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Ocean and Air Shipping From China to Australia

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Updated on 16 Sep 202115 min read

Australia is China’s tenth-largest customer for exports. In fact, over a quarter of Australia’s manufactured imports come from China. A report in September 2019 described trade between the two nations as ‘booming’.

If you’re looking to export from China to Australia for the first time or you’re seeking an easier way to move your goods, this page should be of interest. Its varied content includes details about ocean and air shipping from China to Australia, along with guidance on securing customs clearance. You will also find profiles of key airports and seaports in both China and Australia, as well as transit times from the Shipa Freight database.

Know Your Options for Shipping Freight From China to Australia

Freight forwarding professional in orange top, leaning on a stack of cartons, adjacent to the flags of China and Australia

Ocean and air shipping are the only ways to ship freight from China to Australia. Each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages and it’s good to know what they are before you make your choice. So let’s take a look at both in a little more detail:

Ocean Freight From China to Australia

Less than Container Load (LCL): With LCL ocean shipping, your cargo shares container space with products from other companies importing from China to Australia. LCL is popular with businesses with smaller consignments to ship—cargo amounting to less than the 33 cubic meter capacity of the smallest container.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping services provide you with the use and transportation of a container from China to Australia, with no need for your shipment to share space with others. This is often the most cost-effective option for consignments big enough to fill at least twelve standard pallets in a 40ft container, or six in a 20ft container.

Air Freight from China to Australia

Air freight is by far the quickest way to get your import or export from China to Australia. Some shipments can be completed in just two days. However, it’s the most expensive way to ship freight internationally.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From China to Australia?

Your quote for shipping from China to Australia will take into account:

  • The type of goods you’re sending
  • Your choice of ocean or air shipping
  • The weight, volume, and dimensions of your consignment
  • Your preferred method of delivery—door-to-door, port-to-port, port-to-door or door-to-port

Unsure whether to choose air or ocean shipping? If your freight weighs under 100kg, sending it as air cargo can be almost as economical as using an ocean carrier—and it’s quicker. Consignments weighing above 100kg will usually be less costly to ship if you send them as ocean freight from China to Australia.

Like almost every other freight forwarder, Shipa Freight does not quote for consignments weighing less than 35kg.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From China to Australia?

Hourglass and a calendar to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight

Delivery timescales will no doubt influence your choice between ocean and air freight for your export from China to Australia. Air freight is quicker, with some shipments completed in just two days.

If you have a less pressing delivery deadline or your consignment is too big to fly, ocean freight is for you. You should allow between 12 and 62 days for your goods to be shipped by an ocean carrier from China to Australia.

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

As these sample shipping durations show, ocean carriers can get your goods from China to Australia in 12 to 62 days:

  • Guangzhou to Melbourne—24 days LCL
  • Guangzhou to Sydney—35 days FCL
  • Fuzhou to Melbourne—25 days LCL
  • Guangzhou to Brisbane—36 days FCL
  • Ningbo to Adelaide—29 days FCL
  • Ningbo to Brisbane—12 days LCL
  • Ningbo to Melbourne—23 days LCL
  • Ningbo to Sydney—22 days LCL
  • Qingdao to Fremantle—36 days FCL
  • Qingdao to Sydney—29 days FCL, 21 days LCL
  • Qingdao to Brisbane—21 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Brisbane—27 days FCL
  • Shanghai to Fremantle—27 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Melbourne—28 days FCL, 23 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Sydney—27 days FCL, 19 days LCL
  • Shekou to Melbourne—25 days FCL
  • Shenzhen to Brisbane—19 days LCL
  • Shenzhen to Sydney—21 days LCL
  • Tianjin to Sydney—31 days FCL, 26 days LCL
  • Wuhan to Sydney—36 days FCL
  • Xiamen to Sydney—36 days FCL
  • Zhongshan to Melbourne—24 days LCL
  • Huangpu to Adelaide—62 days LCL
  • Huangpu to Brisbane—24 days LCL
  • Huangpu to Sydney—24 days FCL, 27 days LCL
  • Nansha to Melbourne—28 days LCL
  • Nansha to Sydney—16 days FCL, 25 days LCL
  • Zhongshan to Melbourne—24 days LCL
  • Huangpu to Melbourne—27 days FCL

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

You should expect your air freight from China to Australia to take between two and eight days, as this list illustrates:

  • Guangzhou to Brisbane—4 days
  • Guangzhou to Melbourne—5 days
  • Zhengzhou to Brisbane—7 days
  • Chengdu to Melbourne—2 days
  • Beijing-Capital to Brisbane—4 days
  • Beijing-Capital to Sydney—8 days
  • Shanghai Pudong to Adelaide—2 days
  • Shanghai Pudong or Xiamen to Brisbane—5 days
  • Shanghai Pudong or Xiamen to Melbourne—4 days
  • Shanghai Pudong to Perth—3 days
  • Shanghai Pudong to Sydney—5 days
  • Shenzhen to Perth—5 days
  • Shenzhen to Brisbane—3 days
  • Shenzhen to Sydney—4 days
  • Qingdao to Brisbane—6 days

Customs Clearance in China and Australia

Customs clearance is mandatory for every commercial freight export from China to Australia. The process is complex. That’s why plenty of businesses choose to engage a freight forwarder to manage it. Doing so removes the chance of unnecessary delays affecting your shipment and ensures your consignment complies with Chinese and Australian shipping rules and regulations.

You will still need to take responsibility for providing the compulsory documentation that customs officials in China and Australia will almost certainly want to see:

  1. A Commercial Invoice

  2. A Packing List

  3. A Certificate of Origin

  4. A Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)

  5. An Airway Bill for air cargo or a Bill of Lading for ocean freight (you can leave this to Shipa Freight)

Examples of the paperwork listed above are available on this documents list page. Please note that you might be required to provide additional documentation with your consignment. For example, a permit, certificate, or license may be mandatory for the goods you will be shipping.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Regardless of where you’re shipping from, transporting a shipping container from China to Australia is a long process, with two to three weeks being the average transit time. Your goods are likely to be moved between your chosen port of origin and arrival by an ocean carrier aboard a container ship. Containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the standard type being either 20 ft or 40 ft long and opening at one end.

Your freight forwarder will help you to choose between FCL and LCL ocean shipping. However, for your guidance, we detail some of the key advantages and disadvantages of both modes of shipping below. Reading the following sections will enable you to make an informed decision about whether FCL or LCL shipping is best for you.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL shipping could work out the most suitable option for your consignment if:

  • It’s no bigger than six standard pallets
  • Your goods aren’t urgently required by the recipient in Australia
  • Your cargo can be safely shipped in a shared container
  • You don’t have access to facilities to load and seal a container in China
  • You appreciate that LCL requires extra logistics (consolidation and deconsolidation) that could add extra time to your shipment when compared to FCL shipping

It could be worth avoiding LCL shipping altogether if:

  • Your freight must be with the recipient in Australia by a certain date
  • Your cargo is delicate and risks being damaged if handled or moved too frequently
  • Your consignment is large, making it unsuitable for shipping in a shared container
  • Your goods only have a short shelf-life, so are unlikely to arrive in Australia in good condition after at least a couple of weeks at sea

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Importing from China to Australia using an FCL service could be exactly what you need, especially if:

  • Your goods must be in Australia by a specified date
  • Your freight isn’t suited to sharing a container with other products
  • The supplier can load and seal a container and the recipient can unload it
  • You are shipping a consignment big enough to fill at least half the capacity of a 20ft container

Air Freight

Ocean freight may not meet the demands of your supply chain. In which case, air shipping is the option you should consider, especially if:

  • Speed of delivery is more of a priority than cost
  • Your export from China to Australia must arrive quickly
  • Your consignment contains perishable goods which will benefit from a short transit time
  • Your cargo is relatively small—three pallets at most
  • Your goods can be safely shipped aboard an aircraft
  • Your goods are high-value and require the stringent levels of security provided by airlines and airport operators

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Port Facts:

  • Situated on the coast of the East China Sea
  • Just across the bay from Jiaxing and Shanghai
  • Easily accessible from Zhejiang, the fifth-largest export hinterland in China
  • Infrastructure includes seven container terminals ready to process goods for export or import to Australia

Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Company.

Annual Container Volume: >26.3 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Nine container freight terminals process more than ten million TEUs annually
  • Australia is one of 50 countries to which goods from Xiamen are exported

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • A magnet for container vessels, serving over 700 locations worldwide
  • If your supplier or manufacturer is in Shandong Province, Qingdao is likely to be your nearest port of origin

Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • The world’s busiest container port
  • A major draw for businesses seeking to export from China to Australia
  • Well-connected by roads and railroads to the city that shares its name—and surrounding areas

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in the Dhawan District in Guangdong Province
  • An ideal alternative to the nearby bigger and busier Port of Shenzhen
  • A sole container terminal processes goods for import from China to Australia

Owned By: China Merchants Shekou Port Service Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >46,000 TEUs.


Other Ports in China

The list below shows other ports in China from where shipments to Australia can embark:

  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Wuhu
  • Qinzhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Guangzhou
  • Shantou
  • Shenzhen
  • Lianyungang

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Australia

Fremantle (Perth)

Port Facts:

  • Western Australia’s busiest cargo port
  • Located in the Perth Metropolitan area
  • The inner harbor handles most international containerized freight arriving/departing the area
  • In 2018-2019 the port handled over 780,000 TEUs

Owned By: Fremantle Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >780,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located 14 kilometers northwest of Central Adelaide
  • Facilities include a 510-meter quay exclusively for container vessels
  • The terminal covers 23 hectares and features 3000 square meters of warehouse space
  • Road links from the port to the surrounding area are strong, and railroad tracks connect directly to the Australian rail network

Owned By: Flinders Ports Pty Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >322,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the artificial Fisherman’s Island off the east coast of Queensland
  • Features nine deepwater container berths
  • Linked to the Gateway Motorway for easy access by road from the port to other destinations, including the city of Brisbane—the third-largest city in Australia

Owned By: Port of Brisbane Corporation.

Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Over one-third of Australia’s containerized freight is processed here every year
  • Generates $60 billion worth of international and domestic trade annually
  • New automated container handling facilities at Port Botany are helping boost Sydney’s annual cargo throughput

Owned By: Sydney Ports Corporation.

Annual Container Volume: >2.6 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Situated at the mouth of the River Yarra
  • Upgrades have boosted its container-handling capacity in recent years
  • The port can now handle larger container vessels
  • A new Victoria International Container terminal has been built and $550 million invested in a highly automated new dock

Owned By: The Lonsdale Consortium.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in China


Airport Facts:

  • Full name is Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
  • It’s a two-runway facility in Sichuan Province
  • Situated 16 kilometers to the southwest of Chengdu city
  • Processes 600,000 tonnes of air freight annually

Australia Airports Served: Sydney, Melbourne.

Chengdu to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • The world’s third-busiest airport for freight
  • Processes 3.7 million tonnes of goods every year
  • Outstanding transport links make it a prime destination for businesses with goods to export from China to Australia

Australia Airports Served: Melbourne. Sydney.

Shanghai to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: Qantas Cargo, MASkargo



Airport Facts:

  • China’s tenth-busiest air freight hub
  • Located just under 20 kilometers from the city of Chongqing
  • A fourth terminal is due to open at this airport
  • For suppliers or manufacturers based in the Yubei District in Western China, this is an attractive proposition as an airport of origin

Australia Airports Served: Melbourne, Sydney.

Chongqing to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: Qantas Freight.



Airport Facts:

  • This air hub in Southern China has a seaport nearby
  • If your supply chain requires fast shipping to Australia, through areas including Hong Kong or others around the Pearl River Delta, this is the place to ship from

Australia Airports Served: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane.

Shenzhen to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • The 19th-busiest airport for cargo in China
  • Its central location makes it popular with manufacturers and suppliers from all over China
  • It can handle an annual throughput of 1 million tonnes

Australia Airports Served: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney.

Guangzhou to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express.


Other Airports in China

Additionally, your goods can be flown to Australia from the following airports in China:

  • Qingdao
  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Dalian
  • Tianjin
  • Beijing
  • Zhengzhou
  • Shanghai Hongqiao

Airports of Arrival in Australia


Airport Facts:

  • Ranks as the fifth-busiest air cargo facility in Australia
  • Just six kilometers west of the city center
  • Direct flights operate from Guangzhou Airport in China
  • Shipping from other locations in the People’s Republic will be routed here using indirect services

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou.

China to Adelaide Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Australia’s fourth-biggest airport
  • Located ten kilometers west of Perth city
  • It’s a two-runway facility with direct services from Guangzhou in China

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou.

China to Perth Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located eight kilometers south of Sydney city center
  • Infrastructure includes seven cargo terminals
  • Around 45% of Australia’s air cargo traffic passes through here

Connected Airports in China: Beijing-Capital, Chengdu, Nanjing, Shanghai-Pudong, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen.

China to Sydney Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Qantas Freight.



Airport Facts:

  • Serves the city of the same name and other cities in Southeast Queensland
  • Australia’s third-biggest freight hub
  • A 24/7 operation with an 82,000 square meter apron that accommodates freighters
  • A new runway is due to open during 2020
  • The facility saw a 6% growth in air freight volumes during 2018/2019

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Shenzhen.

China to Brisbane Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Also known as Tullamarine Airport
  • Australia’s second-busiest air facility behind Sydney
  • Situated 23 kilometers northwest of the city
  • The southern freighter apron has five parking positions for cargo aircraft using the facility’s two intersecting runways

Connected Airports in China: Beijing-Capital, Guangzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Xiamen, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Changsha.

China to Melbourne Cargo-Only Operators: Kalitta Air Cargo.


Ocean and Air Shipping From China to Australia: Why Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight’s digital-first approach to international shipping makes it easier for your business to import from China to Australia. We’re removing much of the stress involved in shipping by managing the customs clearance process for our customers—and providing access to an innovative online platform that simplifies supply chains.

Choosing Shipa Freight when importing from China to Australia has the following benefits:

  • You can get a quote for your consignment—fast
  • It’s easy to book and pay for your shipping online
  • You can track your shipment from your smart device
  • Your customs clearance requirements are clearly explained

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