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Ocean and Air Cargo Shipping From Germany to China

Get information and quote for FCL, LCL and Air shipping

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Updated on 16 Feb 202213 min read

Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1972, the German-Chinese collaboration has become close-knit and multi-faceted. China is Germany’s most important trading partner, superseding even the United States. Trade volume reached almost 200 billion Euros in 2018.

If you are keen to participate in this active trade and start importing from Germany to China, this page is for you. We help you demystify the often complicated process of international ocean and air freight shipping. Here, you’ll find important guidance relating to ocean and air shipping from Germany to China.

What Are Your Options for Shipping From Germany to China?

Freight forwarder launching freight by rocket from Germany to China, adjacent to flags of Germany and China

You can send your freight from Germany to China either via ocean or via air. Both options offer distinct pros and cons.

Ocean Freight From Germany to China

Less than Container Load (LCL): Having your cargo share a container with consignments belonging to other businesses is called LCL shipping. It’s a viable option when you don’t want to pay for a container exclusively for your goods. LCL can be the least expensive way to import from Germany to China if you’re moving small shipments.

Full Container Load (FCL): In FCL shipping, you pay a flat fee for the use and transportation of a shipping container from Germany to China, it’s usually a great option for importing substantial quantities of freight.

Air Freight from Germany to China

Air freight is by far the fastest way to transport your freight from Germany to China. Often, it’s also the costliest option, though.

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

Every shipment is different, whether it’s the nature, weight, volume or dimensions of the goods being sent, and every quote from a freight forwarder reflects that. Yours will depend on the information you provide about your cargo, and your choice of air or ocean shipping, FCL or LCL, door-to-door, port-to-door, port-to-port or door-to-port deliveries.

If you’re unsure about whether to go with air or sea shipping, air freight is usually reasonably priced—and always quicker—for goods weighing under 100kg. Above that weight, ocean freight is invariably the most economical option.

Shipa Freight doesn’t quote for shipments weighing less than 35kg. You should approach parcel carriers or couriers if you intend to send such small consignments from Germany to China.

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

Mechanical chronometer to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight

Flying your freight from Germany to China is fastest, with shipping durations of five to eight days. Ocean shipping is a slower process, but ideal for bigger, less-urgent shipments. You’ll need to allow between 37 and 45 days in your delivery schedule, as that’s the average time taken to ship from Europe to the Far East.

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

It’s called the Far East for a reason. Shipping from Germany to China by ocean is a long haul, as the examples below show:

  • Hamburg to Shanghai – 42 days FCL, 39 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Shekhou – 37 days FCL, 45 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Xiamen or Shenzhen – 45 days FCL
  • Hamburg to Guangzhou - 36 days FCL
  • Hamburg to Qingdao - 51 days FCL
  • Hamburg to Tianjin - 42 days FCL

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

Choosing air shipping significantly reduces the number of days your consignment will take to ship from Germany to China. Here are some typical air-freight transit times:

  • Frankfurt to Shanghai or Beijing – 7 days
  • Dusseldorf to Shenzhen – 5 days
  • Hamburg to Shanghai or Xiamen – 8 days
  • Dusseldorf to Beijing - 4 days
  • Dusseldorf to Qingdao - 8 days
  • Frankfurt to Chengdu - 4 days
  • Frankfurt to Chongqing - 5 days
  • Munich to Beijing - 8 days

-Nuremberg to Beijing - 6 days

Customs Clearance in Germany and China

Clearing customs is mandatory when you export from Germany to China. To minimize any risk of delays and problems during this complicated process, most businesses prefer to engage a freight forwarder or agent for the task. An experienced partner can complete all formalities according to the existing laws and regulations.

However, hiring a freight forwarder doesn’t free you from all responsibilities. You still have to submit the necessary paperwork. Generally, the customs authorities in Germany and China will ask for the following documents:

  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 some cases, you might need to submit other documents, such as licenses, permits, or certificates. If so, your freight forwarder can advise and guide you. To dig deeper into these documents, you can see examples on this page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Sea shipping is the option most businesses choose to ship their goods to China. Your freight will travel in a shipping container from Germany to China on a specialized cargo vessel. In the case that your cargo doesn’t fit into a container, your carrier or freight forwarder can recommend alternatives, such as break-bulk shipping.

There are two alternatives for containerized ocean shipping: LCL and FCL. The weight, volume, and nature of your products will determine which one is right for your business. Either option is available as a port-to-port or door-to-door service.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

If your goods won’t fill a container, LCL ocean shipping is a good option. Your goods will be consolidated with others in the ports in Bremerhaven or Hamburg, and de-consolidated upon arrival in China. It’s a process that inevitably extends the transit time for your shipments, so may not be ideal if you need fast transportation. Also delicate and perishable products may be put at risk of damages in this process.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

With FCL, you pay for a shipping container from Germany to China exclusively for your freight. Whether your consignment ships in a big 40ft container or the smaller 20ft version, the volume of goods you pack is up to you. There’s no obligation to fill the container, and no sharing as with LCL. Shippers choose FCL when they want fewer touches of their goods during shipping.

If your freight occupies up to 10 or 11 standard pallets, we recommend a 20ft container. Anything up to 21 pallets will require a 40ft container. You can ask your freight forwarder to collect your container from anywhere in Germany and deliver it to anywhere in China (door-to-door service). Or you can choose port-to-port, door-to-port or port-to-door deliveries.

Air Freight

There’s no FCL or LCL confusion with air freight, although your cargo will need to comply with more stringent airport rules and regulations to be accepted onboard flights from Germany to China. Air shipping is more expensive than ocean freight, especially if you choose to fly multiple pallets, but you pay for the speed and the following additional benefits:

  • Cheaper insurance premiums (due to quicker transit times and less handling).
  • Ideal conditions for perishable or fragile goods.
  • More convenience if airports are nearer your pick-up and drop-off points than seaports.
  • Stricter security procedures, for added peace of mind, if you are sending high-value goods.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Germany


Port Facts:

  • A four-terminal North Sea port, located in Northwestern Germany.
  • Ranks as the fourth-busiest container port in Europe.
  • Handles over five million TEUs annually.
  • Houses the world’s largest enclosed container processing area.

Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.

Annual Container Volume: >5.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Home to four state-of-the-art container terminals.
  • One of the world’s top-20 biggest cargo ports, and Europe’s third-largest.
  • Dubbed Germany’s ‘Gateway to the world’.
  • Spans a stretch of the River Elbe’s Southern bank.
  • Quayside and freight facilities are large enough to process over 8.5 million TEUs per year.

Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in China


Port Facts:

  • Awarded ‘World’s Best-Connected Port’ accolade in 2019.
  • Easy access to consumer markets in and around Shanghai, Zhejiang, or Jiangsu.
  • Known to use the most advanced technology for processing and loading of the freight.

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Co. Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • One of several ports in Guangdong Province.
  • Has 16 berths along the quay ready to receive your shipment from Germany.
  • Ideal for goods destined for Shenzhen or elsewhere in the Pearl River Delta or Guangzhou.

Owned By: China Merchants Shekou Port Service.

Annual Container Volume: >45,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • One of China’s mega-ports.
  • Boasts nine container terminals.
  • Can handle sixth-generation container vessels.
  • Easy access to Xiamen Island, Jiulongjiang River, and Taiwan.

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • World’s ninth-largest container port and largest port in Northern China.
  • Biggest man-made port in the nation.
  • Gateway to the capital, Beijing.
  • Offers advanced logistics facilities.

Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • One of several ports located in the Pearl River Delta, close to the South China Sea.
  • Good destination port if you need easy access to Guangzhou and Guangdong Province.

Owned By: Guangzhou Port Group Co.

Annual Container Volume: >15 million TEUs.


Other Ports in China

Additional Chinese ports for freight from Germany include:

  • Zhuhai
  • Fuzhou
  • Chongqing
  • Lianyungang
  • Qinzhou
  • Shantou
  • Nanjing
  • Zhongshan
  • Guangzhou
  • Qingdao
  • Dalia

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Germany


Airport Facts:

  • Germany’s third-largest air cargo hub.
  • Located seven kilometers north of Dusseldorf city center and 20 kilometers Southeast of Essen.
  • Has three terminals and capacity to accommodate wide-bodied passenger planes, which have more room for cargo.

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Zhengzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Nanjing, Nansha, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Qingdao.

Dusseldorf to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Cargo City in Frankfurt Airport is the biggest multimodal freight handling facility in Europe.
  • This airport was ranked 13th-biggest in the world for cargo in 2018.
  • Annual throughput exceeds two million tonnes of cargo.
  • Offers direct cargo-only and passenger flights to a range of airports in the People’s Republic.

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Qingdao, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Ningbo.

Frankfurt to China Cargo-Only Operators: Air China Cargo, China Cargo Airlines, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Critical gateway for air cargo in Northern Germany.
  • Energy and water-saving facilities are helping the airport reduce its carbon footprint.
  • Offers the ultra-modern HACC cargo center, which has an annual capacity of 150,000 tonnes.

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Wuhan, Dalian, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Qingdao, Chongqing, Ningbo, Zhengzhou, Xiamen.

Hamburg to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Europe’s fifth-busiest cargo airport and Germany’s second-busiest freight center.
  • Ideal for suppliers based in the manufacturing heartland in Eastern Germany.
  • Offers direct flights to Shanghai-Pudong.

China Airports Served: Shanghai-Pudong.

Leipzig to China Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation.



Airport Facts:

  • Southeastern Germany’s premier airport.
  • Ranks as the country’s sixth-biggest cargo hub.
  • Save on overland transport costs if your supplier is in this part of Germany.

***China Airports Served:***Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Qingdao.

Stuttgart to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in Germany

Shipa Freight can also book your cargo with a carrier to China using the international airports in Berlin, Nuremberg, and Munich.

Airports of Arrival in China


Airport Facts:

  • Well-connected to towns, cities, and manufacturing centers across the country.
  • Offers easy onward transit options to your product’s final destination in China.
  • Processes more than two million tonnes of cargo every year.

Connected Airports in Germany: Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart.

Germany to Beijing-Capital Cargo-Only Operators: Air China Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Located on the east bank of the Pearl River 32 km northwest of the city center.
  • One of three large airports serving the Pearl River Delta, alongside Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
  • Offers fast road and rail links to the area’s Special Economic Zone.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt.

Germany to Shenzhen Cargo-Only Operators: UPS Airlines.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in Shandong Province close to the city of Qingdao.
  • 15th-busiest airport in China.
  • Will be replaced by a larger airport due to its restricted scope for expansion.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin-Tegel, Munich.

Germany to Qingdao Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Provides fast access to Western China.
  • China’s tenth-busiest airport for cargo processing.
  • Has three terminals, with a fourth scheduled to be built during the 2020s.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt.

Germany to Chongqing Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo, Air China Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Serves the capital of Jiangsu Province.
  • Offers plenty of options to reach onward destinations.
  • Main home for China Postal Airlines, a cargo-only service dedicated to delivering freight to all Chinese cities.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt.

Germany to Nanjing Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in China

Shipa Freight can also arrange for your air freight to land at the following Chinese airports:

  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Zhengzhou
  • Shanghai-Pudong
  • Guangzhou
  • Shanghai-Hongqiao

Why Ship From Germany to China With Shipa Freight?

If you don’t want to take any chances when shipping your freight from Germany to China, book your shipments with us. We are a digital-first, online-only enterprise at the forefront of freight forwarding. Whether you choose sea or air freight, we will make sure that your goods arrive safely and on time.

With our convenient online platform, you can now manage your entire shipment process with ease. This simplifies your supply chain as you don’t have to coordinate multiple agencies anymore.

The benefits of shipping with us include:

  • You can get quotes online fast.
  • You can book your shipment directly online without losing time.
  • You will receive assistance and guidance when preparing the shipping documentation.
  • You don’t have to worry about customs complexities – we will take care of all that for you.
  • You can manage all of your imports and exports in one place.
  • You can contact our friendly customer service representatives 24/7.
  • You will be always in compliance with shipping rules and regulations.

Know Your Shipping Terminology

Even if you’re new to shipping, you’ve likely already encountered some words or phrases that have left you confused. Understanding what they mean will help you communicate your needs to experts more easily. That’s why we’re featuring definitions of some potentially confusing terms at the end of each of our country-to-country pages. This page’s terms are defined below:

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