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Ocean and Air Shipping From Spain to the US

Information and quote from Spain to the US for LCL, FCL and Air shipping

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Updated on 16 Sep 202115 min read

The value of commercial shipping from Spain to the US reached $17 billion in 2018 making Spain the USA’s 24th most valuable trade partner. Olive oil—a perishable—is among the top five goods most frequently exported to the US from Spain. So too artwork in the form of paintings and drawings which can be classed as fragile freight.

If you are seeking to export delicate, perishable, or any other type of cargo across the Atlantic, this page is for you. It’s full of information and guidance written to make importing from Spain to the US easier for your business.

What Are the Options for Shipping Freight From Spain to the US?

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley, stacked with boxes, from the Flag of Spain towards the flag of the United States

The only transportation options you can choose between are ocean and air shipping from Spain to the US. Both have good points, and some drawbacks, that we’ll discuss on this page.

Ocean Freight From Spain to the US

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL shipping means your products share container space with other shippers’ commodities. It is ideal for transporting smaller consignments that aren’t big enough to fill a container and aren’t urgently required in the United States.

Full Container Load (FCL): In FCL shipping, your freight is isolated in a container. No sharing is required. Your carrier will transport your shipment in a sealed shipping container from Spain to the USA. Your products will not need consolidation or de-consolidation.

Air Freight from Spain to the US

Flying your goods from Spain to the US is the fastest way to ship between the two countries, making it ideal for urgent deliveries. Air freight is also the most expensive mode of international shipping.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Spain to the US?

Freight forwarders will take into account the type of freight you’re sending when calculating a quote for your shipment. They will also need to know:

  • Your choice of ocean or air shipping
  • Your preference for door-to-door, port-to-port, port-to-door, or door-to-port deliveries
  • Your consignment’s weight, volume, and size

Shipa Freight supplies quotes for all kinds of shipments weighing 35kg or over. Usually, goods that weigh 35kg to 100kg are nearly as cost-effective to send by air freight as by ocean freight.

Cargo weighing over 100kg can be expensive to send as air freight, so unless you need to deliver urgently in the United States, ocean freight will usually prove more cost effective.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Spain to the US?

Shipping ocean freight from Spain to the USA can take between 15 and 37 days, depending on the ports you choose. In contrast, air shipments take around eight days on average.

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

These examples of ocean shipping times demonstrate that, generally speaking, FCL is faster than LCL, and shipping to ports on the US Eastern seaboard is quicker than to other locations in the USA:

  • Valencia to Chicago—18 days FCL, 27 days LCL
  • Barcelona to Miami—15 days FCL, 31 days LCL
  • Valencia to Cleveland—31 days FCL, 25 days LCL
  • Barcelona to New York—18 days FCL
  • Bilbao to Chicago—31 days FCL, 30 days LCL
  • Bilbao to Los Angeles—37 days FCL, 34 days LCL
  • Barcelona to Los Angeles—28 days FCL, 31 days LCL
  • Bilbao to Houston—26 days FCL, 35 days LCL
  • Barcelona to Philadelphia—22 days FCL, 21 days LCL
  • Barcelona to Atlanta—27 days FCL, 22 days LCL
  • Valencia to Los Angeles—34 days FCL, 34 days LCL
  • Barcelona to Houston—24 days FCL
  • Barcelona to Savannah—20 days FCL
  • Bilbao to Seattle—34 days FCL

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

Below are examples of airport-to-airport routes commonly used for freight shipping between Spain and the US. Transit time for all of the following routes is approximately eight days:

  • Barcelona to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, or New York
  • Bilbao to Chicago, Houston or Los Angeles
  • Madrid to Los Angeles or Dallas
  • Valencia to Los Angeles

Customs Clearance in Spain and the US

All goods for import from Spain to the US need to be accompanied by specific documents. These will be checked by customs teams working at seaports and airports in both nations. The process can be complex, which is why many businesses choose to leave this aspect of shipping to freight forwarders. It’s a move you should consider, as your business will benefit from a forwarder’s expertise, reducing the chances of needless delays. It’s also a good way to ensure that whatever goods you’re importing from Spain to the US comply with shipping laws.

Containers in the customs clearance zone as Shipa Freight helps with customs clearance

However, you can’t expect your freight forwarder to do all the work. You will still be required to provide important documents that must accompany your shipments through customs checks. Typically, the following will be required:

  1. A commercial invoice
  2. A packing list
  3. A certificate of origin
  4. A letter of credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
  5. A bill of lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)

You may also find that additional documentation, in the form of licenses, permits, or certificates is required. To see examples of the documents we’ve listed above, please visit our documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

There are plenty of ports of origin and arrival to choose between when you need to ship a container from Spain to the US. Whichever port of origin and destination you choose, it’s likely your goods will ship inside a standard container of either 20 ft or 40ft in length. The shorter version can hold up to 11 standard pallets, while the larger container can fit up to 21.

Your forwarder may recommend a specialist container for your sea freight, such as one with refrigeration, ventilation, or an open-top. Another decision a forwarder can help with is the choice between FCL and LCL ocean shipping. Let’s take a look at both these options in a little more detail:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

A Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipment could be your best option if:

  • Your goods amount to a volume of 14 CBM or less ( enough to occupy about six standard pallets)
  • You don’t want the hassle of having to choose a container size
  • Your consignment can safely share a container with other goods
  • You cannot consider air freight
  • There is no urgent requirement for your goods in the US

LCL shipping does have downsides, such as the consolidation and deconsolidation processes. These additional logistics often add time to LCL shipments, meaning a longer wait for your goods to reach the US than if they’re transported as FCL ocean freight.

Avoiding LCL shipping could be advisable if:

  • Your consignment is perishable, delicate, or high-value
  • Your goods could be damaged if moved or handled too frequently
  • Your freight is an awkward shape, or large, or very heavy

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Full Container Load (FCL) shipping is likely to be your best ocean shipping option if:

  • You’ve got a strict deadline to meet
  • Your cargo is not suitable to be shipped inside a shared container
  • Your consignment is more than 14 CBM (approximately half the capacity of a 20ft container)
  • You can load and seal your container in Spain and want it to remain sealed throughout shipping
  • Your recipient can unload the container in the US

Air Freight

If ocean shipping does not meet the demands of your supply chain, air freight is your alternative option. Choose air shipping if:

  • You want the quickest way of shipping cargo from Spain to the US
  • Your freight has a short shelf-life—such as plants, food, or flowers
  • Your delivery is urgently required in the US
  • Your consignment is small and light, no more than three pallets
  • Your supplier and recipient are both based closer to an international airport than a seaport
  • You’re shipping valuable goods needing the high levels of security exercised by airlines and airport operators

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Spain


Port Facts:

  • Located on Spain’s small west coast, close to the border with Portugal
  • Better known as a fishing port, Vigo offers high-quality freight handling services
  • Ideal for any supplier or manufacturer based in the border region, Northern Portugal, or Western Spain

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de Vigo. Annual Container Volume: >200,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ESVGO.


Port Facts:

  • Ranked the world’s 29th-busiest cargo port in 2018
  • Spain’s biggest sea freight facility
  • The largest port in the Mediterranean
  • Storage areas cover more than one kilometer
  • The quayside stretches for over 12 kilometers

Owned By: Port Authority of Valencia. Annual Container Volume: >5.1 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ESVLC.


Port Facts:

  • A world top-50 cargo port by size
  • Europe’s fastest-growing container port in 2017 when cargo exports rose by 2.6%
  • All exports are processed in two terminals

Owned By: Puertos del Estado. Annual Container Volume: >3.4 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ESBCN.


Port Facts:

  • Located in Bilbao Abra Bay in Northern Spain
  • Situated around 15 kilometers from the city center
  • Ideal if your supply chain involves the movement of goods from Bilbao, Zaragoza, Burgos, Leon, or even as far south as Madrid

Owned By: Port of Bilbao Authority. Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ESBIO.


Port Facts:

  • The third-busiest container port in the Mediterranean
  • Located on Spain’s southern coast near Gibraltar
  • Only Valencia processes a higher volume of containerized goods in Spain
  • Moves are underway to expand container facilities at the port, which already has the capacity for mega-ships

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de la Bahía de Algeciras. Annual Container Volume: >4.7 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: ESALG.

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the US

Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • Located close to the rival port of Long Beach which is just across San Pedro Bay
  • Los Angeles is currently the bigger port of the two
  • The facility spans 70 kilometers of California coast
  • 80 cranes do the heavy lifting
  • The eight container terminals process more imports and exports than any other US port

Owned By: City of Los Angeles. Annual Container Volume: >9.4 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USLAX.

Long Beach

Port Facts:

  • Long Beach is located right alongside the Port of Los Angeles
  • More than 25% of container traffic to/from the USA transits through Long Beach and LA ports
  • Convenient port of discharge for consignees based in the Western United States
  • Long Beach is the second-largest container port in the United States
  • This is a vast port occupying 40 kilometers of waterfront
  • Located three kilometers from the center of Long Beach

Owned By: City of Long Beach. Annual Container Volume: >8 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USLGB.


Port Facts:

  • One of the biggest freight hubs in the USA
  • The ninth-largest container port in the US
  • Ideal port of arrival if your goods from Spain are bound for locations in Florida, the Caribbean, even Latin America

Owned By: Multiple owners. Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USMIA.


Port Facts:

  • In 2017, Savannah became the fourth US port to exceed the 4 million TEUs per year mark
  • Houses the biggest containerized goods terminal in North America
  • A further six cranes are earmarked for construction on the port’s quayside during 2020
  • A $2 billion investment program includes a water-depth increase to allow neo-Panamax vessels with heavier loads to enter the port

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority. Annual Container Volume: >4.3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USSAV.


Port Facts:

  • The fifth-largest container gateway
  • Convenient port of arrival for businesses located in the Northwestern United States
  • The port is currently being upgraded to increase container capacity and allow two 18,000 TEU category vessels to simultaneously use the port’s facilities

Owned By: Northwest Seaport Alliance. Annual Container Volume: >3.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USSEA.

Other Ocean Freight Ports in the United States

In addition to the five container ports featured above, ocean freight can also enter the US via the following international gateways:

  • New York
  • Houston
  • Baltimore
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • New Orleans
  • Boston
  • Atlanta
  • Charleston
  • Norfolk
  • Tacoma
  • Port Everglades
  • Mobile

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in Spain


Airport Facts:

  • Spans a 40-hectare site
  • Located in Central Spain’s industrial heartland
  • Direct connections to ring roads make it easy for overland transport to access the airport
  • Over 125 air cargo companies call the airport home
  • This airport is connected by direct flights to the USA

USA Airports Served: New York JFK, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago. Madrid to the USA Cargo-Only Operators: Turkish Cargo, DPS Airlines, DHL Aviation, Kalitta Air, Swift Air. IATA Code: MAD.


Airport Facts:

  • Its full name is Barcelona El Prat Josep Tarradellas Airport
  • Infrastructure includes three terminals and three runways
  • The ideal departure point for US-bound freight originating in Llobregat, Saint Boi, Viladecans, and elsewhere in Catalonia

USA Airports Served: Miami, New York JFK, Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco. Barcelona to the USA Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BCN.


Airport Facts:

  • Located nine kilometers north of Bilbao in Loiu, Biscay
  • The largest airport in the Basque Country and Northern Spain
  • No direct flights to North America
  • A good choice of airport if your supply chain moves goods from the Basque region, Northern Spain, or Southwest France

USA Airports Served: None. Bilbao to the USA Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BIO.

Airports of Arrival in the US

Los Angeles

Airport Facts:

  • The tenth-busiest cargo airport in the world
  • Serves Southern California, the world’s 11th-largest economy
  • Most imports arrive in the holds of passenger planes
  • Two million tonnes of freight was processed here in 2018
  • Norwegian Airlines operates direct flights from Barcelona and Madrid to LAX
  • Iberia Airlines flies directly from Madrid to Los Angeles
  • Freight originating from Bilbao Airport will arrive at LAX via an indirect route

Connected Airports in Spain: Barcelona, Madrid. Spain to Los Angeles Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: LAX.


Airport Facts:

  • Handles over 2.3 million tonnes of freight every year
  • Ranked as the world’s 15th-busiest cargo airport according to statistics released in 2018
  • Direct flights from Madrid and Barcelona land here
  • Cargo-only operators schedule regular flights from Madrid Airport into Miami International

Connected Airports in Spain: Barcelona, Madrid. Spain to Miami Cargo-Only Operators: LATAM Cargo Columbia, Turkish Airlines Cargo. IATA Code: MIA.


Airport Facts:

  • Serves Northern and Central USA
  • This 695-hectare site has three runways
  • Rated the most improved airport in North America by the Airports Council in 2019
  • Commercial goods originating in Spain will be routed to Cleveland via indirect services as no direct flights from Spain serve the airport

Connected Airports in Spain: None. Spain to Cleveland Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: CLE.


Airport Facts:

  • Its full name is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
  • Rated the world’s busiest airport for passengers since 1998
  • The world’s 42nd-busiest cargo airport
  • Infrastructure includes five runways
  • Congestion on road and rail links into and out of the airport have been known to delay shipments

Connected Airports in Spain: Madrid. Spain to Atlanta Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: ATL.

Dallas/Fort Worth

Airport Facts:

  • Handles over 60% of all air cargo in Texas
  • Internal flights from Dallas connect with over 190 destinations in the USA
  • Goods can be flown here directly from Madrid

Connected Airports in Spain: Madrid. Spain to Dallas Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: DFW.

Other Air Freight Destinations in the USA

Other gateways into the United States for air cargo from Spain include:

  • New York JFK
  • Charlotte
  • Denver
  • El Paso
  • Houston
  • Philadelphia


  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Sacramento

Why Ship From Spain to the US With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight is a modern freight forwarder with an innovative online platform. We bring the services of the major international ocean and air carriers within easy reach of all kinds of businesses. If you wish us to help you move your goods for export from Spain to the US, we can provide:

  • Quick online quotes
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Freight shipment tracking
  • Delivery services from port to port, port to door, door to door, and door to port
  • Easy online booking and payments
  • Assistance in navigating the complexities of customs clearance

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