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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping from China to Switzerland

FCL, LCL and Air shipping comprehensive guide and instant online quote

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Switzerland has been China's biggest Asian trading partner for over a decade. China is also the third-largest trade partner of the Swiss after the European Union and the United States. If you plan to participate in this active exchange of goods between the two countries, then you should find plenty to interest you on this page.

To successfully import from China to Switzerland, you need a few crucial pieces of information. Here, you will learn about the different modes of transportation, shipping rates, transit times, customs clearance procedures, and ports of export and import.


What Are Your Options for Shipping From China to Switzerland?

Flags of China and Switzerland to show Shipa Freight capacity to ship from China to Switzerland

In order to transport your commercial goods, you’ll need to choose between ocean and air shipping from China to Switzerland. We will outline the benefits and drawbacks of each option right here on this page.


Ocean Freight From China to Switzerland

Less than Container Load (LCL): When several consignments belonging to multiple shippers are consolidated in one single container, the process is known as LCL, or less-than-container-load shipping. It’s an ideal option for businesses that don’t want to hire an entire container. For smaller shipments especially, LCL is often the most affordable way to get freight from China to Switzerland.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping involves paying for the use and transportation of a container for a flat fee. When you ship an entire container from China to Switzerland, you can take advantage of the space and transport large quantities of your products or materials.


Air Freight From China to Switzerland

When you have goods for urgent export from China to Switzerland, air freight is likely the best way to go. It outperforms ocean shipping in terms of speed and flexibility. However, it is often a much costlier option.


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

To determine the final cost of transporting your shipment for import from China to Switzerland, a freight forwarder will take several different factors into consideration, including the following:

  • The type of cargo
  • The chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Dimensions of the cargo
  • The distance between origin and destination
  • The type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)

While all of these factors are important, the weight of your cargo will likely have the largest impact on the final price. Most shippers find ocean freight to be the most cost-effective option for cargo weighing more than 100 kg. If you’re shipping less than 100 kg, though, you might not find much difference between the price quoted for air freight, and that of ocean shipping.

Want to ship cargo weighing 35 kg or less? If so, you should engage an international courier service instead of a freight forwarder. Most freight-forwarding companies don’t handle consignments in this weight bracket.


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

Hourglass and a calendar to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight

It won’t be a surprise to hear that air shipping is typically much faster than ocean shipping. When you fly your goods to Switzerland, they can reach their final recipient in just a few days. Sea freight is much slower than that and will arrive only after three weeks or more.


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

Depending on the carrier and the route, carriage of commodities in a shipping container from China to Switzerland can take between 20 and 46 days.


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

Most air-freight shipments from China to Switzerland will take between five and eight days. You might wonder why it takes so long, considering that the actual flight time is just a few hours. It’s simply because there are other steps in the shipping process, such as loading and unloading, as well as customs and security checks, each of which takes some time.


Customs Clearance in China and Switzerland

Whether you ship air freight or send a shipping container from China to Switzerland, customs clearance is always part of the process. For your cargo to leave China and enter Switzerland, customs authorities in both countries have to grant permission for it to move across the respective borders.

Even the most experienced shippers usually engage an agent or freight forwarder for this crucial task, as they don’t want to risk any delays or issues. When you partner with an expert service provider, you’re assured that all formalities will be carried out in compliance with Chinese and Swiss customs regulations and international shipping laws.

To start the customs clearance process, you will have to ensure the required documentation is present and in order. The documents below are needed as a minimum:

  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)

In most cases, these documents are sufficient to obtain customs clearance. However, customs authorities sometimes ask for additional documents such as licenses, permits, and certificates. Your freight forwarder will guide and advise you in this regard.

Check out our documents list to learn more about the different types of forms—and to see some examples.


Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?


Ocean Freight

With Switzerland being a landlocked nation, all sea freight imports will arrive at a European port first. Containers are then loaded onto trucks for land transport or onto barges for shipment on rivers and canals.

Most commercial freight will travel inside a standard 20ft or 40ft shipping container. However, carriers also provide special solutions for cargo that won’t fit into standard units. Various specialized container-types (e.g., refrigerated or ventilated) and break-bulk shipping are alternative options.

On this page, we will focus on explaining standard containerized ocean shipping (FCL and LCL). To help you choose the right option, we will discuss both modes in the next sections.


Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL shipping might be the right choice for your business if:

  • Your cargo has a total volume of 14 CBM (around six standard pallets) or less.
  • Your goods can’t be transported via air.
  • You want to speed up your supply chain, as you can ship your goods immediately instead of waiting to fill a container.

On the other hand, you should refrain from LCL shipping if:

  • You don’t want your cargo right next to the consignments of other shippers.
  • Excessive handling and movements would put your delicate and fragile cargo at risk.
  • You need absolute certainty with regard to the delivery date (consolidation and deconsolidation of the container can lead to delays).

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


Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL shipping is best suited for:

  • Large shipments that take up at least half the capacity of a 20ft container.
  • Situations where you need certainty about the delivery date of your consignment.
  • Fragile/delicate/high-value products that need to be sealed in a container for the entire journey.

That said, FCL might not be the right choice if the supplier or buyer can’t handle a full container on their premises.

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


Air Freight

Air shipping is likely the right choice if:

  • You require a fast and flexible service.
  • You only have to transport a few pallets.
  • Your cargo comprises perishable products with a short shelf-life.
  • You need high levels of security for valuable freight.
  • You want absolute certainty of your delivery date.
  • Your supplier or buyer is based close to an international airport.

However, air freight might not be ideal if you have to be very cost-conscious, or your cargo is bulky or of an awkward shape that won’t fit into an aircraft hold.

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


Ocean Cargo Port Guide


Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Qingdao

Port Facts:

  • Among the ten busiest ports in the world.
  • Connected to over 700 destinations globally.
  • Situated on the Yellow Sea.
  • Ideal point of export for suppliers located in Shandong Province.

Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group) Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: CNTAO.


Dalian

Port Facts:

Most northerly ice-free port in China, located on the Yellow Sea. Second-largest container transshipment hub in the country. Serves as an export point for the Northeastern region of the country. Offers 80 modern berths.

Owned By: Dalian Port Group Co., Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: CNDLC.


Shantou

Port Facts:

  • Natural river port, connected with the South China Sea.
  • Main port of the Eastern part of Guangdong.
  • Vital export gateway for suppliers in the manufacturing-centric Guangdong Province.

Owned By: Shantou Port Affairs Bureau.

Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: CNSWA.


Xiamen

Port Facts:

  • Ranks as the eighth-largest container gateway in China.
  • Facilities include nine container terminals and 74 berths.
  • Offers 68 shipping routes to 50 countries.
  • Stretches over 30 kilometers.

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: CNXMN.


Ningbo-Zhoushan

Port Facts:

  • High-volume gateway for exports from Zhejiang Province.
  • Offers five terminals and more than 300 berths.
  • Functions as a strategic overflow for the nearby Port of Shanghai.
  • Important oil and bulk-ore shipping hub.

Owned By: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Co., Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >26 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: CNNGB.


Other Ports in China

In addition to the five container gateways above, you can export from China to Switzerland via any of the following ports:

  • Guangzhou (Nansha)
  • Wuhan
  • Chongqing
  • Lianyungang
  • Qinzhou
  • Shantou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Nanjing
  • Shanghai
  • Fuzhou
  • Tianjin

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Switzerland

Switzerland is a landlocked nation, and while there is a container port on the River Rhine at Basel, it’s common for shippers to import via the Port of Antwerp, in Belgium. From there, containers are shipped via barge, road, or rail, through Belgium and France and into Switzerland.


Antwerp

Airport Facts:

  • Freight from China arriving here will be transported to Switzerland via rivers and waterways.
  • Located in the heart of Europe, in the region of Flanders in Belgium.
  • Second-largest seaport in Europe after Rotterdam.

Owned By: Port of Antwerp.

Annual Container Volume: >8 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: BEANR.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide


Airports of Origin in China


Shenzhen

Airport Facts:

  • 24th-busiest airport in the world for cargo traffic.
  • Located 32 km northwest of central Shenzhen in the Pearl River Delta.
  • The airport processed over 1.2 million tons of cargo in 2018.

Swiss Airports Served: None.

Shenzhen to Switzerland Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: SZX.


Fuzhou

Airport Facts:

  • Located about 50 km east of the city center of Fuzhou, close to the Taiwan Strait.
  • 23rd-busiest air cargo gateway in the country.
  • Plans are underway to expand capacity, enabling throughput of 450,000 tonnes of freight annually by 2030.

Swiss Airports Served: None.

Fuzhou to Switzerland Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: FOC.


Zhengzhou

Airport Facts:

  • Airport with the highest freight throughput in central China.
  • Seventh-busiest cargo airport nationwide.
  • Located in Henan Province, 37 kilometers southeast of central Zhengzhou.
  • Processes around 502,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

Swiss Airports Served: None.

Zhengzhou to Switzerland Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: TSN.


Wuhan

Airport Facts:

  • Busiest airport overall in central China.
  • Located 26 km from downtown Wuhan in Hubei Province.
  • Comprises two runways and one terminal with a second under construction.

Swiss Airports Served: None.

Wuhan to Switzerland Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: WUH.


Qingdao

Airport Facts:

  • Located 31 km from central Qingdao in Shandong Province.
  • Has no room to expand as it’s surrounded by urban development.
  • Will be replaced by Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport soon.

Swiss Airports Served: None.

Qingdao to Switzerland Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: TAO.


Other Airports in China

Your air freight from China to Switzerland can also depart from any of the following airports:

  • Xiamen
  • Chengdu
  • Shanghai
  • Guangzhou
  • Beijing-Capital

Airports of Arrival in Switzerland


Zurich

Airport Facts:

  • Switzerland’s largest international airport.
  • Crowned ‘Europe’s leading airport’ by World Travel Awards 17 years in a row.
  • Situated just 13 kilometers north of downtown Zurich.
  • Handled almost 335,000 tonnes of air cargo in 2019.

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

China to Zurich Cargo-Only Operators: Swiss WorldCargo.

IATA CODE: ZRH.


Basel Mulhouse

Airport Facts:

  • Operated jointly by two countries: Switzerland and France.
  • Situated 20 km southeast of Mulhouse, France, and only 3.5 km northwest of Basel, Switzerland.
  • Facilities include a single terminal building and two runways.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Basel Mulhouse Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: BSL.


Geneva

Airport Facts:

  • Located right at the French-Swiss border just four kilometers northwest of downtown Geneva.
  • Freight operations can be accessed from both countries.
  • Handles around 85,000 tons of cargo per year.
  • Features one of Europe’s longest runways, making it accessible for aircraft of all sizes.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Geneva Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: GVA.


Why Ship From China to Switzerland With Shipa Freight?

Importing from China to Switzerland should be easy and straightforward. Whether you prefer to send your cargo via air or sea, we can satisfy all of your logistics needs.

With our modern online platform, you can now manage your entire shipping process in one place. This can not only speed up your supply chain, but also spares you from the need to coordinate multiple agencies.

By shipping your freight with us, you can take advantage of the following features and benefits:

  • You can access and compare quotes online instantly.
  • Book and pay for your shipments online, without losing time.
  • Manage your imports and exports on one convenient platform.
  • We’ll handle all customs clearance complexities.
  • Get support 24/7 from our friendly customer service team.
  • Assurance that your shipments comply with international transport and customs regulations.

“With Shipa Freight, I could do everything from quotation to booking with just a click”.

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