As a highly developed nation with one of the largest economies in the European Union, Spain is a freight destination that’s seeing continued growth in imports from China. As trading relationships between China and Spain continue to strengthen, more businesses in both countries will acquire demand for their exports.
Perhaps your enterprise has already identified a market for Asian commodities in Western Europe, and is preparing to import from China to Spain, or has started the process and is looking for a better international shipping solution. This page will offer some advice and guidance so you can engage in ocean and air shipping from China to Spain more easily and cost-effectively.
You can send your freight from China to Spain via air or sea. We will focus on explaining both ocean and air shipping on this page.
Ocean Freight From China to Spain
Less than Container Load (LCL): Your cargo will share space in a container with the consignments of other shippers when you opt for LCL shipping. This can be ideal when you’re only transporting small quantities of goods and don’t need an entire container just for your shipment. Importing from China to Spain via LCL is often the most affordable option for smaller consignments.
Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping means paying for the exclusive use and transportation of a shipping container from China to Spain. As you’ll pay a flat fee, this mode of transport can be less expensive than LCL for larger, heavier goods.
Air Freight From China to Spain
Flying your freight from China to Spain is the fastest and most flexible mode of transport. However, this service comes with a hefty price tag that not all shippers are prepared to shoulder.
Global freight shipping costs vary considerably from route to route, and depend on a range of conditions, such as speed, seasonality, demand for shipping capacity, and the mode of shipping.
Air freight, in most cases, will incur more expense than either LCL or FCL ocean freight. Still, the difference may be negligible for shipments of up to 100 kilograms in weight. As the weight and volume of your shipment increases, air freight becomes more expensive, making it very costly for large shipments.
On the other hand, ocean freight services cost less than forwarding by air but take a lot longer to get your goods from China to Spain. However, unless you are moving products of high value or quick shipping is imperative, the lower cost will make ocean freight the more favorable approach.
Ultimately, the mode of shipping you choose will be that which best suits your business needs and logistics budget. Be aware, though, that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, do not handle shipments of less than 35 kilograms.
It’s only natural to want to know how long your shipments will take to travel from ports or airports in China, to those in Spain. Along with cost, it’s probably the most critical information your business will require.
Transit times of an export from China to Spain can vary depending on several factors, such as time in customs clearance and weather conditions en-route. In general, though, you should typically expect ocean freight to take around four to six weeks to ship from China to Spain. Air freight, as you might expect, is a lot faster, taking about eight days.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From China to Spain?
Allowing for customs clearance at ports of departure and arrival, the following transit times, while not precise, will give you a guide to ocean shipping durations from China to Spain:
- Shanghai to Barcelona – 37 days FCL
- Shanghai to Valencia – 35 days FCL, 40 days LCL
- Shanghai to Algeciras – 41 days FCL & LCL
- Shekou or Huangpu to Valencia – 28 days FCL
- Xiamen to Barcelona – 41 days FCL, 40 days LCL
- Ningbo to Barcelona - 41 days FCL
- Ningbo to Valencia – 27 days LCL, 32 days FCL
- Guangzhou to Barcelona – 41 days FCL, 39 days LCL
- Guangzhou to Bilbao – 41 days FCL
- Shenzhen to Barcelona – 26 days
- Tianjin to Valencia - 52 days LCL
- Fuzhou to Valencia - 31 days FCL
- Nansha or Qingdao to Barcelona - 41 days FCL
- Shekou to Barcelona - 26 days FCL
- Zhuhai to Barcelona - 23 days FCL
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From China to Spain
Expect eight days as the approximate transit time for air freight flown between China and Spain. Of course, the actual flight time is only hours, but your delivery must spend time in customs clearance at both ends of the journey.
The eight-day transit time applies to most direct and indirect flights, including those from Shanghai or Shenzhen to Madrid; Xiamen, Shenzhen, or Guangzhou to Barcelona, and Guangzhou to Bilbao. Air freight shipments from Shanghai to Barcelona can often be completed in slightly less time—typically around six days.
If you ever wished your business didn't have to deal with export and import customs clearance, a freight forwarder, like Shipa Freight, can offer you some relief from the complexities. A team of experts can manage the customs clearance process for you and guide you in the completion and submission of shipping documentation.
Every country has specific requirements for customs documentation, including Spain and China. When you ship your freight with a freight forwarder, you’ll know which documents are needed for the trade lane you’re using, and receive help to complete and submit them correctly.
As a general guide, though, the following documents are necessary for your shipments to be cleared for export in China, and by Spanish customs authorities for entry into this EU member state.
Certificate of Origin
Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)
You can find examples of each of the above documents, and learn a little more about them, by visiting our shipping and customs documentation page.
Is rapid transit critical for your supply chain, or are your consignments small enough to ship as air freight? If not, your best option will be to send them in a shipping container from China to Spain by sea.
LCL and FCL ocean shipping services are not cheap, but cost considerably less than any other form of international logistics service. Moreover, the larger your shipments, the more economical sea freight becomes.
Most freight forwarders will ship your sea freight in a container from China to Spain, either as a full container load (FCL) or less-than-container load (LCL) from port to port or even door to door.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
Are your commercial-goods shipments typically small enough to fit on six pallets or fewer? If so, LCL ocean freight will, in most cases, be the most economical way to move them. This mode of shipping can be slightly slower than FCL, due to the need to consolidate your freight with other shipments to fill a container, and to separate it from them again on arrival in Spain.
Despite the slightly longer shipping duration, LCL is favored by many businesses importing smaller quantities of freight into Spain. That's because the price reflects the actual volume and weight of the goods being shipped.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
If your enterprise involves importing or exporting high volumes of freight, you might be more interested in FCL shipping. You could also use a combination of FCL for large shipments and LCL for those small import/export orders.
FCL shipping, as mentioned in the section above, is typically a little faster than LCL ocean freight. If you are sending more than six pallets between China and Spain, it might work out cheaper, too, because you will pay a flat rate per container.
Remember that, as a rough guide, you will need a 20-foot shipping container for six to ten standard pallets, or a 40-foot container if you’ll ship up to 20 pallets.
Air shipping is by far the fastest method, bringing the transit time for small cargo down to days, rather than weeks. This makes it ideal for products with a short shelf-life. Also suppliers and buyers who are both located close to an international airport might prefer air freight over sea freight.
However, if your consignments are large, comprising many pallets, the costs will be very high, and in any case, you will pay more to ship freight by air than by sea.
Cargo Ports of Origin in China
- Served by a wide range of ocean carriers, which steam freight to around 50 countries.
- There are nine container terminals in the port.
- Comprises 12 areas: situated in the Jiulongjiang River estuary, the coastline of mainland China opposite Xiamen Island, and on the island itself.
Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.
- Natural river port opening into the South China Sea.
- Serves a vital role as a gateway to the manufacturing-centric Guangdong Province.
- The only sizable port in the Eastern part of Guangdong.
- Has been earmarked for expansion due to an increase in imports and exports.
Owned By: Shantou Port Affairs Bureau.
Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.
- Boasts one of the most efficient container terminals anywhere in the world.
- Known for fast vessel loading and unloading.
- Popular choice with shippers wishing to minimize transit times between China and Spain.
- High-quality road and rail freight interchanges at the facility.
- Great alternative to the nearby port of Shanghai.
Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Co., Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >26 million TEUs.
- One of China's ten most important ports.
- Ranking among the top 30 ports globally.
- Situated in the north of Jiangsu Province, near the mouth of the Qianqwei River.
- Located in one of the fourteen cities that opened up to foreign trade and investment, spurring growth in the volume of import and exports.
Owned By: Lianyungang Port Group Co. Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >4.7 million TEUs.
- Small port by Chinese standards, with an annual throughput of half a million TEUs.
- Fifth largest port along the Yangtze River.
- Useful export gateway if your supplier is based in Anhui Province or its surroundings.
Owned By: Wuhu Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
Other Ports in China
As well as the five ports described above, Shipa Freight can also dispatch your freight from China via the following container gateways:
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Spain
- The port area is scattered around the Bay of Gibraltar.
- Spain's second most important port, after Valencia, and the third-busiest in the Mediterranean.
- Known for its high container-handling efficiency.
- Serves around 3,000 container vessels per year.
Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de la Bahia de Algeciras.
Annual Container Volume: >4.5 million TEUs.
- Located on Spain's north coast.
- One of the five ports around the coast of Spain to which you can ship your imports from China.
- Not a large port, but ideal for containerized freight bound for cities such as Burgos, Leon, Zaragoza, and even the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Owned By: Port of Bilbao Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
- Ninth-largest container gateway in Europe, and the third-largest in Spain.
- Ideal if your Spanish markets lie in the northeast of the country.
- Offers connections to the region of Catalonia and further into Spain’s hinterland.
- Currently in the process of enlargement.
Owned By: Puertos Del Estado.
Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.
- 28th-busiest container port in the world and number five in Europe.
- Largest port in Spain and the entire Mediterranean basin.
- Has a storage area of 1.2 square kilometers and a total quay length of 12 kilometers.
Owned By: Port Authority of Valencia.
Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.
- Lies on Spain’s short west coast, close to the border with Portugal.
- Best known as one of the world’s premier fishing ports.
- Handles a steady throughput of cargo, much of it containerized.
- Covers an area of 14,000 hectares.
- Smallest of the five Spanish ports.
Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de Vigo.
Annual Container Volume: >200,000 TEUs.
Airports of Origin in China
- China’s fourth-busiest air-cargo hub.
- Processed more than 1.2 million tonnes of freight in 2018.
- Best for exports originating in the Pearl River Delta region.
- Spain Airports Served: Madrid.
Shenzhen to Brazil Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: SZX.
- Third-busiest cargo airport in China, and ranked number 17 in the world for throughput.
- Handles more than 1.8 million tonnes of freight per year.
- No carriers currently offer direct flights to Spanish destinations.
Spain Airports Served: None.
Guangzhou to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: CAN.
- Main airport for the Chinese capital, but a second airport, Beijing Daxing, opened in 2019.
- Located 32 kilometers to the northeast of Beijing's city center.
- Two million tonnes of freight pass through Beijing Capital Airport’s facilities every year.
Spain Airports Served: Barcelona, Madrid.
Beijing to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: PEK.
- Handles more than half a million tonnes of air freight annually.
- Fifth-busiest air cargo hub in China.
- Serves China’s Sichuan province.
Spain Airports Served: None.
Chengdu to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: CTU.
- Annual cargo throughput of more than 3.5 million tonnes.
- Third-busiest air-freight hub in the world.
- Known for high-quality management and efficiency.
- Received a Diamond award for excellence in 2019 from Air Cargo World.
Spain Airports Served: Madrid, Barcelona.
Shanghai to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: PVG.
Other Airports in China
In addition to Shanghai Pudong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shenzhen, Shipa Freight can route your air freight (via indirect flights) to Brazil from the following Chinese airports:
- Shanghai Hongqiao
Airports of Arrival in Spain
- Second-busiest airport in Spain, after Madrid.
- Popular arrival point for cargo from China.
- Located 12 kilometers southwest of the center of Barcelona.
Connected Airports in China: Beijing, Shanghai.
China to Barcelona Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: BCN.
- Ideal for import destinations in the north of the country.
- Located nine kilometers north of Bilbao’s city center.
- Famous for its new main terminal opened in 2000, designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Connected Airports in China: None.
China to Bilbao Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: BIO.
- Second-largest airport in Europe, with a total area of over 3,000 hectares.
- Main air-freight center for Spain.
- Hub for the country's national flag carrier, Iberia.
Connected Airports in China: Beijing, Shanghai.
China to Madrid Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: MAD.
Be at the forefront of freight forwarding, when you transport your cargo with Shipa Freight, a digital-first, online-only business. We take care of all your international ocean and air shipping needs, ensuring that your freight arrives safely and on time. With our cutting-edge online platform, you can now manage your shipments in one place, simplifying your supply chain.
These are your advantages when you ship with us:
- Receive and compare quotes online.
- Place your booking online in an instant.
- Benefit from straightforward and transparent shipping documentation.
- Customs complexities taken care of for you.
- Friendly customer service team available 24/7 via email, phone, and chat.
- Guaranteed compliance with shipping rules and regulations.
To help build your understanding of the language of shipping, we’re ending our country-to-country pages with definitions of potentially confusing terms and jargon. It’s a great chance to familiarize yourself with the ‘lingo’ so you can communicate your needs more effectively.
- What Are Your Options for Shipping From China to Spain?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From China to Spain?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From China to Spain?
- Customs Clearance in China and Spain
- Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
- Ocean Cargo Port Guide
- Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
- Why Ship From China to Spain With Shipa Freight?
- Know Your Shipping Terminology