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Ocean & Air Freight Shipping From China to Canada

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

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Updated on 09 Feb 202214 min read

China exported $44.5m worth of goods to Canada in 2019. Electrical equipment, boilers, furniture, and apparel were among the most commonly exported items. Your business could already be importing these or other commodities from China to Canada. Or you could be planning to trade between the two nations for the first time. Whatever the reason for your interest in shipping freight from China to Canada, you’re on the right page.

This is the place to find out about ocean and air shipping from China to Canada. The page also profiles the key ports and airports in the two countries—located on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. You can also find out about shipping transit times and get information about customs clearance.

Know Your Options for Shipping Freight From China to Canada

The only feasible ways of getting freight from China to Canada are by air or sea. Each has benefits and drawbacks which we’ll outline below:

Ocean Freight From China to Canada

When you choose ocean freight shipping as your means of import from China to Canada, you’ll need to decide between two modes of transportation: LCL and FCL.

Less than Container Load (LCL): With LCL ocean shipping, your cargo shares a container with freight being shipped by other businesses importing from China to Canada. LCL is usually best if you have smaller consignments to transport—goods amounting to less than the 33 cubic meter capacity of a standard 20ft shipping container, for example.

Full Container Load (FCL): With FCL shipping you pay for transportation of a shipping container from China to Canada loaded only with your goods. There’s no need for your freight to share space with other commodities. FCL often works out as the most cost-effective option for freight of sufficient volume to occupy a minimum of six standard-size pallets in a 20ft container or at least 12 in a 40ft container.

Air Freight from China to Canada

Need to export from China to Canada in a hurry? Don’t have many budget worries? Air freight is the fastest way to ship merchandise between the two countries. It’s also the most expensive.

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

The short answer is it depends. Freight forwarders must take multiple factors into account when calculating the cost of a shipment. These include:

  • The nature of the freight being shipped
  • Whether an ocean or air carrier is shipping the cargo
  • How much the consignment weighs
  • The volume and dimensions of the goods
  • The chosen method of delivery—door-to-door, port-to-door, door-to-port, or port-to-port

If you’re undecided about whether to ship by air or sea, the weight of your goods could sway your decision. Freight weighing 100 kg or over is usually just as economical to ship by air as it is by ocean carrier—and it will get there quicker as air freight.

At the other end of the scale, shipments weighing over 100 kg are expensive to transport as air freight. Ocean shipping from China to Canada will usually be less costly—but slower.

If the weight of your consignment is 35 kg or less, you should contact international couriers for quotes. Freight forwarders don’t typically handle shipments under this weight.

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

China and Canada are vast countries separated by the Pacific Ocean. The time taken to ship between the two countries depends on your preferred mode of transportation and the ports or airports you choose. Shipping from Guangzhou in Southern China to Toronto in Eastern Canada requires a 12,477 km journey as the crow flies. However, the distance between Dalian in Eastern China and Vancouver in Western Canada is 8,334 km, some 4,000 km less.

Such differences in distance will be reflected in transit times, especially with ocean shipping. You should allow 17 to 37 days for an ocean carrier to get your freight from China to Canada. Air shipments can take between one and nine days.

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

We’ve listed several sample ocean shipping times between China and Canada below:

  • Chiwan to Montreal—29 days FCL
  • Dalian to Montreal—33 days LCL
  • Ningbo to Toronto—23 days FCL
  • Qingdao to Montreal or Toronto—36 days FCL
  • Shanghai to Montreal—29 days FCL
  • Shanghai to Toronto—29 days FCL, 33 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Vancouver—17 days FCL
  • Tianjin to Montreal—36 days FCL
  • Xiamen to Montreal—27 days FCL
  • Zhongshan to Toronto—36 days FCL
  • Zhongshan to Vancouver—27 days LCL

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

Please see a few sample air shipping times below:

  • Guangzhou to Toronto— 6 days
  • Shanghai to Toronto—5 days
  • Shanghai to Winnipeg—6 days
  • Shenzhen or Xiamen to Toronto—8 days
  • Shenzhen to Vancouver—1 day

Customs Clearance in China and Canada

Whether you choose to move your goods by air or ocean, there’s one constant with all international shipping—the need for your consignment to clear customs. The rules and regulations are confusing for novice and experienced shippers alike. For that reason, many companies choose to hire the services of a freight forwarder to navigate the complexities. A forwarder will help minimize the chances of delays affecting your cargo, and will ensure your consignment complies with Chinese and Canadian shipping laws.

Even with a forwarder to assist though, your business will need to supply vital information required to complete shipping documentation. These documents include:

  • A Commercial Invoice
  • A Packing List
  • A Certificate of Origin
  • A Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
  • An Airway Bill for air cargo or a Bill of Lading for ocean freight (Shipa Freight can sort these out for you)

Customs officials usually require all the above documents and sometimes permits, certificates, and licenses too. Your forwarder will advise you of the documents you must supply. If you want to see samples of the paperwork listed above, please visit our document list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Transporting a shipping container from China to Canada is a long process. All shipments must cross the Pacific Ocean. To reach any port in eastern Canada, vessels from China also need to navigate the Panama Canal and a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re seeking a quick delivery, therefore, ocean shipping might not be the ideal solution. The time needed to carry a shipping container from China to Canada is between 17 and 37 days.

If the consignee in Canada is happy to wait, sea freight offers an economical way to ship goods. It’s likely your freight will ship in a 20ft container. Other types of containers are available. Your forwarder will advise if your consignment needs a bigger, longer, taller, or specialist container.

Importing from China to Canada by sea also requires you to choose between LCL and FCL shipping. Here are more details about both:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

  • It’s advisable to opt for LCL shipping if your consignment:
  • Occupies no more than six standard pallets
  • Is not urgently needed in Canada
  • Is suitable to ship in the same container as other goods
  • Can withstand more frequent handling than with other modes of shipping

You should think about options other than LCL shipping if:

  • Your freight is needed in Canada by a certain date
  • Your cargo is fragile and could be damaged if handled too often
  • Your freight is perishable and needs to arrive in Canada as quickly as possible
  • Your consignment is large, awkwardly-shaped, or generally unsuitable for shipping in a shared container

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL shipping could meet the needs of your supply chain if:

  • Your cargo has to be in Canada by a specified date
  • Your goods aren’t suited to for shipping in a shared container
  • Your supplier in China can load and seal a container, and the recipient in Canada can unload it
  • Your consignment is big enough to fill at least half of a 20ft container’s capacity

Air Freight

If ocean freight cannot meet the demands of your business, air shipping is your other option. Many businesses find it the best solution when:

  • Speed of delivery is more vital than cost reduction
  • Shipments are small, occupying no more than two or three pallets
  • There’s a tight delivery deadline
  • The cargo is perishable and needs to reach Canada quickly
  • The goods can be safely shipped aboard an aircraft
  • The freight is valuable and high levels of security are required, such as those provided by airlines and airport operators

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Port Facts:

  • Situated on the coastline of the East China Sea in Zhejiang Province
  • Just across Hangzhou Bay from Jiaxing and Shanghai
  • Ranked the third biggest port in the world on Lloyds Top 100 Ports list for 2020

Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Company. Annual Container Volume: >27.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CNNGB.


Port Facts:

  • A gateway to Southeast China
  • Facilities include nine cargo terminals
  • Goods are exported from Xiamen to more than 50 countries
  • Plans were announced in 2020 to make Xiamen China’s first ‘fully intelligent’ port

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >11.1 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CNXMN.


Port Facts:

  • Situated between the Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Rim
  • A vital international trade hub in the West Pacific
  • Likely to be the nearest port for any supplier or manufacturer based in Shandong Province

Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd. Annual Container Volume: >21 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CNTAO.


Port Facts:

  • The largest and busiest seaport in the world
  • Linked to the Yangtze River
  • Ideal port of loading for suppliers based in Eastern China
  • Excellent road and rail connections to the city of Shanghai
  • Infrastructure includes 125 docks and 19 terminals, two of which are dedicated to bulk cargo

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd. Annual Container Volume: >43.3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CNSHA.


Port Facts:

  • A series of connected ports in Guangdong Province
  • Includes the ports of Shekou, Chiwan, and Yantian
  • Located in the southern region of the Pearl River Delta
  • Boasts a total of 140 berths

Owned By: Shenzhen Government. Annual Container Volume: >25.7 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CNSZX.

Other Ports in China

Here are the names of some other ports in China from where shipments to Canada can embark:

  • Tianjin

  • Wuhan

  • Wuhu

  • Qinzhou

  • Zhuhai

  • Zhongshan

  • Guangzhou

  • Shantou

  • Shekou

  • Lianyungang

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Canada


Port Facts:

  • The biggest port in Canada
  • The largest port in the Pacific Northwest
  • Located on the Southwestern coast of British Columbia
  • Similar in size to the next five biggest Canadian ports combined
  • Offers easy access to 16 municipalities in Western Canada

Owned By: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >3.3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CAVAN.


Port Facts:

  • Located in Quebec on the St. Lawrence River
  • An inland port lying 1,600 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean
  • Over 2,000 cargo ships visited the port in 2019
  • Facilities include three container terminals

Owned By: Montreal Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >1.6 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: CAMTR.


Port Facts:

  • Located on Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore
  • Within 100 kilometers of Buffalo in upstate New York
  • A small port visited by around 400 ships per year
  • Serves as a gateway to the St Lawrence Seaway

Owned By: Ports Toronto. Annual Container Volume: >Unknown. UN/LOCODE: CATOR.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in China


Airport Facts:

  • Officially called Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
  • Located in Sichuan Province
  • 16 kilometers outside the city of Chengdu
  • This airport has two runways
  • 600,000 tonnes of air cargo is handled here every year

Canada Airports Served: Vancouver. Chengdu to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: CTU.

Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • Ranks as the world’s third-busiest cargo hub
  • Occupies a 40 square-kilometer site
  • Over 3.7 million tonnes of goods are processed here every year
  • Strong transport links simplify logistics for businesses that export to Canada

Canada Airports Served: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Montreal Pierre Trudeau. Shanghai to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: China Southern Cargo. IATA Code: PVG.


Airport Facts:

  • China’s third-largest cargo hub
  • Located 32 kilometers to the northeast of Beijing city center
  • Ranks as the world’s 13th-busiest airport for freight movements
  • Handles over two million tonnes of cargo annually
  • Ideal airport for suppliers and manufacturers based in and around the Chinese capital

Canada Airports Served: Toronto Pearson, Montreal Pierre Trudeau, Vancouver. Beijing to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: CKG.


Airport Facts:

  • One of the largest cargo airports in Southern China
  • Handles more than one million tonnes of cargo every year
  • Logistics center covers a 115,000 square-meter site

Canada Airports Served: Vancouver. Shenzhen to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: SZX.


Airport Facts:

  • The fourth-biggest cargo hub in China
  • Handles 1.8 million tonnes of freight every year
  • A FedEx hub for the Asia Pacific region
  • Its central location makes it a popular choice with suppliers and manufacturers across China

Canada Airports Served: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver. Guangzhou to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: CAN.

Other Airports in China

There are other airports in China from which your goods can be flown to Canada, including:

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

Airports of Arrival in Canada


Airport Facts:

  • Canada’s fourth-busiest airport
  • 115,820 tonnes of freight moved through the airport in 2019
  • Regarded as the gateway to Northwest Canada for air freight from Asia
  • Infrastructure includes four runways, one of which is the longest in Canada (4,260m)

Connected Airports in China: None. China to Calgary Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: YYC.

Edmonton International

Airport Facts:

  • Located 26 kilometers outside the city of Edmonton
  • Serves the province of Alberta
  • Canada’s largest airport by size
  • Offers easy onward access for goods to any destination in Northern British Columbia, Northern and Central Alberta, and Yukon

Connected Airports in China: None. China to Edmonton Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: YEG.


Airport Facts:

  • This airport’s full name is James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
  • Serves Canada’s Manitoba Province
  • A key North American hub for freight airline Cargojet

Connected Airports in China: None. China to Winnipeg Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: YWG.

Toronto Pearson

Airport Facts:

  • Located 22 kilometers outside of Downtown Toronto
  • Named after former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson
  • Handles more than 50% of Canada’s air cargo
  • The airport has five runways and several air cargo facilities

Connected Airports in China: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou. China to Toronto Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: YYZ.

Montreal Pierre Trudeau

Airport Facts:

  • Canada’s third-busiest airport
  • The main airport serving the province of Quebec
  • Operates flights to five continents
  • Infrastructure includes five runways, the longest of which stretches for 3,400 meters

Connected Airports in China: Shanghai-Pudong, Beijing-Capital. China to Montreal Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: YUL.


Airport Facts:

  • Located on Sea Island, 12 kilometers from downtown Vancouver
  • A major trans-Pacific freight hub
  • Has won Skytrak’s Best North American Airport Award for a record 11 years in a row (2010-2020)
  • Runs more direct flights to China than any airport in North America or Europe

Connected Airports in China: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Shenyang, Xiamen. China to Vancouver Cargo-Only Operators: China Southern Cargo. IATA CODE: YVR.

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

Shipa Freight takes a digital-first approach to international shipping. Our goal is to make it easier for all kinds of businesses to import from China to Canada. You can rely on us to manage the customs clearance process and to give you access to an innovative online platform that simplifies supply chains.

Choosing Shipa Freight for your freight from China to Canada will benefit your business by:

  • Giving you access to fast shipping quotes
  • Providing you with a quick way to book and pay for shipping online
  • Enabling you to track your shipment on your smart device
  • Clarifying and helping you to meet customs clearance requirements
  • Allowing you access to a 24/7 customer support service via telephone, email, or online chat

Know Your Shipping Terminology

Whatever your native language, the commercial language of shipping can be confusing. To help build your understanding, Shipa Freight is cutting through the complexity and explaining industry jargon in plain English. Two potentially baffling shipping terms are explained below, and there are more definitions on each of our country-to-country pages.

Accessorial charges


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