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Air & Ocean Freight From India to UK [Updated: Aug 2021]

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

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Updated on 11 Aug 202116 min read

With deep-rooted connections between India and the United Kingdom and a lengthy history of importing and exporting, trade lanes between the two countries are long-established. Does your business have a long history of importing from India to the United Kingdom? Perhaps your enterprise is a start-up, taking its first steps towards exporting commercial goods between the two nations.

Whatever your situation, if you engage (or plan to engage) in international trade between India and the UK, this page should come in useful.

In the sections that follow, you will find insights into air freight and tips for shipping a container from India to the UK by sea. We share information here about key ports and airports in both countries and how long shipments typically take to reach a given destination.

You’ll also discover details of the shipping documents that customs officials will need to see for import and export clearance, and other guidance to help you export from India to the United Kingdom successfully.

Know Your Options for Shipping From India to the United Kingdom

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley stacked with boxes, from an Indian flag towards the Union Flag of the United Kingdom

Ocean and air shipping from India to the United Kingdom are currently the only practical ways of transporting commodities between these two countries. Below, we take a closer look at both modes of transportation.

Ocean Freight From India to the United Kingdom

Less than Container Load (LCL): If you’re planning to ship a fairly small consignment, LCL is likely to be your best mode of shipping. Your goods will share container space with other shippers’ consignments bound for the UK.

Full Container Load (FCL): This form of ocean shipping suits larger consignments for import from India to the United Kingdom. Pay a flat rate and you will get exclusive use of a shipping container and its shipment from port to port, or even door to door.

Air Freight from India to the United Kingdom

If your shipping deadlines are demanding, air freight is the best way to export from India to the United Kingdom at speed. Considerably faster than ocean shipping, it’s also substantially more expensive, especially for larger loads.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Freight From India to the UK?

Several factors will be taken into account when calculating the cost of shipping freight from India to the United Kingdom. they include:

  • The total weight of the shipment
  • Its size and volume
  • How far it must be transported
  • If air or ocean shipping is the preferred mode of transit
  • If a port-to-port, port-to-door, door-to-port, or door-to-door service is selected

If you’re unsure whether air or ocean shipping is best for you, it’s a good idea to get a quote for both and compare them. Usually, if your consignment takes up less than half the capacity of a 20ft shipping container, LCL will be your most economical option.

Larger loads are usually best sent by FCL in a shipping container from India to the United Kingdom. The cost will usually work out less per unit than LCL as FCL shipping entails paying a flat rate for a shipping container.

Air freight is typically more expensive. But, for goods that weigh 100kg or less, it will probably cost a similar amount to fly your freight from India to the UK as to ship it by ocean. It will also take a lot less time.

Shipa Freight, like most freight forwarders, doesn’t handle shipments weighing 35 kilograms or less. You should approach an international courier for a quote when shipping consignments in this weight category.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From India to the UK?

Shipping a container from India to the United Kingdom by ocean takes much longer than flying your freight. The speed of transit plays a big role in the difference between air and ocean shipping. Cargo vessels average a speed of 35 km/h while aircraft can reach up to 970 km/h.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From India to the United Kingdom?

Hand placing a tiny wooden block on the top of a pyramid made of nine similar blocks standing on a wooden surface

The ocean trade lanes from India to the United Kingdom have long been in use. Over the decades, steaming times have been cut as container vessel capabilities have improved. Below is an outline of the current journey times from India to the UK. Please note that times are only port-to-port estimates and do not take into account additional time required for the domestic transportation of your goods.

  • Kolkata to London Gateway – 41 days FCL
  • Kolkata to Southampton – 34 days FCL
  • Cochin or Mundra to Felixstowe – 23 days FCL
  • Cochin to London Gateway – 31 days FCL
  • Hyderabad to Felixstowe – 40 days LCL
  • Chennai or Tuticorin to Belfast – 35 days FCL
  • Chennai to Felixstowe – 27 days FCL & LCL
  • Chennai to London Gateway – 29 days FCL
  • Mundra to Belfast – 29 days FCL
  • Mundra to London Gateway – 26 days FCL
  • Mundra to Southampton – 20 days FCL
  • Nhava Sheva to Felixstowe – 26 days FCL & LCL
  • Nhava Sheva to London Gateway – 28 days FCL, 24 days LCL
  • Tuticorin to Felixstowe – 23 days FCL, 21 days LCL
  • Tuticorin to London Gateway – 28 days FCL

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From India to the United Kingdom?

Below are the estimated transit times for air freight between India and the UK. These are airport-to-airport estimates, so you’ll need to add extra time for any domestic road or rail transportation.

  • Ahmedabad to London – 7 days
  • Bangalore to London – 4 days
  • Hyderabad to London – 9 days
  • Chennai, Delhi, or Mumbai to London – 6 days
  • Delhi, Kolkata, or Ahmedabad to Birmingham – 4 days
  • Bangalore to Birmingham – 8 days
  • Mumbai to Birmingham – 6 days
  • Chennai to Birmingham – 8 days
  • Kolkata to London – 3 days
  • Delhi to Manchester – 4 days
  • Chennai to Manchester – 5 days

Customs Clearance in India and the United Kingdom

All commercial importers must be prepared to comply with customs clearance rules when importing from India to the United Kingdom.

Air and ocean carriers do not hold responsibility for getting shippers’ consignments through customs checkpoints. Freight forwarders are the people to turn to if you require this service. A freight forwarder will handle the complexities inherent in the customs clearance process and help ensure consignments adhere to rules and regulations.

As an international trader, you’ll need to give your forwarder the details they need to complete the following essential documents, which must accompany your cargo from India to the United Kingdom:

  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Packing List
  3. Certificate of Origin
  4. Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depending on the contract between the parties involved)
  5. Airway Bill for air shipping or Bill of Lading for ocean shipping. (The freight forwarder or carrier will provide this document)

The above list of essential documents is by no means exhaustive. It’s possible that you will also be required to supply certificates, permits, or licenses. The precise requirements will depend on the nature of the goods you’re shipping. For examples of the forms we’ve listed above, please see our Shipping Documents page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

If your consignee in the United Kingdom can wait between 21 and 41 days to receive a shipment, ocean freight is likely to be the most cost-effective way to ship your freight.

Most goods transported as sea freight are moved from port to port by cargo vessel, which carries them inside standard 20ft or 40ft shipping containers. Other types of containers are available and your freight forwarder may advise that your goods require such a container, perhaps one with refrigeration or ventilation.

Another service your forwarder should provide is helping you decide if LCL or FCL is the best mode of ocean shipping for your freight. You can find out a bit more about both formats of container transportation below:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Shippers tend to favor LCL when:

  • They don’t mind their goods being moved in a shipping container from India to the UK that also contains other shippers’ freight.
  • The size of their consignment is less than half the capacity of a 20ft shipping container.
  • They appreciate that LCL can lead to longer shipping times than FCL. This is due to the logistics essentials of consolidation and deconsolidation, and the potential for delays caused by issues with other shippers’ goods.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

If LCL ocean shipping doesn’t meet the needs of your supply chain, perhaps FCL shipping will. When you use an FCL service you don’t necessarily have to fill a container with goods. You can ship a part-filled container, but you’ll pay the same fee as if the container was full. That’s because FCL requires the payment of a flat rate for use and transportation of a shipping container from India to the United Kingdom.

FCL suits businesses that:

  • Need quicker ocean shipping than LCL typically offers
  • Want their goods shipped in a container that isn’t shared with other shippers’ goods
  • Have fragile freight that could be damaged if handled more often than is necessary

Air Freight

When clients won’t wait and deadlines won’t budge, your cargo might have to take to the skies to get to the UK from India on-time. The journey time by air is classed as long-haul, but it amounts to short work when compared with ocean shipping.

That extra speed comes with a big price tag, but many businesses, especially when they have just a few pallets of freight to ship, are prepared to pay it because air shipping helps to:

  • Fulfill urgent orders: if your consignment simply has to be in the UK in a matter of days, not weeks, only sending it as air freight will get it there.
  • Save perishable goods: will your product survive several weeks at sea, even in a refrigerated environment? If not, air freight from India to the UK will be a good idea.
  • Negate the problem of delays: if you’re worried about delays in customs, at sea or in port at loading or discharge, sending some of your freight by air can mitigate the effects.
  • Lower the cost of insurance: insurance brokers like the quick delivery times of air freight because less time in transit means less risk, so you pay a lower premium.
  • Ship high-value goods securely: airport and airline security is stringent, which is likely to be a critical benefit if you need to export high-value goods from India to the UK.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in India

Nhava Sheva

Port Facts

  • Built as a relief port to take pressure off the nearby port of Mumbai
  • Now a major freight hub in its own right
  • Handles over 50% of India’s container trade
  • Is home to three container terminals
  • Provides efficient transportation links with manufacturing and supply chain centers across West and Central India

Owned By: Government of India. Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: INNSA.

Haldia

Port Facts

  • Perhaps one of India’s most future-focused ports
  • Enjoys Green Port status
  • Much of its heavy machinery and many of its vehicles run on biodiesel
  • Located where the Haldi River meets the Hooghly River
  • Has enjoyed a steady increase in cargo throughput in recent years

Owned By: Kolkata Port Trust. Annual Container Volume: >150,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: INHAL.

Tuticorin

Port Facts

  • India’s fourth-largest container hub
  • Located in Tamil Nadu
  • The container terminal has three quay cranes and extensive storage facilities
  • Over $1 billion is being invested in expanding the port to increase its freight-handling capacity

Owned By:V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust / Ministry of Shipping. Annual Container Volume: >560,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: INTUT.

Cochin

Port Facts

  • Located close to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean
  • Has one of the largest transshipment facilities in the country
  • A vast network of railways and roads, airways and waterways connect it to locations in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

Owned By: Cochin Port Trust. Annual Container Volume: >400,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE:INCOK.

Pipavav

Port Facts

  • Located on major trade routes
  • Has eight quay cranes for containers, plus two mobile cranes for handling bulk freight
  • An ideal port of loading for any manufacturer or supplier based in Western India

Owned By: A.P Moller Maersk Group. Annual Container Volume: >880,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: INPAV.

Other Ports in India

Here are some other ports in India from which goods can be shipped to the United Kingdom:

  • Mundra
  • Kattupalli
  • Hazira
  • Chennai
  • Kolkata
  • Visakhapatnam
  • Krishnapatnam
  • Mormugao

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the United Kingdom

Southampton

Port Facts

  • A South Coast port located 16 kilometers inland
  • Sheltered from the elements by the Isle of Wight
  • Good road and rail links to the rest of the UK
  • Port facilities can simultaneously load or unload four container vessels
  • Infrastructure includes 14,000 square meters of refrigerated storage space for perishables and a terminal specifically for fresh fruit and vegetables

Owned By: Associated British Ports. Annual Container Volume: >1.9 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBSOU.

Grangemouth

Port Facts

  • Located in the Forth Estuary between Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • A thriving freight hub, handling all kinds of container goods
  • Facilities include 20 berths used by all of the top-10 global shipping lines
  • Boasts impressive goods-handling facilities and links to the UK’s main East and West Coast rail-freight lines

Owned By: Forth Ports. Annual Container Volume: >250,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBGRG.

Belfast

Port Facts

  • Part of the Belfast Harbor Estate
  • One of only two ports handling all types of freight on the island of Ireland
  • Close to 25 million tons were processed here in 2018
  • Warehouse facilities extend across over 185,000 square meters.

Owned By: Belfast Harbour Commission. Annual Container Volume: >125,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBBEL.

Felixstowe

Port Facts

  • Branded ‘The Port of Britain’
  • Handles 48% of the UK’s containerized freight
  • Europe’s eighth-busiest container port
  • Excellent transport links to all areas of the UK by road and rail
  • Approximately 3000 ships visit the port annually, with 17 shipping lines operating from here

Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings. *Annual Container Volume: *>3.8 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBFXT.

London Gateway

Port Facts

  • The UK’s most integrated logistics hub opened in 2013
  • Has a semi-automated deep-sea container terminal
  • Home to a range of excellent warehousing and distribution facilities
  • Handles the world’s largest container ships
  • Ideal for a speedy onward journey for your products from India
  • Offers fast road connections to the M25 motorway, which encircles London and links to the rest of the UK mainland

Owned By: DP World. Annual Container Volume: >3.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBLGP.

There are three other UK ports at which your freight consignments from India can enter the United Kingdom. They are Teesport, London and Liverpool.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in India

Delhi

Airport Facts

  • The airport is home to several greenfield and brownfield freight terminals
  • Also known as Indira Gandhi International Airport or IGIA
  • India’s busiest airport for freight
  • Direct links to London-Heathrow and Birmingham Airport

UK airports served: London-Heathrow, Birmingham. Delhi to UK Cargo-Only Operators: Cathay Pacific Cargo. IATA CODE: DEL.

Mumbai

Airport Facts

  • India’s second-busiest air cargo hub
  • Handles almost a million tonnes of goods every year
  • Direct flights to London-Heathrow
  • The airport’s freight terminal is served by an apron accommodating five wide-bodied aircraft
  • Facilities include a refrigerated storage facility for perishables

UK airports served: London-Heathrow. Mumbai to UK Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: BOM.

Chennai

Airport Facts

  • Located 20 kilometers outside of Central Chennai
  • The airport houses a 1480 square meter export facility
  • The cargo apron can service three wide-bodied aircraft simultaneously

UK airports served: London-Heathrow. Chennai to UK Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: MAA.

Hyderabad

Airport Facts

  • Located 24 kilometers south of central Hyderabad
  • Named after former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
  • This airport has two runways
  • Used by several major worldwide carriers
  • No direct cargo-only flights, but goods can be shipped aboard direct passenger flights to London-Heathrow

UK airports served: London-Heathrow. Hyderabad to UK Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: HYD.

Bangalore

Airport Facts

  • Officially called Kempegowda International Airport
  • Infrastructure includes two runways and three freight terminals
  • Types of cargo processed here include perishables, pharmaceuticals, and consumer electronics
  • Ideal choice as an airport of loading if your supply chain moves goods from Southern and Central India

UK airports served: None. Hyderabad to UK Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BLR.

Other Airports in India

Four other key airports in India from which goods can be exported to the United Kingdom are Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Coimbatore, and Cochin.

Airports of Arrival in the United Kingdom

Birmingham

Airport Facts:

  • Located in the center of England
  • Efficient road and rail links to most UK destinations
  • Freight-handling services at Birmingham are provided by Swissport
  • Handles 8,400 tonnes of freight annually

Connected Airports in India: Delhi. India to Birmingham Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: BHX.

London-Heathrow

Airport Facts:

  • One of the world’s busiest airports
  • This airport has huge, modern freight-handling capabilities
  • Cathay Pacific Cargo provides a direct service from Delhi
  • The biggest, most popular air-cargo gateway into the United Kingdom

Connected Airports in India: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad. India to London-Heathrow Cargo-Only Operators: Cathay Pacific Cargo. IATA CODE: LHR.

Manchester

Airport Facts:

  • A popular global gateway to destinations across Northern England
  • Situated 12 kilometers from Manchester City Center
  • Ranks as the UK’s fourth-busiest cargo hub
  • Has two runways and a 510,000 square-meter freight terminal
  • No direct flights from India

Connected Airports in India: None. India to Manchester Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MAN.

Glasgow

Airport Facts:

  • Scotland’s second-biggest airport air freight hub (Edinburgh is the biggest)
  • Located just 15 kilometers outside of central Glasgow
  • Road and railroad links aid onward transportation of goods to towns and cities across Scotland

Connected Airports in India: None. India to Glasgow Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: GLA.

Why Ship From India to the United Kingdom With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight’s digital-first approach to international shipping is making the process so much easier for businesses large and small. Use our online platform and see how easy and stress-free it can be to export from India to the United Kingdom. Some of the benefits of using our online platform to export from India to the UK include:

  • Fast registration
  • Quick shipping quotes
  • Easy booking and payment for shipments using a credit/debit card or wire transfer
  • Advice about which shipping documents your cargo needs
  • Guidance to ensure your consignment adheres to shipping rules and regulations
  • 24/7 email, live chat, and telephone access to our skilled team of customer service specialists