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Freight Shipping From China to UAE

Information and quote from China to Dubai for LCL, FCL and Air shipping

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Updated on 11 Feb 202215 min read

The United Arab Emirates’ location between Europe and the Far East has played a vital role in aiding its development as a global commercial hub, with Dubai being the focal point for much of the region’s economic activity and trade. But, if you’ve shunned the idea of sending freight from the Far East to the Middle East by air or sea due to high costs or customs complications, help is at hand.

We want to make importing from China to the United Arab Emirates as easy and straightforward as possible for your company. For this reason, we’ve gathered crucial information regarding ocean and air shipping from China to the UAE, including costs, transit times, and customs clearance procedures, right here on this page.

What Are Your Options for Shipping From China to UAE?

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley filled with cartons from the flag of China to the flag of the United Arab Emirates

You have two options to export from China to the UAE: air freight and ocean freight. Either choice has its pros and cons, which we will cover on this page.

Ocean Freight From China to Dubai and the UAE

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL shipping means that your cargo will be given space in a shared container that carries consignments of other shippers. The advantage is that you only have to pay for the space that your freight occupies, not the whole container. If you’re planning on moving small shipments from China to UAE, then LCL shipping might be the most affordable option.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping means paying for the rental and transportation of a shipping container from China to the UAE for your exclusive use at a flat rate. This might be cheaper than LCL, especially if you are transporting large, heavy goods.

Air Freight from China to Dubai and the UAE

If your products are required in the UAE urgently, air freight is the best way to move your freight. However, be prepared to foot a larger bill for this fast and flexible service.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Freight From China to the UAE?

The short answer is it depends. Freight rates depend on the nature of the goods you want to ship. Perishables may require refrigeration. Extra-large goods could call for an oversized container, for example.

They also depend on your chosen shipping method, as air freight is usually more expensive than ocean freight. They depend too on the volume, size, and weight of your consignment, all of which could prohibit shipment by air or affect the size and number of ocean shipping containers required.

As a guide, if your goods weigh under 100 kg, air freight can be just as economical as using an ocean carrier. And, of course, it will be quicker. Consignments over 100 kg that aren’t urgently required in the UAE will usually be more economical to ship by sea from China.

For cargo weighing under 35 kg, please get quotes from parcel carriers or couriers, as Shipa Freight does not provide freight forwarding services for goods in this weight bracket.

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

Your delivery deadlines are likely to influence the mode of shipping you choose to move your freight from China to the UAE. If you’re in a hurry, air freight is faster. But you should still allow at least a couple of days for your goods to arrive and receive import customs clearance.

Such speed comes at a price, so if your deadlines aren’t quite so tight, or if your budget is limited, waiting the 25-36 days for your goods to ship by ocean freight will almost certainly prove to be your most economical option.

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

As the examples below show, ocean shipping between China and the UAE takes between 18 and 38 days:

  • Shanghai to Jebel Ali – 30 days FCL, 33 days LCL
  • Guangzhou to Jebel Ali – 24 days LCL, 36 days FCL
  • Xiamen to Jebel Ali – 27 days FCL, 30 days LCL
  • Qingdao to Jebel Ali – 30 days
  • Shekou to Jebel Ali – 18 days FCL, 27 days LCL
  • Shanghai to Abu Dhabi – 36 days FCL, 30 days LCL
  • Ningbo or Shanghai to Sharjah – 36 days FCL
  • Guangzhou to Sharjah– 25 days FCL, 38 days LCL
  • Chongqing to Jebel Ali - 33 days
  • Zhongshan to Jebel Ali - 23 days LCL
  • Chiwan to Jebel Ali - 18 days FCL
  • Dalian to Abu Dhabi or Jebel Ali - 36 days FCL
  • Fuzhou or Nanjing to Jebel Ali - 36 days FCL
  • Huangpu to Jebel Ali - 23 days FCL
  • Huangpu to Sharjah - 25 days FCL
  • Lianyungang to Jebel Ali - 32 days FCL
  • Ningbo or Tianjin to Jebel Ali - 28 days FCL
  • Nansha to Sharjah - 26 days FCL
  • Shekou to Sharjah - 18 days FCL
  • Wuhan to Jebel Ali - 29 days FCL
  • Xiamen to Sharjah - 36 days FCL

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

Although flights from China to the UAE take a matter of hours, arranging the shipment of goods between the two nations is a more complex matter. But it’s still significantly faster than shipping by ocean freight.

Getting your goods overland to and from your chosen origin and destination airports takes time. So too loading and unloading the cargo. Plus, there will be customs and security checks in China and Dubai. Taking all this into consideration, here are some estimated shipping times:

  • Shanghai-Pudong to Dubai International – 5 days
  • Guangzhou to Dubai International – 7 days
  • Xiamen or Beijing to Dubai International – 8 days
  • Chengdu to Dubai International – 10 days
  • Qingdao to Dubai International – 6 days
  • Shenzhen to Dubai Al Maktoum – 8 days
  • Shanghai to Abu Dhabi – 6 days
  • Guangzhou to Sharjah or Dubai Al Maktoum – 8 days
  • Shenzhen to Abu Dhabi - 7 days
  • Shenzhen to Dubai International - 5 days
  • Zhengzhou to Dubai International - 2 days

Customs Clearance in China and the UAE

Inspector checking containers as Shipa Freight helps with customs clearance

With so many rules and regulations, codes, and documents required, international shipping used to baffle many businesses. Most commercial importers and exporters prefer to let professional freight forwarders handle the customs clearance process.

An export can advise you of the documents you need to sign and send with your consignment from China to the UAE. Details of the essential documents can be found on this shipping and customs documentation page.

Briefly, the paperwork typically required is:

  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)

Sometimes, further documentation, such as certificates, permits, and licenses are required to complete the customs clearance process. If the customs authorities request these documents, your freight forwarder can guide you.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Most commercial goods travel the long way from China to the UAE via sea on cargo ships. The type of ocean shipping container you will require will depend on the nature of your goods. Your freight forwarder might recommend an extra-high, half-height, refrigerated, open-top, or flat-rack container when you provide the details of your sea freight.

Your consignment can be sent from a port in China to its destination in the United Arab Emirates by FCL or LCL, loaded into 20ft or 40ft containers.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL will see your cargo transported in a shared container from China to the UAE, along with freight from other international importers and exporters. LCL is a popular option for businesses with small consignments to send—goods totaling less than the 33 cubic meter capacity of the smallest shipping containers.

LCL typically takes longer than FCL (below), as there are extra logistics involved in combining your shipment with other cargo. You should also know that LCL goes through a lot of handling, so be sure to carefully and securely pack your goods for their journey in a shipping container from China to Dubai. Consider also the potential risk this extra handling could pose to perishable or delicate goods.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL is a good option if you want a container exclusively for your freight. It will probably be your most cost-effective shipping option, as long as you have enough cargo to fill six or more standard pallets in a 20ft container, or 12 or more in a 40ft container. Unlike LCL, there will be no consolidation in China or de-consolidation in the UAE, so less handling of your cargo—reassuring if your goods are delicate. Your consignment will travel sealed in its container from departure to destination unless customs officials in China or Dubai say otherwise.

Air Freight

There is no quicker way to get your goods from China to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates than by air shipping. A freight forwarder can get your cargo from China to a UAE airport in as little as seven days. If your cargo is perishable or delicate, sending it as air freight is likely to be preferable to the weeks it will spend at sea if you choose ocean shipping.

But there are reasons other than a quicker journey time that should tempt you to get your pallets loaded onto a plane rather than a cargo vessel:

  • Less handling – there is no LCL or FCL with air cargo
  • More security – airlines have stricter security procedures than ocean shippers
  • Cheaper insurance – less time in transit usually means lower premiums

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in China


Port Facts:

  • Economic hotspot located on the Pearl River Delta.
  • Main port serving the city that shares its name.
  • Container cargo handling is one of the many freight services offered here.
  • Popular with exporters due to its location at the intersection of the Xijiang, Beijiang, and Dongjiang Rivers.

Owned By: Guangzhou Port Group Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >21.9 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Xiamen Island, a nearby estuary and a stretch of coastline form the expansive Port of Xiamen.
  • Ranked among the world’s top-ten biggest cargo handling centers.
  • Facilities include nine container terminals.
  • Has the capacity to send consignments to over 50 destinations worldwide, including Dubai.

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Welcomes container shipping vessels from over 700 destinations.
  • Premier port, well capable of handling your shipment from China to the UAE.
  • Likely to be your closest major port if your goods are manufactured in Shandong Province.

Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • World’s biggest port in 2019.
  • Known as the best-connected port on the planet.
  • High quality and quantity of road and rail links to the port.
  • Uses the most advanced technology for processing and loading of the freight onto vessels.

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in the Dawan District of Guangdong Province.
  • Extensive container terminal.
  • Good alternative to the nearby larger and busier port of Shenzhen.

Owned By: China Merchants Shekou Port Service Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >46,000 TEUs.


Other Ports in China

As well as the five ports described above, Shipa Freight can also dispatch your freight from the following container gateways in China:

  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Ningbo-Zhoushan
  • Qinzhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Shantou
  • Shenzhen
  • Lianyungang
  • Wuhu
  • Dalian

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the UAE

Dubai - Jebel Ali

Port Facts:

  • Located on the Persian Gulf, 35 km Southwest of Dubai.
  • World’s largest man-made harbor.
  • Easily the busiest and biggest port in the Middle East.
  • Container yard spans over one million square meters and includes Dutch barns, covered sheds, and open storage space.

Owned By: Dubai Ports World.

Annual Container Volume: >13.6 million TEUs.


Abu Dhabi - Khalifa

Port Facts:

  • One of the world’s most modern seaports.
  • Has a semi-automated container terminal among its many high-tech facilities.
  • Further development is scheduled over the next decade to expand its freight handling capacity.

Owned By: Abu Dhabi Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs.


Sharjah - Khor Fakkan

Port Facts:

  • Only port in the United Arab Emirates that sits outside the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Key container hub in the region.
  • Rapid transit routes enable swift delivery of your goods to other locations across the UAE.
  • Boasts outstanding facilities that allow for ultra-efficient deconsolidation and discharge of goods shipped from China.

Owned By: Sharjah Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in China


Airport Facts:

  • Best option when the supplier of your goods is based in Western China.
  • Former military airfield in Sichuan Province.
  • China’s fifth-biggest air cargo gateway.
  • Handled over 600,000 tonnes of freight in 2018.

UAE Airports Served: Abu Dhabi.

Chengdu to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • World’s third-largest hub for air cargo.
  • Named the world’s top cargo airport in 2019 by Air Cargo World.
  • Advanced facilities enabled freight handlers to process 3.7 million metric tonnes of freight in 2018.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Dubai Al Maktoum, Abu Dhabi.

Shanghai to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation, Emirates Sky Cargo, FedEx Express, Etihad Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 19 kilometers north of Chongqing in the Yubei District in Western China.
  • Has three terminals with a fourth scheduled for completion within a decade.
  • China’s tenth-busiest airport for cargo.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Abu Dhabi.

Chongqing to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in the geographical center of China’s air network.
  • Popular commercial trading and air freight hub in Hubei Province.
  • Handles a quarter of a million tonnes of air cargo annually.
  • A transportation hub connects the airport with the city of Wuhan, which is 26 km to the south.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Dubai Al Maktoum.

Wuhan to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates Sky Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Located on the east bank of the Pearl River near Huangtian and Fuyong villages.
  • Part of a Special Economic Zone.
  • Thriving hub serving electronics manufacturers in the region.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Dubai Al Maktoum.

Shenzhen to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: UPS Airlines.


Other Airports in China

As well as the airports featured above, Shipa Freight can route your air freight to Dubai and the UAE with a carrier flying out of any of the following Chinese airports:

  • Qingdao
  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Guangzhou
  • Beijing
  • Zhengzhou
  • Shanghai Hongqiao

Airports of Arrival in the UAE

Dubai International

Airport Facts:

  • Located in the Al Garhoud District.
  • World’s sixth-busiest cargo hub.
  • Features highly advanced cargo processing facilities.
  • Offers a specialist flower center to receive and expertly process your delicate and perishable goods from China.

Connected Airports in China: Chongqing, Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Chengdu.

China to Dubai Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, UPS Airlines.


Dubai Al Maktoum

Airport Facts:

  • Opened in 2010 in Jebel Ali.
  • Cost over US$75 million to build.
  • Used to handle cargo flights exclusively but has been expanded to include passenger flights.
  • Linked to Dubai International Airport—40km away—by an expressway.

Connected Airports in China: Guangzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Wuhan.

China to Dubai Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates Sky Cargo.


Abu Dhabi

Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest air cargo hub in the Emirates.
  • Handles close to one million tonnes of freight annually.
  • Has one of the most modern cargo facilities among the world’s international airports

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

China to Abu Dhabi Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Modern cargo hub located 13 km Southeast of Sharjah.
  • Has five cargo terminals.
  • Can handle multiple types of air freight, including livestock and goods that require temperature control.

Connected Airports in China: None.

China to Sharjah Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo.


Why Ship From China to UAE With Shipa Freight?

For any business importing from China to the UAE, the process should be easy and straightforward. Our digital-first approach to freight forwarding makes it so. We serve businesses of any size and can satisfy all your logistics needs.

Our state-of-the-art online platform will allow you to finally simplify your supply chain. Now you can manage all your imports and exports conveniently in one place.

The following advantages are yours when you import from China to the UAE with us:

  • Fast and easy-to-understand online quotes and bookings.
  • Assistance with completing and filing the necessary shipping documents.
  • Less customs complexity, as we handle most of the requirements on your behalf.
  • Your entire shipping process is managed in one place.
  • 24/7 support via email, phone, or chat.
  • Compliance with local and international shipping rules.

Know Your Shipping Terminology

Baffling jargon and complicated terminology are often used by shipping experts. That’s fine when communicating with fellow experts, but it can leave shipping novices confused. So to help those new to shipping build an understanding of these terms, we’ve explained a couple below:

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