Ocean and Air Freight Shipping from Switzerland to China [Updated: Sep 2021]
FCL, LCL and Air shipping comprehensive guide and instant online quote
Since 2010, China has been Switzerland's biggest trading partner in Asia and the third-largest worldwide after the European Union and the US. If your business wants to participate in this active trade and import from Switzerland to China, this page will be helpful to you. We will provide crucial information about the different shipping options, costs, transit times, customs clearance, and ports of export and import.
Commercial importers can choose between ocean and air shipping from Switzerland to China. Each alternative comes with distinct pros and cons, which we will outline on this page.
Ocean Freight From Switzerland to China
Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is the shipping term used when a carrier transports a consolidated container, holding consignments of many different shippers. This is a great option for businesses that don’t have enough cargo to fill an entire unit. LCL shipping is often the most cost-effective option for sending small shipments to China.
Full Container Load (FCL): FCL means transporting a container from Switzerland to China, occupied by a single shipment belonging to just one shipper. As you have exclusive use of the container, you can take advantage of the entire capacity to move a large shipment at a flat rate.
Air Freight From Switzerland to China
If your export from Switzerland to China is very urgent, then air freight will likely be the best choice. You need to prepare a sizable budget, though, as sending your cargo by air can be very costly.
Several factors determine the final rate of your import from Switzerland to China. The quotes you receive from freight forwarders typically consider the following criteria:
- The type of cargo
- The chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
- Weight of the cargo
- Dimensions of the cargo
- The distance between origin and destination
- The type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)
You need to know that the weight of your goods has a significant impact on the final cost of your shipment. Most shippers find ocean freight to be the most affordable option for cargo weighing more than 100 kg. On the other hand, shipments of less than 100 kg will probably cost a similar amount, whether you send them as air or ocean cargo.
If you need to send a consignment of 35 kg or less, you will be better off engaging an international courier service. Most freight forwarders, such as Shipa Freight, don’t handle shipments in this weight bracket.
With regard to transit times, air freight beats ocean shipping by a long shot. Your cargo can reach China in just a few days by air. Sea freight, on the other hand, will typically take at least three weeks.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From Switzerland to China?
Carriage of ocean freight in a shipping container from Switzerland to China typically requires between 20 and 46 days.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From Switzerland to China?
Typically, air freight from Switzerland to China can arrive within two to eight days. This doesn’t only include the pure flight time, but also the time required for loading and unloading as well as customs and security checks.
Customs authorities in both countries have to give their permission before your freight can leave Switzerland and enter China. Customs clearance is a fundamental part of the shipping process.
Even seasoned shippers prefer to engage an experienced agent or freight forwarder for this task to avoid potential delays or other problems. An expert service provider can reassure you that your freight complies with Swiss and Chinese customs regulations and international shipping laws.
Submitting the required paperwork is the first step in the customs clearance process. The following documents are typically requested as a minimum by customs authorities around the world:
- Commercial Invoice
- Packing List
- Certificate of Origin
- Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
- Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)
Although these documents are often sufficient to finalize the clearance process, some customs authorities might ask for additional paperwork such as licenses, permits, and certificates. Your freight forwarder can advise and guide you in this case.
If you are keen to learn more about the different types of forms, then you should have a look at our documents list. You will find descriptions and examples of the various documents required for international freight shipments.
Most commercial goods ship from port to port (or door to door) inside standard 20ft or 40ft shipping containers, but maritime carriers also offer solutions for sea freight that will not fit inside standard units. Ask your carrier or freight forwarder about different container types (e.g., refrigerated or ventilated) or break-bulk shipping options.
For the purpose of this page, we will focus on explaining standard containerized ocean shipping as either FCL or LCL. The next section will discuss both alternatives in detail to help you arrive at the right option to satisfy your logistics needs.
Learn more about Ocean Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
LCL shipping is well suited for freight that doesn’t exceed a total volume of 14 CBM (around six standard pallets) and can’t be shipped via air. This mode of transport can also speed up your supply chain compared to FCL. You can send your cargo on its way immediately as you don’t have to wait until you have accumulated enough goods to fill an entire container.
You have to be aware that your freight will share a container with the consignments of other shippers. That has certain implications that need to be considered carefully.
As the container has to be consolidated and deconsolidated, your products will likely be moved and handled quite a bit more. These extra process steps not only add additional days to your transit time, but they also can put delicate, perishable, or high-value goods at risk.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
FCL shipping is best suited for freight that takes up more than half of the load capacity of a 20ft container. The main benefit of FCL is that you have exclusive use of the container. That allows you to gain more certainty about the delivery date of your consignment, as there is no need for time-consuming consolidation and deconsolidation. In addition, it makes FCL suitable for fragile, delicate, and even high-value goods.
There is one potential drawback, though. As not all businesses have the necessary equipment to handle a full container in their facilities, FCL might limit your pick-up and delivery options.
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
Air shipping comes with many advantages. It’s a fast and flexible way to transport your goods, which is beneficial if they are perishable with a limited shelf-life. If your freight is of a high value, it will be in good hands, since airlines and airport operators follow strict security protocols.
As flights are less affected by weather conditions, you will have more reliability with regard to your delivery date. Lastly, air freight is advantageous when the goods’ supplier and/or buyer is located close to an international airport.
However, air freight comes with a few drawbacks, too. Due to the high cost, most shippers choose air cargo only for smaller consignments, perhaps comprising two to three pallets at most. And as the space in the body of aircraft is very restricted, it is not a viable option for very bulky or awkwardly shaped cargo.
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Cargo Ports of Origin in Switzerland
Switzerland is a landlocked country, and while there is a container port on the River Rhine at Basel, many shippers choose to have their freight shipped overland, or via the Rhine, to Antwerp in Belgium, from where it will be transported to their chosen port in China.
- Freight from Switzerland is transported to Antwerp via river and waterways.
- Located in Belgium in the heart of Europe.
- Second-largest seaport in Europe after Rotterdam.
Owned By: Port of Antwerp.
Annual Container Volume: >8 million TEUs.
Cargo Ports of Arrival in China
- One of the ten busiest ports in the world.
- Located on the Yellow Sea.
- Handles container vessels from over 700 destinations worldwide.
- Closest port for buyers located in Shandong Province, China’s industrial heartland.
Owned By: Qingdao Port (Group)Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >18 million TEUs.
- Largest port in China’s north and the ninth-largest worldwide.
- Connected to 115 destinations worldwide.
- Ideal for buyers situated close to the capital of Beijing.
Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >16 million TEUs.
- Natural river port that opens into the South China Sea.
- Vital gateway for the manufacturing-centric Guangdong Province.
- The only sizable port in the Eastern part of Guangdong.
Owned By: Shantou Port Affairs Bureau.
Annual Container Volume: >1.25 million TEUs.
- Eighth-largest container gateway in the country.
- Facilities include 74 berths and nine container terminals.
- Connected to almost all major ports worldwide in 50 countries.
Owned By: Xiamen Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >10 million TEUs.
- Among the top-ten container ports in China.
- Located on the southeastern coast of the country, facing the Taiwan Strait.
- Offers convenient direct express rail connections to China’s hinterland.
Owned By: Fuzhou Port Group Corporation Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: > 3 million TEUs.
Other Ports in China
In addition to the five ports mentioned above, you can import your freight from Switzerland via any of the following container gateways in China:
- Guangzhou (Nansha)
Airports of Origin in Switzerland
- Largest international airport in Switzerland.
- Located 13 kilometers north of central Zurich.
- Has been named ‘Europe’s leading airport’ by World Travel Awards 17 years in a row.
- Processed almost 335,000 tonnes of airfreight in 2019.
Chinese Airports Served: Shanghai Pudong, Beijing-Capital.
Zurich to China Cargo-Only Operators: Swiss WorldCargo.
IATA CODE: ZRH.
- Located 3.5 km northwest of Basel in Switzerland and 20 km southeast of Mulhouse in France.
- Operated jointly by France and Switzerland.
- Consists of a single terminal building and two runways.
Chinese Airports Served: None.
Basel to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: BSL.
- Located four kilometers northwest of Geneva’s city center, right at the French-Swiss border.
- Freight operations are accessible from both countries.
- Has one of the longest runways in Europe, making the airport accessible for aircraft of all sizes.
- Processes almost 85,000 tons of freight per year.
Chinese Airports Served: None. Geneva to China Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: GVA.
Airports of Arrival in China
- Major aviation hub of East Asia and third-busiest cargo airport globally.
- Named top cargo airport in the world by Air Cargo World in 2019.
- Freight carriers FedEx, UPS, and DHL utilize this airport as their Asia-Pacific cargo hub.
- Covers an area of 40 square kilometers.
Connected Airports in Switzerland: Zurich.
Switzerland to Shanghai Pudong Cargo-Only Operators: Swiss WorldCargo.
IATA Code: PVG.
- Located about 50 km east of Fuzhou's city center near the shores of the Taiwan Strait.
- Opened in 1997.
- 23rd-busiest airport in China for cargo traffic.
- Capacity will be expanded to 450,000 tonnes of cargo per year by 2030.
Connected Airports in Switzerland: None. Switzerland to Fuzhou Cargo-Only Operators: None. ***IATA Code: FOC.
- Located 37 kilometers southeast of downtown Zhengzhou in Henan province.
- Highest volume cargo airport in central China.
- Seventh-busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic nationwide.
- Handles around 502,000 tonnes of freight per year.
Connected Airports in Switzerland: None.
Switzerland to Zhengzhou Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: TSN.
- Located about 31 km from the city center of Qingdao.
- Surrounded by urban developments with little room to expand.
- Replacement airport, Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport, is currently under construction.
Connected Airports in Switzerland: None. Switzerland to Qingdao Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: TAO.
- 13th-busiest airport worldwide by cargo traffic.
- Situated 32 km northeast of central Beijing.
- Handled around 2 million tonnes of cargo in 2018.
Connected Airports in Switzerland: Zurich.
Switzerland to Beijing-Capital Cargo-Only Operators: Swiss WorldCargo.
IATA CODE: PEK.
Other Airports in China
Your air freight from Switzerland to China can also land at any of the following airports:
We want to make importing from Switzerland to China easier than ever for you. Let us organize your air and ocean shipments so they arrive on time and in the most cost-effective way.
Thanks to our state-of-the-art online platform, you can easily manage all of your imports and exports in one place, allowing you to speed up your supply chain.
Take advantage of the following benefits when you ship with us:
- Online quotes: Easy to access and compare.
- Online booking and payment process: Straightforward and fast.
- One single platform: Manage your complete shipping process online.
- Shipping documentation: Always transparent and clear.
- Customs clearance: We will remove all complexities for you.
- Customer service: Get support 24/7 via phone, email, and online chat.
- Full compliance: Always be in adherence to international shipping rules and regulations.
- What Are Your Options for Shipping From Switzerland to China?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Switzerland to China?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Switzerland to China?
- Customs Clearance in Switzerland and China
- Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
- Ocean Cargo Port Guide
- Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
- Why Ship From Switzerland to China With Shipa Freight?