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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping from South Africa to Germany

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

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Updated on 29 Nov 202211 min read

South Africa is one of the most powerful economies in Africa. In 2016, South Africa exported goods worth about 6.2 billion Euros to Germany. As a trading partner, Germany ranks second, behind China and ahead of the United States.

Importing from South Africa to Germany isn’t always easy as international ocean and air shipping can be complex. Our aim is to demystify this process for you so that you can participate in the active trade between the two nations. On this page, you will find the guidance that you need to ship freight from South Africa to Germany successfully.

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

Flags of South Africa and Germany for the tradelane with Shipa Freight

When you export from South Africa to Germany, you have the choice between ocean and air freight. Both alternatives come with certain benefits, and one or two drawbacks, all of which we will discuss on this page.

Ocean Freight From South Africa to Germany

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is often the most affordable way to send smaller shipments of cargo to Germany. With this mode of transport, your cargo will travel in a shared container next to the consignments of other shippers. It’s ideal for businesses who can’t, or don’t need, to pay for shipping a whole container.

**Full Container Load (FCL): **FCL is better suited for high-volume, heavy cargo because you have to pay for the transportation of an entire container from South Africa to Germany. One of the benefits, though, is that your goods will remain fully sealed off for the entire journey. A flat-rate pricing structure is another advantage for shippers of high-volume consignments, since the price for shipping is applied per container, not according to volumetric weight calculations.

Air Freight from South Africa to Germany

The quickest and most flexible way to ship your freight from South Africa to Germany is to use an air-freight carrier. But, you will need a sizable budget, as air shipping is often much more expensive than sea freight.

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

The ultimate cost of shipping when you import from South Africa to Germany hinges on several factors. The following aspects will be considered by freight forwarders when they prepare your quotes:

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

There’s a general rule of thumb that explains how the different modes of transport compare with regard to price. Typically, the cost of air and ocean shipping will be very similar when you are moving goods weighing less than 100 kg. For freight that exceeds 100 kg, on the other hand, sea freight will usually be more cost-effective than air freight.

Also, keep in mind that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, don’t ship cargo weighing 35 kg or less. An international courier service can get the job done instead.

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

The transit times of ocean and air shipping naturally vary significantly. While your freight can reach Germany via air in just a couple of days, it will be at sea for at least a few weeks.

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

To give you an idea of how it will take to ship a container from South to Germany, an FCL shipment will take between 15 to 25 days while an LCL consignment will need anywhere between 20 and 30 days to arrive.

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

If your freight takes a typical air freight route between South Africa and Germany, it can reach its final recipient within five to eight days.

Customs Clearance in South Africa and Germany

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

Every export from South Africa to Germany has to complete customs clearance. There is no way around that. If you want to minimize the risk of delays or problems in this important process, we recommend that you hire an experienced freight forwarder or agent for the task.

When you have an expert by your side, you will be assured that all formalities are completed according to South African and German customs regulations and international shipping laws.

Even when you engage a freight forwarder, you still have an important role to play in this process, which is submitting the required paperwork. The customs authorities in South Africa and Germany will ask for the following documentation, as a minimum:

  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)

Sometimes, the authorities will ask for further documents, such as licenses, certificates, or permits. If so, your freight forwarder can advise and guide you.

If you would like to know more about the different types of documents relating to ocean and air shipping from South Africa to Germany, then have a look at our documents list.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Most goods and commodities make their way to Germany via sea freight. They travel inside standard 20ft and 40ft shipping containers, which are transported aboard specialized cargo vessels. However, maritime carriers also offer solutions to ship cargo that doesn’t fit into standard units. Special container types and break-bulk shipping are the alternatives.

Here, we will focus on explaining containerized ocean shipping with the options of LCL and FCL. It is good to know that either method is available as a port-to-port or door-to-door service.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL is usually the right choice when:

  • Your consignment doesn’t exceed 14 CBM (around six standard pallets).
  • Your cargo can share a container with other freight without problems.
  • You don’t have an urgent need for the goods in Germany.
  • You aren’t sure what the right container size would be.
  • You can’t afford air shipping at the moment.

You also need to consider the drawbacks of LCL shipping, though. LCL involves a few extra steps, like the consolidation and deconsolidation of the container.

With that in mind, you might want to refrain from using LCL if:

  • You don’t want your goods to be handled or moved more than absolutely necessary.
  • Your cargo is perishable, fragile, or very valuable.
  • Your consignment is very large and/or heavy.
  • You can’t accept any delays in the process because you need the freight to reach Germany by a specific date.

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

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

  • Sending an entire shipping container from South Africa to Germany is recommended when:
  • You prefer that your cargo remains fully sealed in a container until it reaches the final recipient.
  • You want more certainty with regard to the delivery date of your goods.
  • You are transporting freight in excess of 14 CBM (around half the capacity of a 20ft container).
  • Your consignment is delicate, fragile, or very heavy.

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

Air Freight

Air shipping becomes a viable option for your business if:

  • Your cargo is required in Germany as soon as possible.
  • You prioritize a fast service over cost.
  • You are dealing with perishable products that have a short shelf-life.
  • You need tight security standards for your high-value goods.
  • Your consignment consists only of a few pallets or less.
  • Your supplier and buyer are both based close to an international airport.

Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in South Africa

Cape Town

Port Facts:

  • Situated on one of the world's busiest trade routes.
  • Offers 34 berths and extensive ship repair facilities.
  • One of the busiest ports in the country.
  • Rail and road networks connect the port to other parts of South Africa.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >888,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Largest and busiest container gateway in sub-Saharan Africa and busiest port in the country.
  • Home to the fourth-largest container terminal in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Receives visits from more than 4,500 commercial vessels every year.
  • Offers 58 berths operated by more than 20 terminal operators.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >2.5 million TEUs.


Port Elizabeth

Port Facts:

  • Situated in Algoa Bay.
  • Offers one container terminal with three berths that total 925 meters in length.
  • Ability to load trains right under the gantry cranes, speeding up delivery to inland destinations.
  • Houses a 22-hectare storage area.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >216,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located close to Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay.
  • Also known as the Port of Ngqura.
  • Facilities include a 60-hectare container terminal.
  • Plans are underway to boost the capacity to 1.5 million TEUs per year.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >630,000 TEUs.


East London

Port Facts:

  • The only remaining river port in South Africa.
  • Located in the East Cape Province at the mouth of the Buffalo River.
  • Has 12 commercial berths and a 110-meter repair quay.
  • Facilities include a bulk, multi-purpose, and car terminal.

Owned By: Transnet National Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >53,000 TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in Germany


Port Facts:

  • Third-busiest container port in Europe and among the top 20 ports in the world.
  • Offers four container terminals, more than 80 cranes, and 22 berths.
  • Handled 136.6 million tons of cargo in 2019.

Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Home to the largest closed container management area globally.
  • Facilities include four container terminals.
  • Has a five-kilometer quay where up to 14 large container vessels can berth simultaneously.

Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.

Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in South Africa

Cape Town

Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest airport in the country and fourth-busiest in Africa.
  • Located about 20 km from central Cape Town.
  • 24 airlines connect passengers and cargo to 100 domestic and international destinations.

German Airports Served: Frankfurt.

Cape Town to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Main airport for domestic and international travel in South Africa.
  • Official name is O. R. Tambo International Airport.
  • Busiest airport on the entire continent.

German Airports Served: Frankfurt.

Johannesburg to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Ninth-busiest airport on the continent.
  • Known as King Shaka International Airport.
  • Situated around 35 km north of Durban’s city center.
  • Offers a 15,000 square meter cargo terminal.

German Airports Served: None.

Durban to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Port Elizabeth

Airport Facts:

Serves South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. Handles approximately 800 tons of freight every year. Just a five-minute drive away from Port Elizabeth’s CBD.

German Airports Served: None.

Port Elizabeth to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Airports of Arrival in Germany


Airport Facts:

  • Busiest air freight gateway in Europe.
  • Offers more direct connections than any other airport worldwide.
  • Handled two million tons of freight in 2019.
  • Facilities include four runways plus extensive logistics and maintenance facilities.

Connected Airports in South Africa: Johannesburg, Cape Town.

South Africa to Frankfurt Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From South Africa to Germany With Shipa Freight?

When you move your cargo with us, a digital-first freight forwarder, we will ensure that your goods arrive safely and on time. Whether you prefer sea or air freight, we can satisfy all of your business’ international logistics needs.

You can now manage all your imports and exports on one convenient online platform so that you don’t have to coordinate multiple agencies anymore. We bet this would simplify and accelerate your supply chain.

When you ship with us, you can:

  • Instantly obtain and compare shipping quotes online.
  • Book directly online without losing time.
  • Manage your whole shipping process in one place.
  • Know which shipping documentation to prepare.
  • Get rid of customs complexities – we will handle them for you.
  • Receive help from our friendly customer service team, 24/7.
  • Always be in compliance with shipping rules and regulations.

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