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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping From Thailand to the US

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

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Updated on 16 Mar 202213 min read

Bilateral trade between Thailand and the United States totaled $44.5 billion in 2018. Nearly $32 billion was generated by exports from the Far East to the US. If your business already ships commodities along the ocean trade lanes or air freight routes between the two countries, this page is for you. So too if you are considering a Thai/US trade partnership.

The page includes details about ocean and air shipping from Thailand to the US, customs clearance, seaports, and airports. There’s even a section to help you develop your understanding of shipping jargon and terminology.

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

Flags of Thailand and the US to show Shipa Freight capacity to ship from the Thailand to the US Inter-continental shipping between Thailand and the US offers only two viable options—ocean or air shipping. Both have pros and cons that we’ll explore on this page.

Ocean Freight From Thailand to the US

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is often favored by shippers with small consignments to import from Thailand to the US. With LCL shipping, your goods will be consolidated with others in a shared shipping container.

Full Container Load (FCL): Choose FCL for exclusive use and carriage of a shipping container from Thailand to the US. You can fill, or partially fill, the container—the price will be the same.

Air Freight from Thailand to the US

Ocean shipping might be too slow for your supply chain, in which case air shipping will inject the speed you need. But bear in the mind that the cost of air freight is significantly higher, especially for larger loads.

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

Calculator to represent the cost of Shipa Freight's quotes To calculate your shipping quote, a freight forwarder will require answers to the following questions:

  • What is the volume, size, and weight of your consignment?
  • Are your goods fragile, large, small, light, heavy, or awkwardly-shaped?
  • Do you wish to use LCL ocean, FCL ocean, or air freight?
  • Where do the goods need to be transported from and to? Many forwarders can offer door-to-port, port-to-door, port-to-port, or door-to-door services.

Here are a few pointers regarding the relationship between the weight of your goods and your choice of shipping mode: If your consignment weighs 100 kg or more, ocean freight usually offers the most economical option as air shipping is expensive for heavier goods.

If your consignment is between 35 kg and 100 kg in weight, the quotes you receive for ocean and air shipping will probably be similar. It makes sense to choose whichever offers the most suitable way for your business to export from Thailand to the US.

Freight forwarders do not handle consignments weighing under 35 kg. You should get quotes from international couriers for these light loads.

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

When importing from Thailand to the US, shipping times will depend on the mode of transport you choose, the carrier, and the seaports or airports you use. Air freight is by far the fastest. Four to five days is a typical transit time for air freight from Thailand to the US. Ocean shipping takes significantly longer. It is a 13,900 km voyage from Thailand to New York. Thailand to Los Angeles is a 13,300 km journey. Given the vast distance, you should allow 36 to 54 days for your ocean shipment to be completed.

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

Below are some typical transit times from Bangkok’s seaport to various destinations in the United States:

  • To Atlanta – 42 days LCL
  • To Miami – 54 days FCL
  • To Mobile – 36 days FCL
  • To New York – 39 days LCL
  • To Savannah – 35 days FCL

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

Shipping air freight from Thailand to the US typically takes four to five days. That’s certainly true for shipments from Bangkok to Los Angeles (4 days) and Bangkok to Chicago (5 days). As there are no direct flights between Thailand and the US, freight forwarders will use indirect services to route air freight to its destination.

Customs Clearance in Thailand and the US

You can’t avoid customs formalities when you import from Thailand to the US—but you can avoid hassle and stress by getting a freight forwarder to handle the process. These shipping experts will ensure your consignment complies with the rules and regulations, thereby avoiding unnecessary delays.

You will still need to complete specific documents, namely:

  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 supplier and the buyer)
  5. A bill of lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (this is something Shipa Freight can provide)

The above list is not exhaustive. Other paperwork such as a certificate, license, or permit may need to be submitted along with those listed above. Either way, you can view samples of the five documents featured above on our documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

A vessel carrying your shipping container from Thailand to the US can head west to a port on the US eastern seaboard or east to the US west coast. Both of these ocean shipping routes are around 13,500 km long. Whichever direction is taken, it’s a slow journey. A cargo ship moves at an average speed of just 35 km/h.

In most cases, your sea freight will ship in a 20ft standard container with capacity for 10-11 standard pallets, or a 40ft container with room for up to 21 pallets. If your consignment requires a specialist container such as one with refrigeration or ventilation capabilities, this can also be arranged by your forwarder.

When booking an ocean freight shipment, you will need to choose between FCL or LCL shipping. Below, we outline the pros and cons of both to arm you with the information you need to make a decision:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Less-than-container-load (LCL) shipping could be best for you if:

  • Air freight is not a viable option
  • Your shipment is 14 CBM or less
  • You’re happy about your goods sharing a container
  • The size of your shipment is no more than six standard pallets
  • There’s no urgent need for your goods in the US

LCL shipping is probably not the best option if:

  • Your goods are heavy, large, or awkwardly-shaped
  • You are shipping items with a short shelf-life, such as fresh food or flowers
  • Your consignment is high-value
  • Frequent moving or handling of your goods could damage them
  • You can’t accept delays to your delivery

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

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Choose FCL shipping if:

  • You want your goods to arrive in the United States by a specified date
  • Your consignment is 14 cubic meters or bigger, and therefore, too large to share a container
  • Your freight is an awkward shape, extremely heavy or very fragile

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

Air Freight

You should choose air shipping from Thailand to the United States if:

  • Speed of delivery is more important than cost
  • Your consignment fills a maximum of three pallets
  • Your goods need to be shipped quickly, due to their short shelf-life or an urgent delivery date
  • Your cargo is valuable and requires the protection offered by airport and airline security measures

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in Thailand

Laem Chebang

Port Facts:

  • Opened in the 1990s as an alternative to the Port of Bangkok
  • Located 126 km from Bangkok
  • Thailand’s largest seaport
  • One of the world’s top-25 busiest ports for container traffic
  • Infrastructure includes seven container terminals

Owned By: Hutchison Laem Chebang International Terminal Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >7.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • An inland port on the banks of the Chao Phraya River
  • Ranks in the world’s top-100 busiest container ports
  • Facilities include a 1,200 meter-long quay
  • A third terminal is planned, to increase the port’s capacity to 2.6 million TEUs

Owned By: Port Authority of Thailand.

Annual Container Volume: >1.5 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in the US


Port Facts:

  • Only 30km from the Atlantic Ocean
  • Second-largest port on the US eastern seaboard
  • Fourth-busiest port in the United States
  • The Garden City container terminal is the fastest-growing of its kind in the US
  • Rapid rail links connect the port to Birmingham, Atlanta, Memphis, Charlotte, and Orlando for easy onward transportation

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3.7 million TEUs.


New Orleans

Port Facts:

  • The only deepwater container port in the state of Louisiana
  • Located on the Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi River
  • Capacity to handle 840,000 TEUs annually
  • The container terminal is called Napoleon Avenue
  • Four new gantry cranes ordered in 2019 are now under construction

Owned By: Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans. Annual Container Volume: >590,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USMSY.


Port Facts

  • Situated at the mouth of the Miami River in Biscayne Bay
  • Known as ‘The Container Gateway to the Americas’
  • The 11th busiest port in the US in 2019
  • Closer to the Panama Canal than any other port in the US (1,850 km away)

Owned By: Miami Dade County.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.


Long Beach

Port Facts:

  • The second-busiest port in the United States
  • Only the Port of Los Angeles (9 km away) is busier
  • Located on the shores of San Pedro Bay

Owned By: Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.

Annual Container Volume: >8.1 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • 19th-busiest port in the United States
  • Located on the Mobile River
  • Expansion of the container facility was completed in March 2020
  • Direct access to inland waterways serving the river valleys in Tennessee and Ohio, as well as the Great Lakes

Owned By: Alabama State Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >346,000 TEUs.


Other Ports in the US

These sea freight gateways can also be used to receive consignments from Thailand:

  • New York
  • Atlanta
  • Charleston
  • Oakland
  • Seattle
  • Houston
  • Norfolk
  • Los Angeles
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • San Francisco
  • Tacoma
  • Port Everglades

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airport of Origin in Thailand

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

Airport Facts:

  • Among Southeast Asia’s biggest airports
  • Occupies a 3,240-hectare site in Racha Thewa, Samut Prakan Province
  • A relatively new airport, opening for business in 2006
  • Handles three million tonnes of air cargo every year

US Airports Served: None.

Bangkok to US Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Airports of Arrival in the US

Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

  • Located northwest of downtown Chicago
  • Covers a site of more than 3,000 hectares
  • Number one in the Americas for the total value of freight handled—over $200 billion every year
  • Used by more than 25 global cargo carriers
  • Close to two million tonnes of air freight pass through this airport every year

Connected Airports in Thailand: None.

Thailand to Chicago O’Hare Cargo-Only Operators: None.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Handles more imported commodities than any other airport in the US
  • More than 1.2 million tonnes of cargo were processed here in 2018
  • Facilities include a new, state-of-the-art animal handling facility—The Ark
  • No direct flights from Bangkok to New York

Connected Airports in Thailand: None.

Thailand to New York JFK Cargo-Only Operators: None.


San Francisco

Airport Facts:

  • Situated just over 20km south of San Francisco
  • Over 575,000 tonnes of air cargo were processed here in 2018
  • Boasts four terminals and four runways
  • Cargo facility spans a 100,000 square meter site
  • Easy distribution to San Jose, Modesto, and Salinas

Connected Airports in Thailand: None.

Thailand to San Francisco Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Formerly called Wilcox Field
  • Located 13 km northwest of downtown Miami
  • Serves as a hub for freight flights to and from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas
  • No direct flights from Bangkok to Miami

Connected Airports in Thailand: None.

Thailand to Miami Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Los Angeles

Airport Facts:

  • Known around the world as LAX
  • Its air freight facility is regarded as the driving force behind the Southern Californian economy
  • More than two million tonnes of freight were processed here in 2019
  • The majority of freight arrives at the airport in the hold of passenger planes
  • Strong road and rail links to Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach

Connected Airports in Thailand: None.

Thailand to Los Angeles Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in the US

Shipa Freight also uses these international airports in the US as gateways for air cargo from Thailand:

  • Charlotte
  • Atlanta
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Cleveland
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Seattle
  • Houston
  • Detroit
  • Philadelphia
  • San Diego
  • Sacramento
  • El Paso

Why Ship From Thailand to the US With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight is making ocean and air shipping from Thailand to the US more accessible to all kinds of businesses. Our online platform simplifies the logistics of shipping freight from Thailand to the US. You can rely on us to professionally manage the delivery of your commodities using leading ocean or air carriers.

Some of the many benefits of using Shipa Freight when importing from Thailand to the US are:

  • Easy registration process for new customers
  • Fast air and ocean freight quotes
  • Online booking
  • Pay with cards or a wire transfer
  • We’re a company that’s backed by a world-leading freight forwarder—Agility Logistics
  • Get help when you need it from a friendly customer support team—available 247
  • Leave the complexities of customs clearance and international shipping regulations to us

Know Your Shipping Terminology

Whatever your native language, the commercial language of shipping can be confusing. To help build your understanding, Shipa Freight is cutting through the complexity and explaining industry jargon in plain English. Two potentially baffling shipping terms are explained below, and there are more definitions on each of our country-to-country pages.

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