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Ocean & Air Shipping From China to Saudi Arabia

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

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Updated on 13 Sep 202214 min read

Close trading ties sustain the high volumes of commodities that businesses export from China to Saudi Arabia. China, the oriental giant of manufacturing and global outsourcing, is one of the Middle Eastern Kingdom’s top three trading partners. Volumes are expected to grow as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its economy from one traditionally based on oil.

If your business leverages the healthy exchange of trade between the two countries, your supply chain doubtless depends on ocean or air freight to import from China to Saudi Arabia. To make this easier for you, we answer questions about different shipping options, costs, transit times, customs clearance, and ports of export and import on this page.

What Are Your Options for Shipping From China to Saudi Arabia?

Freight forwarding specialist studying performance graphs on giant tablet, adjacent to flags of China and Saudi Arabia

Commercial exporters and importers use ocean and air shipping from China to Saudi Arabia. Each option has certain benefits and drawbacks, some of which you’ll find outlined on this page.

Ocean Freight From China to Saudi Arabia

Less than Container Load (LCL): Transporting your freight from China to Saudi Arabia together with the consignments of other shippers in a shared shipping container is called LCL shipping. This option is often the most affordable one when you don’t have enough cargo to fill a shipping container.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL is the term used for shipping a container from China to Saudi Arabia containing goods belonging to only one shipper. For a flat fee, you can use the container exclusively for your products. It’s a great way to move larger, heavier cargo at a fixed price.

Air Freight From China to Saudi Arabia

If you need to export from China to Saudi Arabia in a hurry, air freight will probably be the right choice. However, you need to live with higher cost because flying your goods is often much more expensive than sending them by sea.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From China to Saudi Arabia?

Bag of money and graph to represent the cost of Shipa Freight's quotes

While you will find some variance in the transit times for freight shipped between China and the KSA, you will encounter much more in the range of cost options.

Naturally, air freight is more expensive than ocean freight. However, the cost difference might be negligible for shipments of around 100 kilograms in weight. The larger the load though, the more expensive it becomes to fly your goods as opposed to shipping them by sea.

If time is on your side, ocean freight will invariably be the most economical shipping mode. The cost of air freight might be more justifiable when you need to get goods quickly from China to their Saudi destination.

If your shipments are less than 35 kilograms in weight, neither air nor ocean freight services, as offered by a freight forwarder, will be cost-effective. For consignments that small, it will be best to contact an international courier company. Indeed, at Shipa Freight, we only accept bookings for shipments of 35 kilograms and over.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From China to Saudi Arabia?

There is a world of difference between air freight and ocean freight transit times. You must typically allow several weeks for an LCL or FCL ocean freight shipment to arrive in Saudia Arabia from its port of origin in China.

On the other hand, air freight spends mere hours in transit, making it the logical choice if your supply chain depends on rapid shipping. Remember, though, that air freight, like ocean freight, must also undergo customs clearance at both ends of its journey. Realistically then, it takes a few days before a shipment flown from China is available to the recipient in the KSA.

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

Transit times for ocean freight from China to Saudi Arabia depend on several factors, such as:

  • Whether you choose to ship using LCL or FCL services
  • Whether your goods clear customs without any delays
  • Whether your freight is on a direct route, or one with stops on the way
  • Whether the vessel steams fast or slow

With so many variables, it's not easy to predict precisely how long it takes to ship ocean freight between the two countries. To give you some idea though, here are some examples from our schedules:

  • Qingdao to Jeddah – 36 days FCL
  • Guangzhou to Ad Dammam – 20 days FCL, 42 days LCL
  • Guangzhou to Jeddah - 36 days FCL, 40 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Ad Dammam – 32 days FCL, 31 days LCL
  • Tianjin to Ad Dammam - 40 days LCL
  • Xiamen to Ad Dammam - 34 days LCL
  • Huangpu to Ad Dammam or Jeddah - 20 days FCL

-Shanghai or Shenzhen to Jeddah - 36 days FCL

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

Most of the time consumed in shipping air freight, is that required for freight consolidation/deconsolidation, and customs clearance in the airports of origin and discharge.

Typically though, air freight from Shanghai to Dammam takes around five days and from Shanghai to Riyadh takes around three days. Other routes, such as those listed below, take between six and nine days from departure in China, to clearance for onward shipping in Saudi Arabia:

  • Shanghai to Jeddah - 7 days
  • Guangzhou or Shenzhen to Dammam, Jeddah, or Riyadh - 8 days
  • Chengdu to Dammam, Jeddah, or Riyadh - 9 days
  • Beijing to Dammam, Jeddah, or Riyadh - 6 days
  • Qingdao to Jeddah - 8 days

Customs Clearance in China and Saudi Arabia

China and Saudi Arabia are two countries in which customs procedures can be complicated. That’s why it makes sense to work with a freight forwarder familiar with China to Saudi trade lanes. A freight forwarder typically has local experts in both countries to help clear your freight through customs with a minimum of frustration. An expert will also make sure that you provide correct and accurate information, as required by the relevant customs authorities.

While customs documentation requirements can vary from country to country, there are some specific forms and papers necessary for both export and import customs clearance.

For example, customs authorities in China will require all the following documents for export clearance, as will the Saudi customs service when assessing your shipment during the import clearance process:

  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)

If you’d like to see some examples of the documents listed above, and get some more information about them, head over to our documents list page, where you’ll find overviews and examples.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Want to get your goods transported in a shipping container from China to Saudi Arabia? Ocean shippingwith a maritime carrier is the way most exporters and importers move their freight from port to port. A freight forwarder can help you organize FCL and LCL shipping from several container ports in China, to the Saudi port of Jeddah, and also to Ad Dammam.

The next sections are dedicated to help you decide which sea freight option suits your logistics needs.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Are your shipments small enough for LCL shipping? If you don’t need a full container all to yourself, you can have your goods consolidated with other shipments to fill a container. Cargo shipped in this way is known as LCL ocean freight.

It’s typically more economical to ship smaller quantities like this. Your freight forwarder will send the container from China to Saudi Arabia, where all the shipments, including yours, will be unloaded as part of a process called deconsolidation. If you choose door-to-door shipping, a domestic carrier will get your goods on a truck from the Saudi port to your chosen destination, anywhere in the KSA.

LCL pricing can sometimes be complicated to understand, but most quotations are broken down to make all fees transparent. If you’re not sure whether to ship LCL or FCL, you can request a quote for each mode, and compare the prices.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

If you ship more than six pallets of goods from China to KSA, you might find it more economical to choose FCL ocean freight. In this scenario, your products will be loaded and sealed into a 20-foot shipping container. They will not share space with other shippers’ goods. For 15 pallets or more, you would need a 40-foot container.

FCL shipping is often faster than LCL, as there is no consolidation or deconsolidation. Your goods will also undergo less handling en route, so the risk of damage or loss is reduced. FCL shipping rates may also be easier to understand, as they are usually based on a flat rate per container, and not on complicated dimensional weight calculations.

Air Freight

There are a few good reasons to have your cargo shipped as air freight, as long as your budget allows for the higher cost of transportation. Speed is the obvious benefit, but there are additional advantages related to security and flexibility of airlines and airport operators. However, the price for air shipping might be prohibitive if your shipments are large enough to occupy more than a few pallets.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Port Facts:

  • Largest container port in the world.
  • Has multiple deep and shallow water zones.
  • The majority of goods imported from China to Saudi Arabia embark from Shanghai.
  • Several shipping lines operate routes between here and the two primary ports in the KSA.

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located just outside of Macau.
  • One of several ports serving the Southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
  • Container throughput is only around 5% of that processed by giant ports like Shanghai.
  • Despite its lower throughput, this port is a principal export gateway.
  • Has some 130 berths along the Pearl River estuary's west bank.

Owned By: Zhuhai Port Corporation.

Annual Container Volume: >2.25 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • One of China’s smaller container ports.
  • Serves Anhui Province and surrounding areas.
  • Keeps overland transportation to a minimum when your supplier is based in this region.

Owned By: Wuhu Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Has a reputation for fast vessel turnaround and efficient container management.
  • Top choice for faster shipment times.
  • Fourth-busiest container port in the world.
  • Boasts sophisticated container-management technology to load and unload the latest and largest ships

Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Co., Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >26 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Among the world's top five container ports.
  • Located on the Kowloon peninsula.
  • Divided into East and West port areas.
  • Over 130 international shipping routes begin or end here, or include it as an en-route stop.

Owned By: Multiple owners.

Annual Container Volume: >27 million TEUs.


Other Ports in China

If none of the ports outlined above prove ideal as origins for your shipments, Shipa Freight can also dispatch your Chinese exports from any of the following ocean freight gateways:

  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Chongqing
  • Qinzhou
  • Zhongshan
  • Guangzhou
  • Qingdao
  • Dalian
  • Fuzhou
  • Lianyungang
  • Shantou
  • Xiamen

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Saudi Arabia

Jeddah Islamic Port

Port Facts:

  • Lies on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia.
  • Second-largest container port in the Arab world.
  • Spreads over 12 square kilometers.
  • Has several berths capable of accommodating the largest container ships.
  • Principal cargo port for Saudi Arabia.

Owned By: Saudi Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the Persian Gulf, on the opposite side of the country from Jeddah.
  • Considerably smaller than Jeddah.
  • A critical gateway for imports destined for Riyadh and its surrounds.
  • Routing via Dammam can reduce ocean-shipping times by a day or two.

Owned By: Saudi Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.5 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in China

Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • Situated some 30 kilometers east of Shanghai.
  • One of two airports serving the city and surrounding regions.
  • One of the largest cargo airports in the world.
  • Has received awards such as the Air Cargo Excellence Diamond Award, bestowed upon it by Air Cargo World in 2019.

Saudi Arabia Airports Served: None.

Shanghai to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Known as Liuting, surrounded by the city from which it takes its name.
  • Little opportunity for the airport to expand.
  • Will soon be taken over by its successor Qingdao Jiadong Airport.

Saudi Arabia Airports Served: None.

Qingdao to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Processes more than 500,000 tonnes of air freight.
  • Fifth-busiest airport in China for cargo.
  • No direct cargo or passenger flights currently connect Chengdu with airports in the KSA.

Saudi Arabia Airports Served: None.

Chengdu to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Serves the capital of China’s Henan Province.
  • Xinzheng International Airport is the air freight gateway.
  • Only international airport in the province.
  • Busiest airport for freight anywhere in central China.

Saudi Arabia Airports Served: None.

Zhengzhou to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • World’s second-busiest airport and China’s busiest, both for passengers and air freight.
  • Offers excellent road and rail connections.
  • Can be used for air freight originating in many of China's northern and central provinces.

Saudi Arabia Airports Served: None.

Beijing to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in China

If you are looking for an alternative airport of origin for your shipments from China to Saudi Arabia, Shipa Freight can provide quotes for air freight from the following Chinese gateways:

  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Shanghai Hongqiao
  • Guangzhou
  • Shenzhen

Airports of Arrival in Saudi Arabia


Airport Facts:

  • Officially known as King Khalid Airport.
  • Convenient for destinations in the central and southern regions.
  • Has one of the few direct air freight connections from China, which brings Chinese imports from Guangzhou Baiyun.

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou.

China to Riyadh Cargo-Only Operators: Saudia Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Known as King Abdulaziz International Airport.
  • Located just north of Jeddah.
  • Terminus of direct flights from Guangzhou in China.
  • Ideal for goods that are destined for the West of the country.

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou.

China to Jeddah Cargo-Only Operators: Saudia Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Ideal arrival airport for freight bound for the Eastern regions of the KSA.
  • Third of our Saudi air freight gateways.
  • Most convenient airport of discharge for freight with final destinations in Dammam, Jubail, Ras Tanura, Khobar, Qatif, or Dhahran.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Dammam Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From China to Saudi Arabia With Shipa Freight?

Importing from China to Saudi Arabia is easier than you might think. We can transport your air and ocean shipments on time and in the most affordable way. With our state-of-the-art online platform, you’ll be able to finally accelerate your supply chain by managing your entire shipment process in one place. There’s no need to coordinate multiple agencies anymore.

Here are your advantages when you ship with us:

  • Online quotes: Receive them in an instant.
  • Online booking and payment: Send your freight on its way fast.
  • One platform: Manage all of your imports and exports in one place.
  • Customs clearance: A complex process taken care of for you.
  • Shipping documentation: Always know what to prepare.
  • Customer service: At your disposal 24/7 via phone, email, and chat.
  • Compliance: Always in line with international shipping rules and regulations.

Know Your Shipping Terminology

The shipping industry is rife with terms and baffling jargon that can confuse you if you’re not familiar with them. To help build your understanding of these terms, we’ve explained a couple below:

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