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Ocean and Air Shipping From France to Canada

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Updated on 16 Sep 202113 min read

French exports to Canada totaled $5.4 billion (USD) in 2018, helped by the ongoing trade agreement with the EU. The goods most frequently shipped as an export from France to Canada include:

  • Electrical equipment
  • Machinery
  • Wines and spirits
  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals

Whatever you’re importing from France to Canada, this page will supply the information you need to do so more easily and successfully. Its contents include information about ocean and air shipping from France to Canada, key ports and airports, as well as guidance to help take the confusion and complexity out of customs clearance.

What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From France to Canada?

Freight forwarding professional in orange top, leaning on a stack of cartons, adjacent to the flags of France and Canada

When importing from France to Canada, you have two options: ocean freight and air freight. Let’s examine both.

Ocean Freight From France to Canada

Less than Container Load (LCL): If your consignment isn’t large enough to fill a container, it can share one with other products in what’s known as an LCL shipment. Cargo handlers in France will consolidate freight to fill the container before it’s sealed and transferred aboard a cargo vessel for shipping to Canada.

Full Container Load (FCL): In FCL shipping, you send your goods in a container filled exclusively with your products. Your container can be sealed in France and stay sealed until arrival at its destination in Canada, unless customs officials in either or both ports decide to inspect your cargo.

Air Freight from France to Canada

Air freight shipments from France to Canada take around five days. A freight forwarder will typically use direct services where available. Otherwise, your export from France to Canada will be flown aboard connecting passenger or cargo-only services. Air freight is often more expensive than ocean shipping.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From France to Canada?

A freight forwarder will consider at least five key factors when calculating the cost of your shipment:

  • The seaports or airports of loading and discharge
  • Whether a port-to-port, port-to-door, door-to-port, or door-to-door service is required
  • Your choice of ocean or air shipping
  • The weight, dimensions, and volume of your shipment
  • The specific nature of the goods you plan to ship

The weight of your consignment can sometimes be the deciding factor when choosing air or ocean freight. If your consignment is under 100kg, air cargo is likely to be just as cost-effective as ocean shipping—and it’s faster.

Goods weighing over 100kg are usually more cost-effective to send as ocean shipping.

Please note that Shipa Freight does not provide quotes for goods under 35kg.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From France to Canada?

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

Is your consignment needed in Canada in a hurry? If so, you should probably choose to send it with an air-freight carrier. Five to eight days is the average transit time when importing from France to Canada. Less urgent or large shipments can be transported as ocean freight in 17 to 32 days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From France to Canada?

The trans-Atlantic journey from France to Canada typically takes up to 32 days. However, one of the quickest routes connects the French port of Fos-Sur-Mer with Montreal, one of Canada’s primary ocean-freight gateways, and involves a transit time of just 17 days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From France to Canada?

Direct flights operating from Paris to various airports in Canada, including Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto, mean air shipping can usually be completed in five days. Goods shipped from other French airports will use indirect services, but can still be completed in five days.

Customs Clearance in France and Canada

Customs formalities are essential when you export from France to Canada. If you’re not comfortable managing this process internally, the services of an experienced freight forwarder will minimize the risk of delays. These shipping experts will also ensure your consignment complies with existing laws and regulations.

Engaging a freight forwarder doesn’t mean there’s no role for you in the customs clearance process. You will still be responsible for completing essential documents. Typically, the customs authorities in France and Canada will request the following:

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • 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)

It may be necessary for you to submit additional documentation, such as licenses, permits, or certificates. But for now, if you want to see examples of the documents listed above and learn a little more about them, this document list page is where to find them.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Transporting goods in a container from France to Canada can take as few as 17 days, or as many as 32 days, depending on your port of departure and arrival. Your choice of FCL or LCL ocean shipping also affects transit times.

A range of containers is available to ship your sea freight, including:

  • Standard containers that open at one end
  • Tank-style containers for liquids and gases
  • Flatback containers for heavy goods
  • Refrigerated containers for temperature-sensitive goods
  • Half-height containers for small volumes of bulky freight

Usually, a specialized cargo vessel will carry your goods in a shipping container from France to Canada. When it comes to containerized ocean shipping, there are two options: LCL and FCL. Both alternatives can be booked as port-to-port or door-to-door services. Choose the best one for your needs depending on the weight, volume, and nature of your goods. To help you decide, we’ve included information about LCL and FCL shipping below:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

A less-than-container-load (LCL) shipment is likely to be the best option for your freight if:

  • You’re shipping a small volume of goods—14 CBM or less
  • Your shipment is urgently required in Canada
  • It’s safe for your freight to share a container with other goods
  • Air freight is not an option for your business

You would be wise to avoid LCL shipping if any of the following apply:

  • Your freight is delicate, perishable, or of high-value
  • Your goods are awkwardly-shaped or your shipment is large
  • You don’t want your cargo moved and handled more than necessary
  • You can’t afford any delays to the delivery date (longer transit times are more likely with LCL shipping due to the logistics essentials of consolidation and deconsolidation)

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL is probably the right option for your import from France to Canada if:

  • Your goods must reach the recipient by a specified date
  • You can load and seal your container in France
  • Your recipient can unload the container in Canada
  • Your consignment is at least 14 CBM (around half the load capacity of a 20ft container)
  • Your goods aren’t suited to sharing a container
  • You want your container to remain sealed until received by the recipient (although customs officials can intervene and inspect the container if they wish)

FCL ocean shipping is probably best avoided when importing from France to Canada if:

  • Your supplier or buyer does not have the facilities to load or unload a shipping container
  • You want your cargo to be transported by ocean as soon as possible, but don’t have enough goods to justify paying for a full container.

Air Freight

Air shipping is likely to be the best solution for your supply chain if:

  • Your freight has a very short shelf-life (such as food or flowers)
  • Your cargo is required in Canada in a matter of days, not weeks
  • Speed is a higher priority than economy
  • Your goods are high-value and require airport-levels of security
  • Your consignment is small and light—no more than a few pallets

The supplier and recipient are both situated close to an international airport, helping save on overland transit costs Air shipping might be best avoided if:

  • Your goods are very large, heavy, or awkwardly shaped
  • You need to keep your shipping costs down

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in France

Le Havre

Port Facts

  • France’s second-largest port
  • The country’s first-ever container port
  • Located on France’s north coast, close to Caen/Rouen and less than 200 kilometers from Paris
  • Infrastructure includes three terminals for processing freight
  • Road links to the port are via the A29 and A31 motorways
  • Railroad connections offer access to and from locations across Europe within one or two days

Owned By: Grande Port Maritime du Havre.

Annual Container Volume: >2.8 million TEUs.


Fos Sur-Mer

Port Facts

  • Situated on the shores of the Golfe de Fos
  • Just under 40 kilometers northeast of Marseille
  • An ideal port if your supplier or manufacturer is based in Marseille, Montpelier, Avignon, Toulon, or other area of Southern France

Owned By: Marseille Fos Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.



Port Facts

  • A river port spanning 184 hectares
  • Named after Edouard Herriot, a former mayor of Lyon
  • Regarded by many as the most important containerized freight hub in France
  • Facilities include two terminals and strong links to the port of Fos-Sur-Mer near Marseille, 300 kilometers to the south

Owned By: Compagnie National du Rhone.

Annual Container Volume: >220,000 TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in Canada


Port Facts

  • Canada’s largest port
  • The third-biggest port in North America in terms of cargo throughput
  • Four container terminals available to handle your import from France to Canada
  • Goods traffic is expected to triple by 2030
  • Major initiatives are underway to ensure the port is ready for the influx of new business

Owned By: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3.3 million TEUs.



Port Facts

  • Situated on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec
  • Located 1,600 kilometers inland from the Atlantic Ocean
  • In 2019, over 2,000 cargo ships visited the port’s three container terminals
  • Offers the shortest direct route for ocean freight from Europe/the Mediterranean to North America

Owned By: Montreal Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.6 million TEUs.



Port Facts

  • An inland cargo hub
  • Serves Canada’s financial and commercial hub
  • Located less than 100 Kilometers from Buffalo in upstate New York
  • Easily accessed from the Atlantic Ocean
  • A convenient port of arrival for goods requiring transportation across Ontario, Northeastern Canada, and the Northeast of the United States

Owned By: Ports Toronto.

Annual Container Volume: >Unknown.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in France


Airport Facts:

  • Also known as Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport
  • Serves the third-biggest city in France
  • Located 20 kilometers from the city of Lyon
  • Freight forwarders can book your consignment aboard a passenger flight direct to Montreal
  • If your supplier or manufacturer is based in the Lyon-Part-Dieu Business District, getting your goods to the airport is easy

Canada airports served: Montreal.

Lyon to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Marseille Provence Airport is France’s third-largest air freight hub
  • Located 27 kilometers northwest of central Marseille
  • If your supply chain involves the movement of goods through Arles, Avignon, Toulon, or elsewhere in the South of France, this airport is a good choice

Canada airports served: Montreal.

Marseille to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • A small airport 10 kilometers southwest of Strasbourg
  • The airport has a single runway and one terminal
  • Freight from here to Canada will be routed using indirect flights only

Canada airports served: None.

Strasbourg to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Paris Charles de Gaulle

Airport Facts:

  • France’s biggest international airport
  • Situated in Roissy-en-France, 23 kilometers northeast of Paris
  • Second-busiest airport for cargo in Europe (Frankfurt is the busiest)
  • Covers a 32 square-kilometer site

Canada airports served: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver.

Paris to Canada Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Airports of Arrival in Canada


Airport Facts:

  • Gateway to Northwest Canada for air freight from Asia and Europe
  • Boasts four runways, including one of 4,260 meters in length, the longest in Canada
  • Adjacent to three trade parks: Deerfoot South, McCall South, and McCall North
  • Fourth-busiest airport in Canada
  • 280,000 square-meters of warehouse space is available for air cargo

Connected Airports in France: Paris.

France to Calgary Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Edmonton International

Airport Facts:

  • Located 26 kilometers south of the city
  • Popular with businesses in Northern and Central Alberta, Northern British Columbia and Yukon
  • Passenger flights serve 55 destinations worldwide
  • No direct services from France

Connected Airports in France: None.

France to Edmonton Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Also known as James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
  • A hub for the freight airline Cargojet
  • Goods from France will ship to this airport via indirect flights
  • If the goods you wish to import from France to Canada are destined for locations in Manitoba Province, this is a good airport of discharge

Connected Airports in France: None.

France to Winnipeg Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Toronto Pearson

Airport Facts:

  • The largest and busiest airport in Canada
  • Occupies an 1800-hectare site
  • Infrastructure includes five runways and numerous cargo facilities
  • Over half of Canada’s air freight is handled here
  • FedEx Express has its Canadian cargo hub at the airport

Connected Airports in France: Paris.

France to Toronto Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Montreal Pierre Trudeau

Airport Facts:

  • The third-busiest airport in Canada
  • The major air facility in the province of Quebec
  • One of only two airports in Canada to operate flights to five continents (the other is Toronto)
  • Boasts no less than three runways
  • Cargo from France will be routed here via indirect flights

Connected Airports in France: Paris.

France to Montreal Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Just 12 kilometers from downtown Vancouver
  • A major trans-Pacific cargo hub
  • Winner of the Skytrak Best North American Airport Award for a record ten years in a row
  • Cargo consignments from France to Vancouver will ship via indirect services—unless your airport of origin is Paris Charles de Gaulle, from where a direct flight is in operation

Connected Airports in France: Paris.

France to Vancouver Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From France to Canada With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight makes it easier to export from France to Canada safely and on-time. Our digital-first, online-only approach to international shipping puts us at the forefront of freight forwarding. We can meet all of your global shipping needs—no matter which mode of transport you choose.

Make Shipa Freight your freight forwarding partner for the following benefits:

  • Easy and convenient online shipping management
  • Quotes generated in a matter of minutes for most consignments
  • Real clarity on customs clearance requirements
  • Fast and secure online bookings and payments
  • 24/7 customer support service via online chat, email, or telephone
  • Access to the expertise of worldwide shipping professionals at Agility Logistics
  • End-to-end shipment tracking

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