Ocean & Air Freight Shipping From India to China [Updated: Aug 2021]
Information and quote from India to China for LCL, FCL and Air shipping
India and China are two of the world’s biggest manufacturing nations. Bilateral trade is valued at over $86 billion. Although tensions persist between both countries, especially over a disputed border region, businesses large and small can still freely ship goods from India to China.
This page has been written to make the process easier for experienced and novice shippers alike. The content includes help with choosing between LCL and FCL shipping, and details about some of the seaports and airports in both countries. You’ll find information about shipping costs and transit times too, plus guidance on how to avoid hassles with customs clearance when importing from India to China.
What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From India to China?
Although India and China share a common land border, most shippers choose either air or ocean shipping to export from India to China. There are upsides and downsides to both which we’ll deal with later on this page.
Ocean Freight From India to China
Less than Container Load (LCL): If you only have a small consignment, LCL is probably the way to go. Your goods will share container space with freight from other shippers, and cargo handlers in India will wait until they can fill your container before shipping.
Full Container Load (FCL): If your shipment is more than 15 cubic meters in volume, choosing a Full Container Load (FCL) is likely to be your best option. Your cargo will be transported in a 20 or 40ft container, depending on the size of your shipment.
Air Freight From India to China
Air freight is the quickest way to ship commercial goods between India and China. It’s also the most expensive.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From India to China?
A freight forwarder will take into consideration several factors when calculating the cost of your shipment for export from India to China, including:
- Which type of goods you are shipping
- Your preferred mode of transportation (FCL, LCL, Air)
- How much your cargo weighs
- The dimensions of the freight
- How far it is between the point of origin in India and destination in China
- Whether you have requested a port-to-port, door-to-door, door-to-port, or port-to-door service
It’s worth knowing that the weight of any import from India to China will have an impact on your quote. You are likely to discover that sea freight is the most affordable for goods weighing over 100 kg. Shipments weighing below that often cost about the same to ship as ocean or air freight. If your shipment weighs 35 kg or less, you should approach international couriers for quotes as the majority of freight forwarders do not handle such light loads.
How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From India to China?
Shipping times from India to the Far East depend on the mode of transit you choose. Unsurprisingly, sending your freight by air cargo will be quicker than using ocean routes. To give you an idea of air freight shipping durations, you should allow at least three days for your consignment to be flown from India to China.
Shipments by sea will take significantly longer, so please allow between three and ten weeks for the transit of LCL or FCL freight.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From India to China?
You should allow anything from three to ten weeks when importing from India to China by ocean, as this rough guide to transit timings shows:
- Nhava Sheva to Shanghai – 36 days FCL, 23 days LCL
- Chennai to Shanghai – 31 days FCL, 18 days LCL
- Kolkata to Shanghai – 36 days FCL
- Chennai to Ningbo – 32 days FCL
- Chennai to Xiamen - 68 days FCL
- Kolkata to Dalian or Shenzhen - 36 days FCL
- Cochin to Huangpu - 29 days FCL
- Cochin to Shanghai - 46 days FCL
- Krishnapatnam to Wuhu - 36 days FCL
- Chennai to Dalian or Shekou - 27 days FCL
- Chennai to Tianjin - 29 days FCL
- Mundra to Qingdao or Shanghai - 26 days FCL
- Mundra to Xiamen - 36 days FCL
- Nhava Sheva to Dalian - 19 days FCL
- Nhava Sheva to Huangpu - 25 days FCL
- Nhava Sheva to Ningbo - 20 days FCL
- Tuticorin to Huangpu - 27 days FCL
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From India to China?
Allowing for customs clearance and flight times from your chosen airport in India to arrival in China, the following table shows approximate air-freight transit times between the two nations:
- Mumbai or Chennai to Shanghai-Pudong – 6 days
- Chennai to Qingdao or Guangzhou – 3 days
- Mumbai to Chengdu – 3 days
- Ahmedabad to Beijing - 3 days
- Bangalore to Guangzhou - 4 days
- Mumbai to Guangzhou or Tianjin - 8 days
Customs Clearance in India and China
When leaving India and upon arrival in China, your freight will have to clear customs. It’s a complex process that many shippers prefer to leave in the hands of a freight forwarder. You should consider doing likewise as using experts can avoid costly delays to shipments. They can also give you the peace of mind of knowing that your consignment complies with rules and regulations in both India and China.
To save you time, we have gathered further information about the essential documents you need on this page. Typically, you will need to provide the following documentation:
- 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)
Do not be surprised if you’re obliged to provide additional paperwork such as licenses, permits, or certificates. Some consignments from India to China will require extra documentation, typically depending on the type of goods they comprise.
Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
Ocean Freight From India to China
When you book transportation of your goods in a shipping container from India to China, they are likely to ship inside a 20ft or 40ft unit. The 20 ft version has the capacity for 10 or 11 standard pallets. 40 ft containers can store up to 21 such pallets. Your goods may require a special type of container, such as one with an open-top or refrigeration facilities. In such cases, your freight forwarder will advise.
Should you wish to transport sea freight from port to port (or door to door), you will need to choose between two modes of shipping—LCL or FCL. Below, we look at both in more detail to help you determine which ocean shipping mode best meets the needs of your business.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
LCL shipping requires your commodities to share a container with goods belonging to other shippers. It’s usually the best option for consignments occupying no more than six standard pallets.
LCL has the advantage of helping speed up your supply chain by allowing you to ship your goods straight away, instead of waiting until you have enough product to fill a shipping container.
However, LCL shipments must be consolidated and deconsolidated. This means they are likely to be moved more than FCL shipments—not ideal if your cargo is fragile. Also, these essential logistics activities have the potential to add extra time to the shipment.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
Ready to ship enough goods to fill more than half of a 20ft container? FCL could be your best mode of shipping.
With FCL shipping, your goods will be transported in a shipping container from India to China, but they will not need to share the internal space of the unit. The container will be for your use exclusively. No consolidation or deconsolidation will be required, making shipping times more predictable and delays less likely.
Also, your freight will be handled less frequently than with LCL, perhaps making this a more suitable way to ship fragile or high-value cargo by sea. Please bear in mind, though, that if your supplier or recipient does not have the equipment required to load or unload a full container, choosing FCL will limit your pick-up and delivery options.
Air shipping is the quickest way to import from India to China—great news if your goods are perishable and need to get to China quickly.
Air freight is usually the best option for high-value goods, as airports offer the highest levels of security. The delivery date of air cargo is also easier to predict than when you use an ocean carrier. Flights are less affected by the weather than ocean shipments. And choosing air freight is a smart move if your supplier and/or the buyer is located closer to an international airport than a seaport. It could save you on the cost of overland transit.
But air freight isn’t always the right option for shippers. The high price tag can put off many. Usually, consignments bigger than two or three pallets can be too costly to consider. Also, there are restrictions on the type, size, and weight of goods that can be safely shipped aboard an aircraft. Many bulky or awkwardly-shaped consignments simply cannot be shipped by air.
Ocean Cargo Port Guide
Cargo Ports of Origin in India
- Originally built as an overflow port for nearby Mumbai
- Is now India’s largest port
- Over half the nation’s container trade passes through its five terminals
- A good launch point for shipments to China, especially those originating from Central and Western India
Owned By: Government of India.
Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.
- Ideal for suppliers or manufacturers based in South Eastern India or the Bay of Bengal
- Provides a direct ocean route for transporting a container from India to China
- On-site container depots provide storage space ahead of shipment
- Daily rail services make it easy to get your goods to port
Owned By: Chennai Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >1.5 million TEUs.
- Initially built to relieve pressure on the nearby port of Chennai
- Guaranteed congestion-free approach roads for speedy access to the port
- Factory-stuffed and self-sealed containers also get direct port entry status
- Is often a quicker alternative to Chennai
Owned By: Kattupalli Port Private Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >345,000 TEUs.
- Located 90 kilometers south of Amreli
- A privately owned port close to Nhava Sheva
- Operated by freight-handling teams specializing in container freight and liquid cargo
- Gives shippers access to plenty of shipping routes via which they can import from India to China
Owned By: A.P. Moeller Maersk.
Annual Container Volume: >880,000 TEUs.
- Ideal for supply chains requiring the movement of goods from Central India
- Located between Chennai and Kolkata
- Skilled cargo teams on hand to manage general goods
- Also known as a steel-handling port.
Owned By: Visakhapatnam Port Trust.
Annual Container Volume: >350,000 TEUs.
In addition to the five gateways detailed above, other ports in India where your sea freight can start its journey to China are:
Cargo Ports of Arrival in China
- Located at the intersection of the Yangtze and Hanjiang Rivers
- Infrastructure includes 244 berths for sea vessels
- The port has a medium-sized container terminal that’s a good option for discharging goods shipped from India
Owned By: Wuhan Port Group Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
- China’s most northerly ice-free port
- The biggest multi-purpose port in Northeast China
- The port has become busier since the Liaoning Free Trade Zone was created nearby
- Now dubbed “The Gateway to The Pacific”
- Ideal if your goods for export from India to China are destined for the North of the Chinese mainland
Owned By: Dalian Port Corporation Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >9.7 million TEUs.
- China’s capital city Beijing is just 170 kilometers northwest of Tianjin
- The world’s ninth-largest container port
- The largest container port in North China
- Capacity to receive cargo via the 115 carriers operating across the ocean trade lanes from India
Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.
- Rated the world’s best-connected port in 2019
- Shanghai is also the world’s largest port for container freight
- A wealth of road and rail links to destinations across China make this port worthy of serious consideration for ocean freight shipments from India
Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.
- A major shipping hub close to Taiwan
- Has nine container terminals at which your ocean freight from India can be discharged
- Can handle sixth-generation container vessels.
Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >10.3 million TEUs.
Other Ports in China
There are many other ports in China to which Shipa Freight can direct shipments from India, including the following:
- Guangzhou (Nansha)
Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
Airports of Origin in India
- India’s busiest airport for cargo
- Handles over 900,000 tonnes of air freight every year
- Ideal for cargo coming from the Northern half of India
China Airports Served: Beijing, Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou, Chengdu.
Delhi to China Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Lufthansa Cargo.
IATA CODE: DEL.
- Still a major cargo hub, despite falling behind Delhi recently
- Serves Western India with a huge cargo terminal
- Capacity for up to five wide-bodied air freighters at once
- Has a dedicated center for perishable shipments
China Airports Served: Beijing, Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou.
Mumbai to China Cargo-Only Operators: Atlas Air, Emirates Sky Cargo, Ethiopian Airlines Cargo, FedEx Express.
IATA CODE: BOM.
- Easily reached by road and rail from destinations in Southern India
- The site covers over eight hectares
- Can handle three wide-bodied air freighters at one time
- A new, state-of-the-art freight terminal is currently under construction.
China Airports Served: Shanghai-Pudong, Shenzhen, Chengdu.
Chennai to China Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Cargo, Korean Air Cargo, SF Airlines.
IATA CODE: MAA.
- Serves the state capital of Karnataka
- Has three cargo-only terminals which include pharmaceutical storage facilities
- Strong road and rail links to Bangalore City make it easy to get your freight here and onto flights to China
China Airports Served: Shanghai-Pudong, Guangzhou.
Bangalore to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: BLR.
Shipa Freight is also able to offer indirect flights to China from other airports in India, including Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Cochin, Pune, and Coimbatore.
Airports of Arrival in China
- China’s fifth-busiest air cargo hub
- Easy onward access by road and rail to regions across Western China, including Sichuan Province
- Direct flights to and from Delhi and Chennai in India
Connected Airports in India: Delhi, Chennai.
India to Chengdu Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Korean Air Cargo.
IATA CODE: CTU.
- A world top-three airport for cargo volume
- Rated a world leader in logistics
- A huge 3.35 million hectares of air freight passed through here in 2018
- Popular arrival airport for shipments from India
Connected Airports in India: Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai.
India to Shanghai Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Etihad Cargo, Ethiopian Airlines Cargo, AirBridge Cargo.
IATA CODE: PVG.
- China’s third-biggest cargo airport
- An ideal landing site for your freight from India
- Handy for goods required in Guangdong Province, a key manufacturing region in China
Connected Airports in India: Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore.
India to Guangzhou Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Lufthansa Cargo.
IATA CODE: CAN.
- Located just outside the city center
- Beijing offers a huge market for your goods from India
- A variety of transport links are available to the rest of China
- More than 1.8 million tonnes of air freight is processed here annually
- Infrastructure includes three cargo terminals
Connected Airports in India: Delhi, Mumbai.
India to Beijing Cargo-Only operators: None.
IATA CODE: PEK.
- Situated less than 30 kilometers from Shenzhen City
- Received a boost in cargo capacity from its recently-built second runway
- Direct flights from Chennai in India
Connected Airports in India: Chennai.
India to Shenzhen Cargo-Only Operators: SF Airlines.
IATA CODE: SZX.
Other airports in China where you can offload air freight from India, albeit via indirect flights, include: Qingdao, Chongqing, Wuhan, Xiamen, Zhengzhou, Dalian, Shanghai-Hongqiao and Tianjin.
Why Ship From India to China With Shipa Freight?
Shipa Freight is determined to make importing from India to China easier than ever for businesses of all sizes. Our state-of-the-art online hub is where you can easily manage all of your imports and exports in the same place. Many shippers find it speeds up their supply chain.
We specialize in both ocean and air shipping from India to China, ensuring your goods arrive at their when you need them to. Other benefits of shipping with us include:
- The ability to get quick quotes online
- Easy online booking and payment
- Clear information and advice about which shipping documentation your consignment needs
- A full customs clearance service to spare you from complex border processes
- An outstanding customer support team available to help 24/7 via email, phone, or online chat
- Assured compliance with international shipping rules and regulations
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