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Ocean and Air Shipping from the Germany to South Africa

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South Africa is Germany’s largest trading partner in Africa. Bilateral trade between the nations rose from $16.6 billion in 2016 to over $20 billion in 2018.

Your business may already be contributing to that increase. Or you could be looking to export from Germany to South Africa for the first time. Either way, you’re in the right place. This page is designed to help all kinds of businesses ship commercial goods from Germany to South Africa easily and successfully.

What Are Your Options for Shipping From Germany to South Africa?

Boy and girl jumping next to two globes bearing flag motifs of Germany and South Africa

You have two options when importing from Germany to South Africa—use an ocean freight carrier or send your goods as air freight. Both methods of transportation have pros and cons that are outlined on this page.

Ocean Freight From Germany to South Africa

Less than Container Load (LCL): This mode of shipping entails transporting your goods in a container shared with other shippers’ cargo. It’s often the most cost-effective way to import from Germany to South Africa for smaller shipments.

Full Container Load (FCL): Sometimes less expensive than LCL and often quicker, FCL shipping involves renting an entire container exclusively for your goods. Your container will be sealed after loading in Germany and will remain sealed until received by your consignee in South Africa (unless customs officials intervene).

Air Freight from Germany to South Africa

For those urgent consignments that need to be in South Africa fast, air freight is your best option. But it’s usually the most expensive way to ship freight from Germany to South Africa.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Germany to South Africa?

Pair of hands on a desk, with the left hand operating a desktop calculator and the right hand writing on a notepad with a pen

The following factors will play a role in determining the price for shipping your freight from Germany to South Africa:

  • The nature of your goods
  • Your choice of FCL, LCL, or air freight
  • The size of your cargo
  • The weight of your cargo
  • The distance your freight needs to be shipped
  • Your preference between port-to-door, door-to-port, port-to-port or door-to-door delivery services

Generally, with consignments weighing over 100kg, ocean shipping costs less than air freight. The difference in the cost of ocean and air shipping for goods that weigh between 35kg and 100kg is negligible, so most businesses pick the fastest. For loads weighing 35kg or under, international couriers should be used, as many freight forwarders—including Shipa Freight—will not quote for such small consignments.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Germany to South Africa?

There’s a big difference between the time taken for air freight to reach South Africa from Germany compared to ocean freight. Air freight is by far the quickest mode of transport, so it’s ideal for urgent deliveries.

Transporting a shipping container from Germany to South Africa by sea is a longer process, but for big consignments or those not suited to air cargo, it may be your only option.

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

You should anticipate your shipping from Germany to South Africa taking between 23 and 40 days. The precise time will depend on the ports of origin and arrival you choose, and whether you opt for FCL or LCL shipping.

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

Below are some example transit times, so you know what to expect when importing from Germany to South Africa using air freight:

  • Hamburg to Durban – 5 to 8 days
  • Frankfurt to Johannesburg – 5 to 8 days
  • Hamburg to Cape Town – 5 to 8 days
  • Munich to Johannesburg – 5 to 8 days
  • Nuremberg to Cape Town – 5 to 8 days
  • Dusseldorf to Johannesburg – 5 to 8 days
  • Nuremberg to Port Elizabeth – 5 to 8 days

Customs Clearance in Germany and South Africa

All commercial goods shipped from Germany to South Africa need to adhere to customs rules and regulations. These are often complex, leading many businesses to employ a freight forwarder to help manage compliance. These experts can help you avoid unnecessary delays and ensure your consignment ships without issues.

Even when you enlist the help of a freight forwarder, some work will still be required on your part. You will need to complete and file specific documents to accompany your shipment. The documents likely to be required are as follows:

  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)

Your freight forwarder will let you know if additional licenses, certificates, and/or permits are required. To view more information about customs clearance documents, and to see samples of each, please visit our documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Germany has 2,389km of coastline, exclusively along its northern perimeter. Within that area are the two ports that most freight forwarders will use to ship a container from Germany to South Africa.

Hamburg is Germany’s biggest port and is 180km east of the country’s second major port of Bremerhaven. Both are big ocean freight facilities, so whichever you choose, you will find plenty of carriers available to convey your sea freight in a shipping container from Germany to South Africa.

Your consignment is likely to be transported in a standard 20ft or 40ft container. However, if your goods are fragile, perishable, awkwardly-shaped or extra heavy, specialist containers are available. Your freight forwarder will advise you of the best option for your goods, and help you to decide between FCL and LCL ocean shipping modes.

Ocean: (you need to add: Learn more about Ocean Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here)
Learn more about Ocean Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Less-than-container-load shipping is often the best option for:

  • Smaller consignments.
  • Goods that aren’t urgently expected in South Africa.
  • Cargo that’s suited to being shipped in the same container as other goods.
  • Shippers who don’t want to have to choose a container size.
  • Shipping that’s not suited to being flown in an airplane.

There can be drawbacks with LCL shipping, as all freight must be consolidated in port in Germany and deconsolidated in South Africa. These extra logistics steps sometimes result in a longer transit time compared to FCL ocean shipping or air freight.

LCL is best avoided for cargo that’s:

  • High-value, fragile or perishable.
  • Extremely heavy or large.
  • Required in South Africa by a specified date.
  • Likely to be damaged or compromised if handled or moved frequently.

LCL: (you need to add: Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page LCL Sipping)
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL Shipping.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Full-container-load ocean shipping is often the best option for goods that:

  • Are required in South Africa by a certain date.
  • Will require at least half the capacity of a 20-foot shipping container—14CBM or more.
  • Are delicate or heavy.

FCL: (you need to add: Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page FCL Sipping)
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL Shipping.

Air Freight

Businesses tend to choose air shipping to import from Germany to South Africa when:

  • Their freight is fragile or perishable.
  • Their consignment is urgent.
  • Their goods are suitable for shipping in an aircraft.
  • Their consignment is relatively small—two to three pallets at most.
  • Their supplier and consignee are near an international airport.
  • Their cargo is valuable so will benefit from tight airline and airport security protocols.

Air Freight: (you need to add: Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here)
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Germany

Bremerhaven

Port Facts:

  • One of the world’s top 30 busiest container ports.
  • Lies on both banks of the Geest River about 70km from the North Sea.
  • The quayside extends for over five kilometers.
  • Accommodates mega-container vessels.
  • The name Bremerhaven means Bremen’s harbor.

Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.

Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: DEBRV.

Hamburg

Port Facts:

  • Germany’s largest port and the world’s 19th-biggest.
  • The site covers over 71 square kilometers.
  • Easy access to the North Sea via the Elbe River.
  • Features four container terminals and 22 berths.
  • Goods can be transported from the hinterland via the Elbeseitenkanal and the Midland Canal.

Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: DEHAM.

Cargo Ports of Arrival in South Africa

Cape Town

Port Facts:

  • Situated in Table Bay at the northern tip of the Cape Peninsula.
  • Second-largest container facility in South Africa.
  • Located on the South Atlantic trade route, one of the world’s busiest.
  • Has facilities for handling fresh fruit, chemicals, fertilizer, barley, maize, and wheat.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >888,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: ZACPT.

Durban

Port Facts:

  • Also known as Durban Harbor.
  • The busiest port in South Africa.
  • Handles 60% of all containerized freight in the country.
  • Features 59 berths, some of which are being deepened and lengthened.
  • 302km of railroad extends through the port for easier movement of goods.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >2.5 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: ZADUR.

Coega

Port Facts:

  • Also known as the Port of Ngqura.
  • Located 19km from Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay.
  • Strategically located on the global east-west trade route.
  • Features South Africa’s first 110-meter-high Megamax crane.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >630,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: ZAZBA.

East London

Port Facts:

  • South Africa's last active river port.
  • Located 950km east of Cape Town at the mouth of the Buffalo River on the eastern seaboard.
  • Container terminal is situated on the East Bank of the port.
  • Ideal port of arrival for goods requiring distribution in Free State, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >53,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: ZAELS.

Port Elizabeth

Port Facts:

  • Situated in Algoa Bay.
  • Container terminal features latest-generation straddle carriers and gantry cranes.
  • Rail links to the Northern Cape are being upgraded.
  • Motor vehicle components form a big percentage of containerized traffic through the port.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority. Annual Container Volume: >216,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ZAPLZ.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Germany

Frankfurt

Airport Facts:

  • Ranked the 13th-busiest cargo airport in the world.
  • Construction of Terminal 3 began in December 2019.
  • Contains Europe’s leading pharma hub with over 12,000 square meters of temperature-controlled storage.

South Africa Airports Served: Cape Town, Johannesburg.

Frankfurt to South Africa Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo.

IATA Code: FRA.

Munich

Airport Facts:

  • Largest air cargo facility in Southern Germany.
  • Features an 84,000 square meter cargo center.
  • Ideal port of origin for supply chains requiring the movement of goods through Bavaria.
  • Annual cargo throughput exceeds 400,000 tonnes.
  • Plenty of room at the airport for the future expansion of cargo facilities.

South Africa Airports Served: Cape Town.

Munich to South Africa Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: MUC.

Stuttgart

Airport Facts:

  • Serves the capital of the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
  • 13km due south of Stuttgart city center.
  • Features a 150,000 square meter distribution center.
  • Handles all types of freight, including live animals, dangerous goods, and perishables.
  • No direct flights to South Africa.

South Africa Airports Served: None.

Stuttgart to South Africa Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: STR.

Berlin Tegel

Airport Facts:

  • Just over 8 km from the center of the German capital city of Berlin.
  • Officially called Berlin Tegel Otto Lilienthal Airport.
  • Convenient gateway for suppliers and manufacturers based in Northern and Eastern Germany.

South Africa Airports Served: None.

Berlin to South Africa Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: TXL.

Leipzig Halle

Airport Facts:

  • Germany’s second-busiest air freight facility.
  • Over 1.2 million tonnes of air cargo were handled here in 2019.
  • Features two parallel 3,600 meter runways.
  • Full range of cargo handling services including animals, perishables, and pharma.
  • Hub for AeroLogic, the joint venture between Lufthansa Cargo and DHL Express.

South Africa Airports Served: None.

Leipzig to South Africa Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: LEJ.

Additionally, Shipa Freight can coordinate the transit of goods to South Africa from airports in Nuremberg, Hamburg, and Dusseldorf.

Airports of Arrival in South Africa

Johannesburg

Airport Facts:

  • Also known as O. R. Tambo International Airport.
  • Situated in Kempton Park, Gauteng.
  • Crowned African Airport of the Year in 2019 by Cargo Africa.
  • Named in 2006 to honor a former ANC President.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt.

Germany to Johannesburg Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo.

IATA Code: JNB.

Cape Town

Airport Facts:

  • Located about 20 km from Cape Town city center.
  • South Africa’s second-busiest airport
  • The fourth-busiest air facility in Africa.
  • Ideal airport of arrival for goods required in Bellville, Hout Bay, Durbanville, and other areas in the southwest of South Africa.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Munich.

Germany to Cape Town Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: CPT.

Durban

Airport Facts:

  • Also sometimes referred to as King Shaka International Airport.
  • Situated 35 km north of Durban city center.
  • The cargo terminal handles over 100,000 tonnes of air freight every year.
  • Airbridge links the cargo terminal to the airport and Dube Trade Zone.

Connected Airports in Germany: None.

Germany to Durban Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: DUR.

Port Elizabeth

Airport Facts:

  • Just five minutes from Port Elizabeth’s central business district.
  • Formerly known as HF Verwoerd Airport.
  • Serves cities in the Eastern Cape province.
  • Air freight from Germany will arrive via indirect services.

Connected Airports in Germany: None.

Germany to Port Elizabeth Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: PLZ

Why Ship From Germany to South Africa With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight’s sophisticated, digital-only approach to shipping makes it easier to send your commodities from Germany to South Africa. We’re equally at home handling a huge FCL ocean shipment as we are an urgent, high-value air freight consignment.

Our online portal can simplify your supply chain, and lets you manage and track the whole international shipping process from one place.

Other benefits of partnering with Shipa Freight include:

  • The ability to get quotes and book shipments online.
  • Customer support teams available 24/7
  • The ability to track your shipments
  • Get clarity on the shipping documentation your consignment needs.
  • Leave all those customs complexities to us.
  • Compliance with local and international rules and regulations ensured.

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

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