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Ocean and Air Shipping from Spain to China

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

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Updated on 28 Nov 202113 min read

Spain exported over $6.5 billion of goods to China in 2017. If your business is participating in trade between the two nations—or wants to start— this page should prove useful. It features vital information about ocean and air shipping from Spain to China, as well as details about customs clearance, transit times, seaports, and airports.

What Are Your Options for Shipping From Spain to China?

When importing from Spain to China, you have a choice of ocean or air shipping. Each has pros and cons which we’ll outline on this page, so you can make an informed decision about which is best for you.

Ocean Freight From Spain to China

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is shipping in which a carrier transports a consolidated container of goods, filled with the consignments of many different businesses. It’s often the most cost-effective option if you have a smaller shipment that won’t fill an entire container.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL is shipping in which a container is occupied by goods belonging to just one shipper. Having exclusive use of the container means the shipper can decide whether to partially or wholly fill the container. Either way, it will be transported by an ocean carrier, on a container ship, from Spain to China.

Air Freight From Spain to China

Need to get your goods for import from Spain to China in a hurry? Air freight is the fastest way to ship between the two countries. It’s also the most expensive.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Spain to China?

Calculator to represent the cost of Shipa Freight's quotes

When calculating the cost of your export from Spain to China, a freight forwarder will consider all of the following:

  • The type of freight you wish to ship
  • Your chosen mode of transportation (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • The weight of the freight
  • The dimensions of the cargo
  • The distance between the origin and destination
  • Whether a port-to-port, door-to-door, door-to-port, or port-to-door service is required

The weight of any import from Spain to China will have a significant impact on the quote you receive. Many shippers find sea freight the most affordable for freight weighing over 100 kg. Shipments weighing below 100 kg usually cost about the same whether they’re shipped as ocean or air freight. If your consignment weighs 35 kg or less, an international courier service will provide a quote. Most freight forwarders will not.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Spain to China?

When it comes to the fastest way to ship freight from Spain to China, it’s no contest. Air freight wins. Air shipments from Europe to the Far East typically take five to eight days. If you choose ocean freight, you should anticipate the shipment of your container from Spain to China taking at least 27 days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From Spain to China?

Transporting a shipping container from Spain to China typically requires at least 27 days and as many as 46 days. Cargo vessels move at an average speed of 35 kilometers an hour. To give you an idea of the distance involved, a vessel shipping freight from Barcelona to Shanghai must travel just under 18,600 kilometers.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From Spain to China?

Five to eight days is the usual time required for air shipments from Spain to China. The flight time is only a small part of the shipping process. Other essential logistics steps are required, such as loading, unloading, security checks, and customs clearance.

Customs Clearance in Spain and China

As mentioned above, customs clearance is a process every export from Spain to China must undergo, and it’s one fraught with complexity. For that reason, many shippers prefer to engage a freight forwarder to handle the task. A forwarder’s shipping expertise can avoid costly delays to shipments, and also provides reassurance that consignments comply with the rules and regulations applicable to international shipping in Spain and China.

Appropriate and correctly completed paperwork is key to obtaining customs clearance, and that’s a responsibility that your business must shoulder. As a bare minimum, you will need to supply the following documents with your consignment:

  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)

There’s a chance that additional paperwork will be required, perhaps licenses, permits, or certificates. Your freight forwarder will provide guidance should your consignment call for extra documentation.

To see examples of the documents we’ve listed above, here’s a quick link to the Shipa Freight documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

The majority of commodities safely ship inside a standard 20ft or 40ft shipping container. 20 ft containers have the capacity for 10 or 11 standard pallets, while the bigger version has room for 21 such pallets. Your freight forwarder will advise if your consignment requires a different type of container—perhaps one with refrigeration, ventilation, or an open-top.

In addition to a choice of containers, when transporting sea freight from port to port (or door to door), you will have two modes of shipping to choose between—LCL or FCL. We’ll explore both in more detail to help you choose the ocean shipping option that best meets your logistical needs.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL shipping requires your freight to share a container with products belonging to other shippers. It’s ideal for cargo occupying no more than six standard pallets.

LCL can speed up your supply chain when compared to FCL shipping. That’s because you can ship freight straight away, without having to wait until you have enough goods to fill a container.

Bear in mind, though, that LCL shipments must be consolidated and deconsolidated, which could involve your goods being moved quite frequently—hardly ideal if they are delicate. And these logistics activities have the potential to add extra transit time to the shipment.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

If you have enough goods to fill over half of the load capacity of a 20ft container, FCL could be your best shipping option.

With FCL, you have exclusive use of a container unit. Your freight forwarder will arrange shipping of the container from Spain to China. No consolidation or deconsolidation is required, so shipping times are more certain and delays less likely. Goods are handled less frequently with FCL, making this mode of shipping more suitable for fragile and high-value cargo.

However, if the supplier or recipient of your shipment lacks the equipment to load or unload a full container, FCL could limit the pick-up and delivery options.

Air Freight

There’s no faster way to transport freight from Spain to China than air shipping. That’s great news if you have goods with a short shelf-life to ship. Airlines and airports offer the highest levels of security, so air freight is a good choice for consignments of high-value items.

The delivery date of air cargo is easier to predict than ocean shipping, as flights are less at the mercy of the elements than ocean shipments. If your supplier and/or buyer is located closer to an international airport than a seaport, you could save on overland transit costs by choosing air freight.

Of course, there are some drawbacks associated with air shipping, not least its price tag. Often, any consignments bigger than two or three pallets prove too costly for businesses to ship as air freight. Also, bulky or awkwardly-shaped cargo may not be suitable for transporting by air.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Spain


Port Facts:

  • Situated close to Gibraltar on Spain’s southern coast
  • Third-busiest seaport in the Mediterranean
  • The port has two container terminals
  • Port facilities here provide the capacity to accommodate mega-ships

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de la Bahía de Algeciras.

Annual Container Volume: >4.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in Pontevedra, Galicia
  • Near Portugal on Spain’s west coast
  • Facilities include a 130,000 square meter container terminal
  • The port houses a specialist fruit product terminal in Comercio Quay

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de Vigo

Annual Container Volume: >200,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in Bilbao Abra Bay, Northern Spain
  • Only 15 km outside Bilbao city center
  • The port covers a 350-hectare site
  • 2019 saw the completion of an expansion project to substantially extend the area available for unloading containers

Owned By: Port of Bilbao Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • The Mediterranean’s largest seaport
  • Only 21 km from Valencia International Airport
  • One of Europe’s top-five busiest container hubs
  • Storage facilities extend for one kilometer
  • The quayside is 12 km in length

Owned By: Port Authority of Valencia.

Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Third-biggest seaport in Spain
  • Europe’s ninth-busiest sea freight hub
  • Infrastructure includes over 20 hectares of covered warehouse space
  • Its two international freight terminals are both served by rail facilities

Owned By: Puerto del Estado.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in China


Port Facts:

  • Ranked in 2019 as the world’s best-connected port
  • The biggest container port in the world
  • Excellent road and rail links connect the port to multiple locations across China

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >40 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Among the world’s top-ten busiest container ports
  • Situated on the Yellow Sea
  • Receives cargo vessels from over 700 origins around the world
  • Offers easy onward transportation of goods to locations in Shandong Province

Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • One of China’s top-ten container processing facilities
  • Located on the Minjiang River in Southeastern China
  • Faces the Taiwan Strait
  • Express rail connections allow for easy onward transportation of imports from Spain

Owned By: Fuzhou Port Group Corporation Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: > 3 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • The ninth-biggest seaport in the world
  • Largest ocean freight facility in northern China
  • Connections to 115 global destinations
  • Ideal port of arrival for consignees based in Beijing, which is just 170 km from the port

Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • China’s eighth-biggest container hub

I- nfrastructure includes nine container terminals and 74 berths for cargo vessels

  • Connected to ports in 50 countries
  • Only 300 km from Taiwan

Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.


Other Ports in China

There are many other ports in China to which Shipa Freight can direct shipments from Spain, including the following:

  • Guangzhou (Nansha)
  • Wuhan
  • Chongqing
  • Lianyungang
  • Qinzhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Nanjing
  • Shantou
  • Ningbo-Zhoushan
  • Dalian

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

###Airports of Origin in Spain


Airport Facts:

  • Northern Spain’s biggest airport
  • Largest air freight facility in the Basque region
  • Infrastructure includes two runways, which are 2,600 meters and 2,000 meters long respectively
  • Processed nearly three million kilograms of freight in 2016
  • Ideal airport if your supply chain involves the movement of goods from Santander, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastian, or Miranda de Ebro

China Airports Served: None.

Bilbao to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Officially called Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport
  • Located nine kilometers outside of Madrid city center
  • Europe’s second-biggest air facility
  • Spain’s leading air freight hub
  • The airport has four runways, the longest being 4,350 meters

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Shenzhen.

Madrid to China Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation.



Airport Facts:

  • Full name is Barcelona El Prat Josep Tarradellas Airport
  • Cargo terminals and storage facilities cover 40-hectares
  • Infrastructure includes three runways and three terminals
  • Conveniently located for any supplier or manufacturer based in Llobregat, Catalonia, Saint-Boi or Viladecans

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Shanghai.

Barcelona to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Airports of Arrival in China

Shanghai Pudong

Airport Facts:

  • Key aviation hub in East Asia
  • World’s third-busiest air freight facility
  • Occupies a 40 square-kilometer site
  • Ranked the best air freight facility on the planet in 2019 by Air Cargo World

Connected Airports in Spain: Madrid, Barcelona.

Spain to Shanghai Pudong Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Officially called Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport
  • Located on the east bank of the Pearl River
  • Serves Guangdong Province
  • Just 38 km from Hong Kong Airport

Connected Airports in Spain: None.

Spain to Shenzhen Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in Henan province
  • China’s seventh-busiest air cargo hub
  • Situated 37 kilometers outside of downtown Zhengzhou
  • Handles the highest volume of air freight in central China
  • Just over 500,000 tonnes of freight is processed here annually

Connected Airports in Spain: None.

Spain to Zhengzhou Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Full name is Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
  • Located 16 km southwest of Chengdu city center
  • Ranks as China’s fourth-busiest air freight facility
  • A core air hub for Air China

Connected Airports in Spain: Madrid.

Spain to Chengdu Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • The world’s 13th-busiest air freight hub
  • Located 32 km outside of central Beijing
  • About two million tonnes of cargo was processed here in 2018

Connected Airports in Spain: Madrid, Barcelona.

Spain to Beijing-Capital Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation.


Other Airports in China

We can also fly your Imports from Spain to China into the following destination airports:

  • Qingdao
  • Nanjing
  • Tianjin
  • Chongqing
  • Ningbo
  • Dalian
  • Xiamen
  • Wuhan
  • Fuzhou
  • Guangzhou

Why Ship From Spain to China With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight makes importing from Spain to China easier than ever. We will coordinate your air and ocean shipments to ensure they arrive in China on-time and cost-effectively.

Our state-of-the-art online platform lets you easily manage all of your imports and exports in one place, significantly speeding up your supply chain.

Ship with us for all these other benefits:

  • Easy online quotes that you can quickly compare
  • Simple-to-follow online booking and payment
  • We’ll let you know which shipping documentation your consignment needs
  • Leave the complexity of customs clearance to us
  • Get outstanding customer support from a friendly team—available 24/7
  • Rest assured that your shipments will comply with international shipping rules and regulations

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