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Ocean & Air Cargo Shipping From Germany to the US

FCL, LCL and Air freight forwarding: information and online quote

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Updated on 25 Feb 202215 min read

A quarter of all jobs in Germany depend on exports, and the United States is one of Germany’s biggest markets. Bilateral trade totaled close to $250 billion in 2018 and grew by nearly 3% in the first ten months of 2019.

Your business may well be contributing to that growth, or you could be looking to make your first import from Germany to the US. Either way, this page will help you navigate the intricacies of international ocean and air freight logistics. Here, you’ll find guidance to simplify ocean and air shipping from Germany to the US, helping you save time and effort.

Know Your Options for Shipping Freight From Germany to the US

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley filled with cartons from the flag of Germany to the flag of the United States

When importing from Germany to the US, you have two basic options: ocean shipping and air shipping. Let’s examine both of them, so you can determine which one is right for you.

Ocean Freight From Germany to the US

Less than Container Load (LCL): To transport your freight from Germany to the US, you don’t necessarily need to rent an entire container. LCL shipping allows you to hire space in a shared unit. Shippers of small consignments especially, can benefit from the affordability of this mode of transportation.

Full Container Load (FCL): If you require a container for your exclusive use, FCL shipping is the way to go. As you are paying a flat fee for the full unit, FCL is often less expensive than LCL for larger shipments.

Air Freight from Germany to the US

Air freight carriers can get your products to the US as quickly as possible – much faster than ocean shipping ever could. Keep in mind, though, that air freight is a lot more expensive than maritime shipping, especially for larger quantities of cargo.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Germany to the US?

Bag of money and graph to represent the cost of Shipa Freight's quotes

When you inform a freight forwarder of the nature of your shipment—including its size, weight, volume, and destination—you will receive a tailored quote. The price will take into account all of these factors, as well as your choice of air or ocean shipping. If you choose the latter, your decision to opt for LCL or FCL shipping will also impact your quote.

Still unsure whether air shipping or ocean freight is best for your budget? Generally, if your goods weigh less than 100kg, shipping by air may prove almost as economical as ocean freight. For consignments over that weight air freight starts to get more expensive, and the price gap between air and ocean shipping widens as freight quantities increase.

Finally, please be aware that Shipa Freight does not provide freight-forwarding services for cargo with a total weight of less than 35kg.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Germany to the US?

Your destination in the United States will make a big difference to shipping times. Ocean carriers can reach ports on the Eastern seaboard in 16 days. For West Coast ports, you’re looking at around 33 days. Air freight shipping to US destinations is much quicker – Frankfurt to New York can take as little as three days.

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

The table below shows the big contrast in shipping times between Germany and ports on the East and West Coast of the US:

  • Hamburg to New York – 16 days FCL, 17 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Miami – 18 days FCL, 20 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Los Angeles – 28 days FCL, 33 days LCL
  • Hamburg to San Francisco – 33 days FCL, 35 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Atlanta or Boston – 19 days LCL
  • Bremerhaven to Port Everglades - 46 days FCL
  • Hamburg to Houston - 24 days LCL
  • Hamburg to Port Everglades - 18 days FCL
  • Hamburg to Seattle - 31 days FCL

How Long Does It Take to Ship by Air From Germany to the US?

Shipa Freight can arrange for your cargo to be shipped by air from Germany to the United States in three to eight days, as these sample shipping times show:

  • Hamburg to Chicago – 8 days
  • Frankfurt to Atlanta or San Francisco – 8 days
  • Hamburg to Boston – 5 days
  • Frankfurt to Philadelphia – 5 days
  • Frankfurt to New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, or Charlotte - 4 days
  • Frankfurt to Miami - 6 days
  • Munich to Philadelphia - 6 days

Customs Clearance in Germany and the US

You can’t get around the customs formalities when you export from Germany to the US. Most businesses prefer to outsource this process to an experienced freight forwarder. This minimizes the risk of hiccups and delays. Besides, you will have peace of mind knowing that everything will be completed according to existing laws and regulations.

Even when you engage a freight forwarder, you will still be involved in the customs clearance process.

One important responsibility is to provide the required documents. Those typically include:

  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 provide further documentation, such as licenses, permits, or certificates. If so, your freight forwarder will notify and guide you. Check out our handy documents list to learn more about these documents and see some examples.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Trade lanes across the Atlantic Ocean are much traveled by container ships on their way from Germany to the US. There’s a big choice of ports at which to discharge your goods on the US’s Eastern seaboard and on the South and West Coasts.

Sending goods as sea freight is a slower process than air freight shipping, but if you have a large consignment to ship or your goods aren’t suitable as air cargo, transporting them in a shipping container from Germany to the US is your best option.

Freight forwarders work with ocean carriers steaming between your German departure port and your destination port in the US, to arrange carriage either by FCL or LCL ocean shipping service. We explain these terms in more detail below.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

If you’re content for your goods to be shipped in a container with products from other companies, a freight forwarder can make the necessary arrangements for your LCL (less-than-container-load) shipment. It’s a financially prudent option for smaller consignments that aren’t urgently required in the US.

You might want to select a door-to-door pick-up and drop-off service from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Or you can choose port-to-port, door-to-port, or port-to-door.

The quote you receive will be affected by the type of goods you want to ship, their size and weight, and the distance involved in their shipment. Please be aware that LCL shipping involves consolidation in port in Germany, and deconsolidation upon arrival in the US. These logistics processes add extra time to the shipment.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL shipping is available for any type of freight you wish to send—as long as it can be containerized. If you want your goods to be isolated, sealed, and transported in a container from Germany to the US, an FCL service will make most sense.

It also makes sense to fill as much of the container’s internal space as you can. For example, a 20ft container carries up to 11 standard and Euro pallets, while the 40ft version fits up to 21 standard pallets or 24 Euro pallets.

FCL shipping avoids costly and time-consuming consolidation and deconsolidation, and there will be fewer touches of your goods. Unless customs officers intervene, your container can remain sealed from the point of origin in Germany to its destination in the United States of America.

Air Freight

When quick shipping from Germany to the US is required, choose air freight. A freight forwarder can arrange for a cargo carrier to fly your goods across the Atlantic. This could be in the hold of a passenger plane or on pallets aboard a cargo-only flight traveling directly or indirectly to your chosen airport. You should consider air shipping if:

  • Your cargo is fragile and/or has a short shelf-life.
  • You want the peace of mind associated with high levels of security.
  • Airports are more convenient than seaports for your departure and arrival destinations.
  • Your consignment can be shipped on just a few pallets.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Germany


Port Facts:

  • Ranks as Europe’s fourth-busiest container port.
  • Freight facilities include four modern terminals.
  • All kinds of vessels can dock on its five-kilometer quayside.
  • Houses the largest closed container processing area in the world.

Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.

Annual Container Volume: >5.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Germany’s biggest port and Europe’s third-largest.
  • It is among the world’s top 20 ports for container traffic.
  • Located on the southern bank of the River Elbe.

Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in the US

New York

Port Facts:

  • Officially called the Port of New York and New Jersey.
  • Has four container terminals.
  • Largest sea freight port on the East Coast.
  • Third-busiest port in the country and 20th in the world rankings.
  • ExpressRail enables quick transportation of goods to other destinations in the Northeastern states of the US.

Owned By: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Annual Container Volume: >3.2 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Ninth-biggest port in the US.
  • Sits in the Biscayne Bay on Dodge Island.
  • Easy access to the manufacturing centers and consumer markets in Southeastern US.

Owned By: Multiple owners.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.


Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • Close to 20% of all ocean freight arriving in the US is discharged here.
  • Largest seaport in the country.
  • Spans almost 70 kilometers of California coastline.
  • Boasts 80 cranes and eight container terminals.

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.


San Francisco

Port Facts:

  • Traditionally a passenger port.
  • Re-opened its quays to cargo traffic in 2016.
  • Has a dedicated foreign trade zone.
  • Offers cold storage and over 500,000 square meters of covered storage space.
  • Has five deep water berths.

Owned By: San Francisco Port Commission.

Annual Container Volume: Unknown.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the Patapsco River in Maryland.
  • Largest specialized cargo port in the US.
  • Is the fastest-growing port in the country since 2004.
  • Set a new monthly record in July 2019 when 98,500 TEUs were processed.

Owned By: Maryland Port Administration.

Annual Container Volume: >700,000 TEUs.


Other Ports in the United States

Shipa Freight can also process ocean freight from Germany to the US at these ports:

  • Atlanta
  • New Orleans
  • Savannah
  • Tacoma
  • Oakland
  • Norfolk
  • Boston
  • Charleston
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Mobile
  • Long Beach
  • Port Everglades

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Germany


Airport Facts:

  • Lies just seven kilometers from the city.
  • Allows for quick access from Dusseldorf’s industrial, commercial and consumer centers.
  • Germany’s third-largest air freight hub.
  • Has three terminals and room for wide-bodied passenger and commercial aircraft.

US Airports Served: Atlanta, Miami.

Dusseldorf to US Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Europe’s biggest multimodal cargo handling facility.
  • Top option for any supplier importing from Germany to the US.
  • Two million tonnes of goods pass through the facilities annually.

US Airports Served: Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Philadelphia.

Frankfurt to US Cargo-Only Operators: AirBridge Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • The nation’s fourth-largest airport.
  • A wealth of road and rail connections can get your goods to Berlin-Tegel.
  • Will be replaced by Berlin-Brandenburg Airport in 2020.

US Airports Served: Philadelphia, New York.

Berlin to US Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Serves Southern Germany.
  • Infrastructure includes an 84,000 square-meter cargo terminal.
  • Could be a more cost-effective departure point than Germany’s shipping ports way up on the North coast.

US Airports Served: Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston.

Munich to US Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest airport in the state of Bavaria.
  • A second Cargo Center was built here in 2003.
  • Enjoys a central European location with many highways and railroads converging in its vicinity.

US Airports Served: None.

Nuremberg to US Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in Germany

Are you looking for an alternative to the airports listed in detail above? If so, you should be able to arrange to fly your cargo to the United States from Hamburg, Leipzig, or Stuttgart.

Airports of Arrival in the US

Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

  • Has space to unload 15 wide-bodied cargo aircraft at the same time.
  • Located only 23 kilometers northwest of the Loop Business District.
  • Excellent transport links into Illinois and elsewhere in the Northern United States.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Munich.

Germany to Chicago Cargo-Only Operators: AirBridge Cargo, Air China Cargo.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Sixth-busiest airport in the country.
  • Top airport for cargo value in the US.
  • One of the quickest ways to ship freight from Germany to the US.
  • Spans over 21 square kilometers with four runways.

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

Germany to New York Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation, Lufthansa Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Situated nine kilometers south of downtown Atlanta.
  • International gateway to the Southern United States.
  • Ideal for consignees in Georgia or the neighboring states.
  • Offers extensive refrigeration and freezer units.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich.

Germany to Atlanta Cargo-Only Operators: Aerologic, Lufthansa Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Third-largest airport in New England for cargo handling.
  • Boasts six runways and two cargo facilities.
  • Major air cargo companies, including Germany’s Lufthansa Cargo, have offices on-site.

Connected Airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Munich.

Germany to Boston Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located only seven kilometers from downtown Philadelphia.
  • Easy access to the I-95 interstate highway, which runs from Maine to Florida.
  • Ideal for reaching major US consumer markets, as over half of the nation’s population lives within a day’s drive.

Connected Airports in Germany: Berlin-Tegel, Frankfurt.

Germany to Philadelphia Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in the US

Shipa Freight can also arrange to fly your goods to the following US airports:

  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Charlotte
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Detroit
  • Sacramento
  • El Paso

Why Ship From Germany to the US With Shipa Freight?

You will need a trusted partner to ship your products safely and on time from Germany to the US. As a digital-first, online-only enterprise, we remove all complexities around ocean and air shipping for you. No matter which mode of transport you choose, we can satisfy all of your global logistics needs.

Our sophisticated online portal enables you to manage your entire shipment process conveniently in one place. That can simplify your supply chain as there is no need to coordinate multiple agencies anymore.

Here’s how you benefit when shipping with us:

  • You can instantly receive and compare quotes online.
  • You can book your shipments online without losing time.
  • You can confidently prepare your shipping documentation with our guidance.
  • Your customs clearance will be taken care of for you.
  • You can easily manage your imports and exports on one single platform.
  • You will always have the guarantee of compliance with shipping rules and regulations.
  • You can quickly receive help from our friendly customer service representatives, 24/7, whenever needed.

Know Your Shipping Terminology

To help build your understanding of the language of shipping, we’re ending our country-to-country pages with definitions of potentially confusing terms and jargon. It’s a great chance to familiarize yourself with the ‘lingo’ so you can communicate your needs more effectively.

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