Airport Facts:

  • Third-biggest air cargo hub in Australia
  • Accommodates the world’s biggest air freighters
  • Cargo volumes increased by 6% in 2018-2019
  • 13% of Australian air-cargo imports and exports are handled here
  • No direct flights to the UK

United Kingdom Airports Served: None. Brisbane to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BNE.

Sydney

Airport Facts:

  • Located eight kilometers south of Sydney
  • Also known as Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport and Mascot Airport
  • Nearly half of Australia’s air cargo is processed here
  • Facilities include three runways and seven terminals
  • Carbon emissions have been reduced at the airport by 30% since 2010

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow. Sydney to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: SYD.

Airports of Arrival in the United Kingdom

Birmingham

Airport Facts:

  • Central England’s main air cargo hub
  • Located 13 kilometers outside of Birmingham city center
  • Excellent road and railroad links to destinations all over the United Kingdom
  • Cargo shipped from Australia will be routed here via indirect flights

Connected Airports in Australia: None. Australia to Birmingham Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BHX.

London Heathrow

Airport Facts:

  • The United Kingdom’s leading freight facility
  • Situated 23 kilometers west of central London
  • Infrastructure includes two runways, the longest stretching for 3,902 meters
  • Annual freight volumes are predicted to rise to 3 million tonnes by 2040

Connected Airports in Australia: Perth, Sydney, Melbourne. Australia to London-Heathrow Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: LHR.

Glasgow

Airport Facts:

  • Scotland’s second-biggest airport
  • Has a single runway
  • Located 15 kilometers outside of Glasgow in Paisley, Renfrewshire
  • Strong road and rail links to many areas of Scotland and Northern England

Connected Airports in Australia: None. Australia to Glasgow Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: GLA.

Manchester

Airport Facts:

  • A global gateway to Northern England
  • Located just 12 kilometers outside Manchester City Center
  • The UK’s fourth-busiest air cargo hub
  • Infrastructure includes two runways and a 510,000 square-meter world freight terminal
  • No direct flights from Australia

Connected Airports in Australia: None. Australia to Manchester Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MAN.

Why Ship From Australia to the United Kingdom With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight can make it easier to move your goods for export from Australia to the United Kingdom. Our digital platform is straightforward to use and will simplify your supply chain.

We’ll take the hassle out of compliance with customs rules and regulations, and you can rely on us to satisfy your logistics requirements—whether you’re shipping by air or sea.

Using Shipa Freight when importing from Australia to the United Kingdom will:

  • Give you access to fast online freight quotes
  • Let you book and pay for shipping online
  • Ensure you know which documents your consignment needs
  • Allow you to rely on our customs expertise
  • Let you see all your shipping activity in one place
  • Give you 24/7 access to a friendly team of customer service advisors who are ready to help