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Ocean and Air Shipping from Kenya to UAE

FCL, LCL and Air shipping comprehensive guide and instant online quote

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Updated on 28 Nov 202111 min read

The UAE is Kenya's fourth-largest trading partner overall and the largest export destination in the Middle East. In 2013, the African nation exported goods and services worth $292 million (USD) to the United Arab Emirates.

If you are planning to participate in this active trade, then you are in the right place. We understand that importing from Kenya to the UAE is a complex undertaking. That’s why we want to demystify the logistics around international ocean and air freight shipping for you.

On this page, you will find vital information that can help you with ocean and air shipping from Kenya to the UAE.

What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From Kenya to the UAE?

You have two choices when you want to export from Kenya to the UAE: ocean freight and air freight. Both alternatives have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Ocean Freight From Kenya to the UAE

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is often the most economical option to import from Kenya to the UAE because you don’t have to pay for an entire container. Instead, you will pay for your goods to be consolidated in a shared container.

Full Container Load (FCL): If you need the capacity and convenience of a full container, then FCL is for. You can pay a flat fee for the use and transportation of an entire container, for your freight alone. Depending on what you are shipping, this can be less expensive than LCL.

Air Freight From Kenya to the UAE

Flying your freight to the UAE is still the fastest option to get it to its destination. However, air shipping is often much more costly than sea freight.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Kenya to the UAE?

The final cost of moving your cargo from Kenya to the United Arab Emirates depends on several factors. Freight forwarders typically prepare quotes based on the following aspects:

  • Nature of goods
  • Chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Dimension of the cargo
  • Distance between origin and destination
  • Type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)

If you are unsure whether to use air freight or ocean freight, it is wise to ask for quotes for both and then compare the price. You may notice that the costs for shipping your cargo via air or sea aren’t differing much when your freight weighs less than 100 kg. Simply opt for the quicker option in this case. However, if you are planning to move 100 kg or more, sea freight is typically less costly than air freight.

Additionally, you should know that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, won’t ship freight weighing 35 kg or less. You can just engage an international courier service for moving very light cargo.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Kenya to the UAE?

It isn’t surprising that the transit times of air and sea freight vary considerably. While air freight can get your goods to the UAE in just a few days, you will have to wait at least two weeks for your sea freight to arrive.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From Kenya to the UAE?

Sending goods in a shipping container from Kenya to the UAE will take anywhere from 15 to 35 days, depending on the carrier and route.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From Kenya to the UAE?

Most air freight shipments between Kenya and the UAE take around five to eight days to complete, including the time required for consolidation, and for export and import customs clearance.

Customs Clearance in Kenya and in the UAE

Customs stamp resting on a customs invoice document stamped with export customs clearance in red ink as Shipa Freight assist you with customs clearance

When you import from Kenya to the UAE, you certainly can’t get around customs clearance. As it’s an important and mandatory part of the shipping process, most businesses prefer to hire a professional freight forwarder or agent for the task.

Mistakes can result in severe delays and additional costs. But, when you can rely on an experienced partner, you have the peace of mind that all formalities are handled according to prevailing laws and regulations.

To receive the export release in Kenya and import clearance in the United Arab Emirates, you still have to provide the necessary documentation to your freight forwarder. As a minimum, they will require the following items of paperwork for the customs authorities:

  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, other documents, such as licenses, permits, or certificates, might be required. Your freight forwarder will let you know straight away if this is necessary. If you would like to learn more about these documents and see concrete examples, check out our handy documents list.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Sea freight is a popular method for shippers looking to transport their cargo from Kenya to the UAE. Once your goods are stored in a shipping container, they will be loaded onto a specialized cargo vessel that carries them across the Arabian Sea.

If you have to move commodities that can’t be sent in a container from Kenya to the UAE, your carrier will be able to recommend other alternatives, such as break-bulk shipping.

There are two types of containerized ocean shipping: LCL and FCL. Either option can be booked as a port-to-port or door-to-door service. What’s best for your logistics needs will depend on the weight, volume, and nature of your goods. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping


  • Best suited for smaller amounts of cargo (around six standard pallets, equivalent to 14 CBM, or less).
  • Provides a lot of flexibility around loading and delivery. Simply drop off and pick up your cargo from the warehouses where containers are handled or have a freight forwarder collect and deliver your goods at your doorstep.
  • There is no need to wait until you have accumulated enough cargo to fill an entire container, which can speed up your supply chain significantly.

**Disadvantages: **

  • There is extra handling involved, and your goods will travel next to the cargo of other shippers.
  • Additional movements and handling can damage delicate, fragile, or perishable consignments.
  • The consolidation and deconsolidation of the container can lead to longer transit times.

Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping


  • Fastest, most straightforward type of ocean shipping.
  • Generally cheaper than LCL if you have to move more than 14 CBM.
  • Isolates your goods in a container for the entire journey from Kenya to the UAE.


  • You pay flat fees for shipping, no matter how much or how little you stuff into the container.
  • Can be restrictive with regard to pickup and delivery, as not all businesses are equipped to handle a full container on their premises.

Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.

Air Freight

Air Shipping Advantages:

  • Offers the shortest transit times.
  • Ideal for perishable cargo.
  • Offers the highest level of security and hence the lowest risk.
  • Can be the cheapest option if you are moving just a few pallets.
  • Very reliable as less affected by the weather.
  • Convenient when buyer and supplier are located close to an international airport.

Air Shipping Disadvantages:

  • Very expensive for large quantities of products and very heavy goods.
  • Usually not a viable option for cargo that’s very bulky or awkwardly shaped.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Kenya


Port Facts:

  • Only international seaport in Kenya and the biggest port in eastern Africa.
  • Key point of export for multiple countries including Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and Ethiopia.
  • Comprises several smaller ports such as Kilindini Harbour, Port Reitz, Old Port, and Port Tudor.

Owned By: Kenya Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in the UAE

Khor Fakkan

Port Facts:

  • Main port of Sharjah facing the Gulf of Oman.
  • Just a three-hour journey away from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  • Only seaport in the UAE that’s not located on the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Has first-class facilities for handling containers and freight.

Owned By: Sharjah Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.


Khalifa Port

Port Facts:

  • Located halfway between the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  • Ultra-modern, hi-tech port with the only semi-automated container terminal in the region.
  • More than 25 shipping lines call at this port.
  • Planned expansion will increase cargo-handling capacity over the next decade.

Owned By: Abu Dhabi Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >2.5 million TEUs.


Jebel Ali

Port Facts:

  • Situated 35 km southwest of Dubai.
  • Largest port in the Middle East and tenth-busiest container port in the world.
  • Named the best port in the region for the last 25 years.
  • Boasts an extensive container yard of over one million square meters.

Owned By: DP World.

Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Kenya


Airport Facts:

  • Officially called the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
  • Located 18 km southeast of Nairobi's central business district.
  • Busiest airport in east Africa.
  • 25 cargo airlines operate here.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah.

Nairobi to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo.


Airports of Arrival in the UAE

Dubai International

Airport Facts:

  • Located just four kilometers from the city of Dubai.
  • Sixth-busiest airport in the world for cargo.
  • Main gateway for imports via air in the UAE.
  • Main base of Emirates SkyCargo, the second-largest cargo-only airline in the world.

Connected Airports in Kenya: Nairobi.

Kenya to Dubai International Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo.


Abu Dhabi

Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest cargo airport in the UAE.
  • Handles almost 1 million tonnes of freight annually.
  • More than 30 airlines operate flights to over 60 countries.
  • Program to increase capacity to 2 million tonnes of freight per year is underway.

Connected Airports in Kenya: Nairobi.

Kenya to Abu Dhabi Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Crystal Cargo.


Dubai Al Maktoum

Airport Facts:

  • The UAE’s newest international cargo airport.
  • Located 40 km from Dubai International Airport and linked via an expressway.
  • Annual throughput is projected to reach 12 million tonnes of freight.
  • Up to four aircraft can land simultaneously.

Connected Airports in Kenya: None.

Kenya to Dubai Al Maktoum Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 13 km southeast of Sharjah.
  • Boasts modern cargo-handling facilities in five terminals.
  • Can handle a range of cargo-types, including temperature-controlled freight and livestock.
  • Can service 13 cargo aircraft at the same time.

Connected Airports in Kenya: Nairobi.

Kenya to Sharjah Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From Kenya to the UAE With Shipa Freight?

With Shipa Freight, exporting your goods from Kenya to the UAE was never easier. You will be at the forefront of supply chain management with our digital-first, online-only approach. Whether you prefer sea or air freight, we can satisfy all of your freight shipping needs.

Simply login to our convenient online portal and manage your entire shipment process in one place. This will certainly simplify your supply chain as you won’t lose time coordinating multiple agencies.

With Shipa Freight you get:

  • Online quotes that are easy to understand and quick to obtain.
  • An online booking system that will send your goods on their way as soon as possible.
  • Shipping documentation that’s transparent and straightforward.
  • No customs complexities to worry about.
  • One convenient platform to manage all of your imports and exports.
  • Friendly customer service that’s available 24/7.
  • Full compliance with international shipping rules and regulations.

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