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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping From China to France

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

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Updated on 28 Nov 202112 min read

China is France’s largest trade partner in Asia and its second-largest supplier overall. Bilateral trade between the two nations has increased to $62.9 billion (USD) in 2018. If you are planning to add to that figure and import from China to France, then you are in the right place.

On this page, you will find crucial information to help you navigate the intricacies of international ocean and air freight logistics. With our guidance, you can enjoy more successful and effective ocean and air shipping from China to France.

What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From China to France?

Flags of China and France for the trade lane with Shipa Freight

Importing from China to France is feasible via sea and air. Let’s examine both options in detail.

Ocean Freight From China to France

Less than Container Load (LCL): When you book an LCL shipment, your cargo will travel in a container shared with other shippers’ consignments. As you don’t have to pay for an entire unit, LCL can be the most economical way to ship small loads of freight from China to France.

Full Container Load (FCL): When you decide on an FCL service, you pay for the use and transportation of a whole container for your exclusive use. This mode of transport can be even less expensive than LCL if you are shipping large quantities of goods from China to France.

Air Freight from China to France

If you are looking for a fast and flexible way to export from China to France, then air freight is a solid choice. However, it will likely put a heavier burden on your budget than sea freight.

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

The rates for shipping air freight or cargo in a container from China to France are dependent on several factors. A freight forwarder will usually take the following aspects into consideration when issuing your quote:

  • Nature of goods
  • Chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Dimensions of the cargo
  • Distance between supplier/origin and recipient/destination
  • Type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)

The weight of your goods will likely have the largest impact on your final price. Keep in mind that the cost of air freight won’t differ much from that of ocean shipping when you are moving 100 kg or less. If your cargo weighs more than 100 kg, though, ocean freight will usually be the more affordable choice.

You should also be aware that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, don’t deal with consignments of less than 35 kg. An international courier service can help you move consignments in this weight bracket.

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

Air and sea freight shipments naturally have vastly different transit times. Your cargo can reach its destination in China via air in as little as two days. Shipping a whole container from China to France is considerably slower. You have to plan on shipping durations between 20 and 41 days.

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

Here are a few examples of the time involved in transporting a shipping container from China to France.

  • Ningbo to Fos-sur-Mer – 41 days FCL
  • Ningbo to Le Havre – 38 days FCL
  • Shanghai to Le Havre – 34 days LCL, 37 days FCL
  • Shekou to Le Havre – 38 days FCL
  • Shenzhen to Le Havre – 39 days LCL, 46 days FCL
  • Tianjin to Fos-sur-Mer – 41 days FCL
  • Zhuhai to Fos-sur-Mer – 20 days FCL

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

Here are a few examples of transit times for typical air freight routes between China and France:

  • Beijing to Lyon – 7 days
  • Shanghai to Paris – 4 days
  • Shenzhen to Paris – 8 days
  • Chengdu to Paris – 13 days

Customs Clearance in China and France

Customs stamp resting on a customs invoice document stamped with export customs clearance in red ink as Shipa Freight assist you with customs clearance

Customs clearance is an integral part of the process when you export from China to France. To minimize the chances of delays and problems, it makes sense for your business to engage the services of a seasoned freight forwarder. This way, you can be sure that all formalities are completed according to Chinese and French customs laws and regulations.

Even though you’ve hired a freight forwarder, you are still responsible for providing the necessary paperwork that starts the customs clearance process. The authorities in the country of export and import will almost certainly request sight of the following documentation:

  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. Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)

Licenses, permits, and certificates are other documents that might be needed. If this is the case, your freight forwarder will inform and assist you. To learn more about these different documents and view a few examples, visit on our handy documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Most commercial goods make their way to France as sea freight inside standard shipping containers. Specialized cargo ships carry these standard units as well as break-bulk cargo, which can’t fit inside a container due to its size or shape. Your carrier or freight forwarding company will provide advice to help you ship special-needs freight.

Containerized ocean shipping offers two alternatives: LCL and FCL. You can book both options as a port-to-port or door-to-door service. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of either choice.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping


  • Typically the most affordable option for consignments of six standard pallets ( 14 CBM) or less.
  • Can accelerate your supply chain, as you don’t have to wait to fill a container with cargo.
  • Provides flexibility as suppliers and buyers can simply drop off/collect the cargo at the warehouse where containers are loaded and unloaded.


  • Transit times can be longer, because of the consolidation and deconsolidation of the container.
  • Not suited for delicate, fragile, or perishable goods, due to the extra handling and movements involved.

Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping


  • Quickest way of ocean shipping, as no consolidation or deconsolidation is needed.
  • FCL is usually less expensive than LCL if you transport more than 14 CBM .
  • Isolates your freight in the container throughout transportation from China to France.


  • Even if you can only partly fill your container, you still have to pay to ship the entire unit.
  • Might restrict your loading/delivery options, as not all businesses can handle a full container.

Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.

Air Freight


  • Air shipping is best suited for light consignments consisting of a few pallets only.
  • The short transit times are ideal for perishable goods with a limited shelf-life.
  • High levels of security help to reduce risk for high-value cargo.
  • Buyers and suppliers situated close to an international airport might prefer it to sea freight.
  • Air freight gives you more certainty with regard to your delivery date as it is less weather-dependent and more reliable than sea freight.


  • Air freight can be very costly for large quantities of goods.
  • Bulky or awkwardly shaped goods may be rejected by airlines if they won’t fit in the aircraft hold.

Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Port Facts:

  • Busiest container port in the world and China’s most crucial gateway for foreign trade.
  • Home to a deep-sea as well as a river port
  • Facilities include an extensive automated container terminal.
  • Ideal for shippers located in the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Largest port in Northern China and the ninth-largest globally.
  • Ideal for shippers located close to the Chinese capital of Beijing.
  • Offers more than 115 routes to destinations worldwide.

Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Among the top-five container ports in the world.
  • Offers around 140 berths in different ports along 260 km of coastline
  • Located close to Hong Kong and Macau.
  • Serves over 220 routes to international destinations.

Owned By: Shenzhen government.

Annual Container Volume: >25.2 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Ranks as one of the top-ten container ports in the country.
  • Situated on the southeastern coast, facing the Taiwan Strait.
  • Offers direct connections via express rail to China’s hinterland.

Owned By: Fuzhou Port Group Corporation Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: > 3 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Eighth-largest container port in China.
  • Offers 68 shipping routes to over 50 countries, serving almost all major ports in the world.
  • Boasts 74 berths and nine container terminals.

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.


Other Ports in China

In addition to the five ports mentioned above, you can also export your freight from China via the following container gateways:

  • Guangzhou (Nansha)
  • Wuhan
  • Chongqing
  • Lianyungang
  • Qinzhou
  • Shantou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Nanjing
  • Qingdao
  • Ningbo-Zhoushan
  • Dalian

Cargo Ports of Arrival in France

Le Havre

Port Facts:

  • Located in the Normandy region on the northern coast, around 200 km from Paris.
  • Oldest container port in the country and the second-largest.
  • Provides access to an extensive railroad network with connections to locations across Europe.
  • Comprises 6.5 km of docks and three freight terminals.

Owned By: Grande Port Maritime du Havre.

Annual Container Volume: >2.8 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in the south of France, 40 km northeast of Marseille.
  • Serves Marseille, Montpelier, Avignon, and other areas of southern France.

Owned By: Marseille Fos Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in China

Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • Third-busiest air cargo gateway worldwide.
  • Crowned top cargo airport in the world by Air Cargo World in 2019.
  • Asia-Pacific cargo hub for freight carriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL.
  • Plans are underway to expand the capacity to six million tonnes of cargo per year.

French Airports Served: Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Shanghai to France Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in the Fujian Province and opened in 1997.
  • Ranks among the top-30 busiest cargo hubs worldwide.
  • Further expansion is planned this decade.

French Airports Served: None.

Fuzhou to France Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Third-busiest cargo airport in China and the 19th-busiest globally.
  • The primary airport of Guangdong province.
  • Facilities include two terminals and three runways.

French Airports Served: Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Guangzhou to France Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 16 km southwest of downtown Chengdu in Sichuan province.
  • Fourth-busiest cargo airport in the country.
  • Vital cargo hub for western China.
  • Offers direct connections to 50 international and 170 domestic destinations.

French Airports Served: None.

Chengdu to France Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 32 km northeast of Beijing's city center.
  • 13th-busiest airport in the world by cargo traffic.
  • Handled two million tonnes of cargo in 2018.

French Airports Served: Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Beijing-Capital to France Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in China

You can also send your air freight from China to France via the following airports in China:

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

Airports of Arrival in France

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Airport Facts:

  • 12th-busiest cargo airport worldwide and second-busiest in Europe.
  • France’s largest and most prominent airport.
  • Located in the Roissy-en-France district, 23 km northeast of central Paris.
  • Covers an area of more than 32 square kilometers.

Connected Airports in China: Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou, Beijing-Capital.

China to Paris Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 27 km northwest of downtown Marseille.
  • Third-largest air freight gateway in France.
  • Best choice for importers located in France’s southern regions.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Marseille Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Official name is Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport.
  • Main air-cargo hub for the third-biggest city in the country.
  • Located just 20 km outside of Lyon’s city center.
  • Serves France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Lyon Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Small airport, just 10 km southwest of central Strasbourg.
  • Has only one terminal and a single runway.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Strasbourg Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From China to France With Shipa Freight?

Let us remove all complexities around international logistics for you, and satisfy all of your global shipping needs. With our state-of-the-art online platform, you will be at the forefront of freight forwarding – no matter which mode of transport you prefer.

Now, you can manage your entire shipment process in one place and don’t have to coordinate multiple agencies anymore.

Benefit from the following advantages when shipping with us:

  • Easy-to-understand online quotes: Receive and compare them instantly online.
  • Online booking and payment: Place your order without losing time.
  • One single tool: Manage all of your imports and exports on one convenient platform.
  • Transparent shipping paperwork: Know what to prepare.
  • Customs complexities removed: We will take care of them for you.
  • Friendly customer service: Get help 24/7 via phone, email, and online chat.
  • Guaranteed compliance with international shipping rules and regulations.

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