A New Way to Ship Freight From China to Germany [Updated: Sep 2021]
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In 2019, Germany imported goods to the value of nearly $80 billion (USD) from China, making it the sixth-largest of China’s export trade partners worldwide, and the largest in Europe.
Perhaps your company is involved in the vital flow of computers and associated equipment from China to Germany, and want to improve your logistics performance. Maybe you’re planning to ship commercial goods between the two countries for the first time, and are looking for insights into the process.
In either case, you should find plenty of information to interest you here on our tradelane-specific page. It’s focused on providing tips and guidance for any commercial organization engaging in ocean and air shipping from China to Germany.
Although it is increasingly possible to import from China to Germany via overland rail services, ocean and air freight remain the most popular transportation methods for commercial shippers. The majority of enterprises trading between these two nations still prefer to steam their goods by sea, or fly their freight, from China to Germany.
Can your supply chain cope with lengthy transit times in return for economical shipping costs? If so, LCL or FCL ocean freight will allow you to export from China to Germany without incurring significant hits to your profit margins. On the other hand, if you don’t typically ship products in very large quantities, but you need to move them fast, there’s no better way than to send them as air freight.
Ocean Freight From China to Germany
Less than Container Load (LCL): When the quantities of goods you are importing from China to Germany are small, and air freight is too costly, you can ship your imports as a less-than-container-load (LCL).
This form of ocean shipping saves money, because you don’t have to pay for the use and carriage of an entire shipping container from China to Germany. However, it can take a little longer than full-container-load shipping, due to the need for consolidation and deconsolidation of your freight during the logistics process.
Full Container Load (FCL): Another way to get your international shipments to their destination is to send them as full container loads. FCL is ideal if your consignment will fill a shipping container, or you can wait to accumulate enough orders to make a full load. Due to flat-rate pricing, FCL is the most economical way to send large quantities of freight in a shipping container from China to Germany.
Air Freight from China to Germany
Suppose you don't want to wait several weeks while your goods travel in a container from China to Germany by sea. In that case, air freight will reduce transit time substantially. Naturally, though, the freight rate will be a lot higher.
Freight shipping rates fluctuate frequently, so accurate cost assessment will require a quotation from a freight forwarder or carrier. The price quoted will depend on a range of factors, including:
- The current demand for air or ocean capacity
- The cost of fuel
- Availability of containers and vessel or aircraft freight capacity
- The type of freight you are shipping
- The size of your shipment
Nevertheless, there are a few rules of thumb that you can follow to help you determine the most cost-effective shipping option for freight from China to Germany. For example:
- While air freight can be expensive, a small shipment, weighing 100 kilograms or less, may only cost a little more to send by air than by sea.
- Above 100 kilograms, the price gap between ocean and air freight widens, making air cargo a less attractive option if speed is not critical.
- For large shipments, FCL shipping becomes the most economical way to transport goods from China to Germany. That's because flat-rate, per-container fees apply, regardless of cargo weight and volume.
- LCL shipping can be inexpensive for smaller consignments since the pricing is based on volume and weight calculations. It does not require payment for the rental of an entire shipping container.
With any shipment of a weight less than 35 kilograms, it will make sense to approach an international courier company rather than a freight forwarder. Most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, would decline to quote for shipments this small.
When importing from China to Germany, you should expect your shipment to take at least five days to complete if you use air freight. You will need to allow up to six weeks, or maybe a little more, if you opt for an LCL or FCL ocean service.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From China to Germany?
The overall transit time for an ocean shipment from China to Germany depends on the specific origin and destination ports used. The following examples will give you an idea of port-to-port transit times for shipping freight between the two countries:
- Shanghai to Hamburg – 37 days LCL, 40 days FCL
- Shanghai to Bremerhaven - 46 days FCL
- Shantou to Hamburg – 40 days LCL
- Qingdao to Hamburg – 45 days LCL, 46 days FCL
- Tianjin to Hamburg – 48 days LCL, 42 days FCL
- Ningbo to Hamburg – 41 days FCL
- Zhuhai to Hamburg – 20 days FCL
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From China to Germany?
Typical transit times for air freight from China to Germany range from five to 11 days. Of course, only a fraction of these durations is made up of flight time. The remainder comprises the time required for carriers to consolidate air freight before loading, and for the customs authority to clear your goods for entry into Germany.
If you’d like a few transit-time examples, air freight shipments from Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Beijing to Frankfurt typically complete in five days. Shipments from Qingdao to Frankfurt require around seven days, and from Chengdu to Frankfurt, 11 days.
There is no way to avoid the sometimes-complicated process of customs clearance when you export from China to Germany. Still, there is a way to cut down on the complexity. You could make things easier for your business by asking a freight forwarder to take care of customs clearance on your behalf.
Some freight forwarders have their own customs agents to serve their customers, while others work in partnership with customs brokers. Either way, they will manage the clearance process to save your time and effort, for a reasonable fee.
Even so, your business will not be removed entirely from customs-clearance responsibilities. For example, you will need to provide some specific documents to accompany your shipment or make the necessary information available for your forwarder to complete documents for you.
The forms and papers (or in some cases, electronic versions) that customs officials in China and Germany typically require are as follows:
- Commercial Invoice
- Packing List
- Certificate of Origin
- Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depending on the contract between the parties involved)
- Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Your freight forwarder should provide this)
We have published a useful Shipping Documents page to familiarize you with these items, along with some other papers that may be required, depending on your cargo’s nature. You should always check with your forwarder or customs authorities, to see if your freight is subject to the need for a specific license, permit, or certificate.
Most of the world’s international freight is carried by sea, primarily because ocean shipping is an economical form of carriage, especially for businesses that ship large quantities of cargo. The biggest drawback of sea freight though, is the time taken to ship it from port to port.
Lengthy lead times will need to be a feature of your supply chain if you choose to ship goods as sea freight. You’ll also need to plan your shipments well in advance to avoid peak season delays and complete deliveries in time for holiday sales periods. If your business can meet these challenges, it will benefit from affordable transportation between China and Germany.
Your commodities will likely use containerized shipping services, traveling either as full-container-loads (FCL) or less-than-container-load (LCL) shipments. Both methods will involve carriage of your freight in a shipping container, the most common of which are either 20-feet or 40-feet in length.
Shipping containers can be transported by road or rail, as well as by sea. These multimodal capabilities mean that—with FCL shipping especially—the amount of handling your goods must undergo will be kept to a minimum.
LCL shipping requires a little more physical handling of your freight. Before international shipping, it will be packed into a container with other shipper's consignments in a process known as consolidation. Before it can be moved on from the port of arrival to its final export destination, your cargo will need to be deconsolidated.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
LCL shipping is a service made available to any business that doesn't ship quantities of goods large enough to fill a container. It’s often a little slower than FCL, due to the need for consolidation and deconsolidation. However, it’s also less costly—at least up to a point.
LCL shipping fees are based on the volume and weight of the consignment that you will ship. If your goods will take up less than half the capacity of a container, it's an ideal solution. For quantities occupying more than six standard pallets, the price for LCL shipping should be compared with that of FCL before making a decision about which service to use.
Before you make a firm decision about LCL shipping, it also makes sense to consider the following factors, and whether they make it a good fit for your consignment.
- Are you happy for your goods to share a container with those of other shippers?
- Are your goods required urgently? If so, LCL may not be your best option.
- Are you comfortable with the fact that your goods will be handled several times during shipping?
- Is your schedule flexible? LCL arrival times can sometimes be unpredictable.
- Is the volume of your freight less than 14 cubic meters? LCL is ideal for shipments of this volume or less.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
Are you planning to ship 12 pallets or more of freight from China to Germany? Can you afford to accumulate enough orders to fill a shipping container before you send them to German consignees? In either case, or any other involving larger shipments, FCL shipping should suit your business.
Of course, you don't have to fill all of a shipping containers' capacity to make use of FCL shipping. It’s just that you’ll get the most value for money if you do. However, if you’re shipping anything more than 14 cubic meters in volume, it’s worth checking FCL rates in addition to LCL.
With FCL shipping, you will pay a flat rate for the use and transportation of a shipping container. Therefore, it can sometimes be an excellent way to ship even if you can't fill the unit. For example, perhaps you want to ensure that your goods are transported in isolation, or keep handling to a minimum.
In summary, good reasons to choose an FCL freight service include:
- The ability to have a container that contains only your freight, and nobody else’s.
- The possibility to seal your container before transportation, and for it to remain sealed until it reaches the cargo’s consignee.
- The minimal handling that your freight will be subjected to during shipping.
- The economy of shipping large quantities of goods.
- The slightly shorter transit times of this shipping mode in comparison to LCL.
Air shipping your cargo from China to Germany is costly. However, depending on the type of goods you are importing, it can be preferable to having them shipped by sea. It is a lot faster and benefits from tighter security controls.
Many suppliers and consignees based far from a coastline will be reasonably close to an international airport. If so, air freight can minimize the need for overland transportation. That, in turn, may help to make the overall cost of air freight more affordable.
Perhaps you have shipments of cargo that will occupy just two or three pallets, and shipping is time-critical, or your goods are delicate. In that case, air freight is always worth considering. At the very least, it can be a good idea to compare an air-freight quote against one for ocean shipping.
Cargo Ports of Origin in China
- Situated on the Minjiang River in China’s Southeast
- Man-made, Deep-water port
- Facilities include more than 100 berths
- Two new berths, for vessels above the 10,000 tonnes class, were completed in 2020
- One of mainland China’s ten busiest container ports
- Nearest port to Taiwan
Owned By: Fuzhou Port Group Corporation Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.
- The only deep-water container port on the West side of the Pearl River Delta
- Serves the city of Guangzhou and the surrounding regions
- Container cargo handling is one of the many freight services offered here
- Strategically located at the intersection of the Dongjiang, Xijiang, and Beijiang Rivers
- 119 International container connections are currently served by the port, following recent operational expansion
Owned By: Guangzhou Port Group Company Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >21.9 million TEUs.
- Facilities include 244 berths
- Situated at the intersection of the Hanjiang and Yangtze Rivers
- The port comprises 15 distinct areas, each specializing in specific types of cargo
- 80% of containers into and out of Hubei Province are handled at Wuhan Port
Owned By: Wuhan Port Group Company Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: > 500,000 TEUs.
- The most northerly ice-free port in China
- Northeast China’s busiest multipurpose port
- Situated at the entrance of Bohai Bay
- Has become busier since the 2017 establishment of the nearby Liaoning Free Trade Zone
Owned By: Dalian Port Corporation Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >9.7 million TEUs.
- This natural river port provides vessels with access directly to and from the South China Sea
- Shantou is a gateway to Guangdong, a vital manufacturing province in China
- An increase in imports and exports has prompted plans for a port expansion
Owned By: Shantou Port Affairs Bureau.
Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.
Other Ports in China
In addition to the five ports described above, you should have no problem shipping your freight to Germany from the following ports of origin in China:
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Germany
- Infrastructure includes four container terminals
- The newest and largest terminal (Terminal 4) can handle over seven million TEUs
- Boasts the largest closed container-handling area in the world
- Europe’s fourth-busiest container port -Ranks number 27 in the world for container throughput -Quay spans an area of more than five kilometers, with space for 14 mega-container ships
Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.
- The largest of Germany's ocean ports
- Europe’s third-busiest container port
- Ranks as number 19 in the list of busiest container ports in the world.
- Facilities include four container terminals and 22 berths for container vessels
- More than 40 cranes are available to load and unload container ships
- Sometimes known as the Gateway to the World
- Annual container throughput exceeds eight million TEUs
Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs.
Airports of Origin in China
- Cargo throughput in 2018 amounted to more than 1.2 million tonnes
- Ranks as number 24 in the list of busiest cargo airports globally
- A convenient airport for shipping exports from around the Pearl River Delta
- Served by direct flights to/from Frankfurt and Cologne in Germany
Germany Airports Served: Cologne, Frankfurt.
Shenzhen to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: UPS Airlines.
IATA CODE: SZX.
- The third-largest cargo airport in China
- In 2018, around 1.8 million tonnes of cargo were handled at this airport
- The airport boasts three runways
- Ranks as the 17th-busiest cargo airport in the world
- Ideal airport of loading for products from the vital manufacturing centers in Guangdong Province
- Direct flights connect Guangzhou with Germany’s airports of Frankfurt and Cologne
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Cologne.
Guangzhou to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo, FedEx Express.
IATA CODE: CAN.
- The fifth-busiest cargo airport in China
- Offers easy road and rail access to several regions of Western China, including Sichuan Province
- Operates flights to more than 170 domestic and 50 international destinations
- Connected to Germany by direct flights to Frankfurt, operated by Lufthansa
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt.
Chengdu to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo.
IATA CODE: CTU.
- Located in Shandong Province, 31 kilometers from the center of Qingdao
- Surrounding urban developments leave this airport with no room for expansion
- Will soon be replaced by a new airport, Qingdao Jiaodong
- Offers several direct air-cargo routes to Germany
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart.
Qingdao to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: N/A.
IATA CODE: TAO.
- One of the world’s top-three airports for cargo throughput
- In 2018, this airport handled 3.35 million hectares of cargo
- A popular gateway for exports from China to Germany
- Excellent rail and road connections to most commercial regions and major cities in China
- Several airlines operate direct flights from Shanghai to Germany’s international airports
Germany Airports Served: Leipzig/Halle, Frankfurt, Munich.
Shanghai to Germany cargo-only operators: Air China Cargo, China Cargo Airlines, China Southern Cargo, DHL, Lufthansa Cargo, Suparna Airlines,
IATA CODE: PVG.
Other Airports in China
In addition to the five featured airports above, you can ship your goods between China and Germany via various direct and indirect routes from Zhengzhou, Beijing Capital, Wuhan, and Xiamen Airports.
Airports of Arrival in Germany
- The main center for Germany’s flagship airline, Lufthansa
- Two million tonnes of freight are handled here annually
- The busiest airport in Germany
- The fourth-busiest airport in Europe
- Infrastructure includes four runways and capacious cargo and logistics facilities.
- Its dedicated freight zone, Cargo City, houses an animal lounge and center for perishable goods
- Several airlines, including Lufthansa, operate direct flights from China to Frankfurt
Connected Airports in China: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Nanjing, Ningbo, Tianjin.
China to Frankfurt Cargo-Only Operators: Air China Cargo, China Cargo Airlines, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa Cargo.
IATA CODE: FRA.
- Located in the Franconian metro area of Nuremberg.
- The second-busiest airport in Bavaria
- Has a single runway and parking positions for 37 aircraft
- Its cargo center comprises more than 13,300 square-meters of capacity
- No direct flights from China to Nuremberg
Connected Airports in China: None.
China to Nuremberg Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: NUE.
- More than a third of all Germany’s air freight is handled at Munich Airport
- The annual freight throughput is close to 400,000 tonnes.
- Facilities include an 84,000 square-meter cargo terminal
- Over 300 flights connect Munich to major cities around the world.
- Several direct routes link Munich Airport with air-freight gateways in China
Connected Airports in China: Qingdao, Shanghai.
China to Munich Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: MUC.
- Located in Schkeuditz, Saxony.
- Annual cargo volumes handled here are second only to Frankfurt
- In 2019, the airport processed more than 1.2 million tonnes of freight
- Direct flights bring cargo into Leipzig Halle from Shanghai in China
Connected Airports in China: Shanghai.
China to Leipzig Halle Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: LEJ.
- Situated eight kilometers outside the city of Hamburg
- The full name of the facility is Hamburg Airport Helmut Schmidt
- This airport can accept a range of wide-body aircraft, including the Airbus A380
- Served by at least one direct flight from China (Qingdao to Hamburg)
Connected Airports in China: Qingdao.
China to Hamburg Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: HAM.
Suppose none of the airports listed above are likely to be suitable arrival points for your freight. In that case, you may be able to fly it from China into Stuttgart, Berlin-Tegel, or Dusseldorf.
With access to the resources of Agility, a logistics leader, and cutting-edge freight-forwarding software, Shipa Freight is the only forwarder you need for shipping from China to Germany.
Our expertise includes in-depth knowledge of the export/import procedures in China and Germany. Our support team operates around the clock to supplement the self-serve simplicity of our platform. These two factors mean you'll never struggle to get the information you need about your shipments' progress.
Key benefits of importing from China to Germany with Shipa Freight include:
- Fast online quotes for air and ocean freight
- Online booking, payment, and tracking for your shipments
- A customer support team on hand 24/7 to give you help when you need it
- Air and ocean shipping capabilities across hundreds of tradelanes
- Integrated compliance software to help you meet regulatory requirements
- Dedicated customs clearance teams to help you avoid issues and border delays
- A single platform to manage all elements of your international shipping
- What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From China to Germany?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Freight From China to Germany?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From China to Germany?
- Customs Clearance in China and Germany
- Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
- Ocean Cargo Port Guide
- Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
- Why Ship Freight From China to Germany With Shipa Freight?