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Ocean and Air Shipping from the UAE to the UK

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

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Updated on 28 Nov 202114 min read

The United Arab Emirates announced in February 2020 its determination to strike a quick post-Brexit free trade deal with the United Kingdom. When negotiated, the deal will keep the already-popular trade routes busy between the two countries.

Do you need help to improve the way you export from the UAE to the United Kingdom?

Perhaps you’re new to international shipping and seeking guidance.

In either case, this page contains much of the information you need about commercial ocean and air shipping from the UAE to the United Kingdom.

What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight From the UAE to the UK?

There are two ways to send freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom. You can ship it by air or by ocean. Both modes of transportation have their advantages and disadvantages, some of which are outlined below.

Ocean Freight From the UAE to the United Kingdom

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL ocean shipping allows you to rent space in a container for your sea freight. That’s ideal if your consignment isn’t big enough for you to ship a full container from the UAE to the United Kingdom. With LCL, your goods will share container space with other products on a cargo vessel bound for the UK from your chosen port in the UAE.

Full Container Load (FCL): With FCL shipping you rent an entire container for your goods. You get exclusive use of the space, so your goods won’t share the container with other products.

Air Freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom

Air shipping is the fastest way to import from the UAE to the United Kingdom, but it often works out more expensive than ocean freight.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the UAE to the UK?

When working out the cost of shipping freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom, a freight forwarder will take into account the following factors:

  • The type of cargo you are shipping
  • Your preferred mode of transportation (Air, FCL or LCL)
  • How much your cargo weighs
  • The size and volume of your cargo
  • How far it is from the origin to the destination of your goods
  • The type of delivery service you require (door-to-door, port-to-door, door-to-port or port-to-port)

Generally speaking, the cost of shipping air freight and ocean freight is similar for consignments that weigh less than 100kg. Businesses will often choose the quicker option which is usually air freight. For goods weighing over 100 kg, ocean shipping usually works out more cost-effective than air freight.

Shipa Freight—like most freight forwarders—does not handle cargo weighing under 35 kg.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the UAE to the UK?

To give you an idea of the distance between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, nearly 12,000km of ocean separates Sharjah from the Port of Grangemouth in Scotland. That’s why shipping ocean freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom can take at least 35 days.

Using air freight services to ship your goods is a much quicker process, with shipping from Dubai International to London Heathrow taking anything from one to eight days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the UAE to the UK?

Transporting a shipping container from the UAE to the United Kingdom can take at least 35 days. That’s the typical transit time for an FCL ocean service from Jebel Ali to Felixstowe. LCL shipping along the same route takes 39 days, while FCL freight from Jebel Ali can arrive at Grangemouth or London Gateway in 38 days.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the UAE to the UK?

As an example of shipping time for air freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom, consider the route we often use between Dubai and London Heathrow. It takes between one and eight days, depending on consolidation and customs-processing time.

Customs Clearance in the UAE and the United Kingdom

Importing from the UAE to the United Kingdom requires strict adherence to customs rules and regulations. A freight forwarder can ensure your business complies with requirements in both the UAE and UK, helping you avoid unnecessary delays.

However, all shippers will need to complete paperwork to accompany freight consignments. Five of the most important documents are listed here:

  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)

You may be required to supply additional paperwork with your shipping, such as permits, licenses, and certificates. Your freight forwarder will be able to advise you about what you need. If you want to see samples of the paperwork listed above, you can do so on this documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Usually, if your goods weigh over 100kg, ocean shipping will be the most economical means of moving your goods from the UAE to the United Kingdom. If you choose to ship using this method, you will have two options: FCL or LCL.

While FCL and LCL sea freight services both involve transporting goods from one port to another inside a shipping container, there are key differences between the two forms of shipment. The option you choose will often depend on the nature of your goods, their weight, and volume.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Most businesses choose Less Than Container Load (LCL) ocean shipping if:

  • They are moving a small quantity of goods, usually less than 14 CBM (about six standard pallets)
  • Their goods aren’t urgently required in the United Kingdom
  • They don’t want the hassle of choosing the right type of container
  • They’re happy for their goods to be transported alongside other products in a shared container
  • Sending goods with an air-freight carrier isn’t feasible

Many businesses choose not to ship by LCL when:

  • They are sending fragile, perishable, or high-value freight
  • Their consignment might suffer if frequently handled
  • There is no room for delay in their timings
  • The goods they’re sending are large and/or heavy

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Businesses often choose to ship a Full Container Load (FCL) if:

  • They want their ocean freight to arrive in the United Kingdom on a specific date
  • They’re shipping over 14 CBM (equating to about half the load capacity of a 20ft container)
  • Their freight is fragile, delicate, or very heavy
  • They want their goods sealed in a container at source, and for the container to remain sealed until received by the consignee

Air Freight

Many businesses find that air shipping is a good option when:

  • They need to ship cargo that will benefit from a short transit time
  • Their consignment is urgently required in the UK
  • They want the peace of mind provided by the high levels of airport and airline security
  • They’re shipping a small or light consignment, taking up just three or four pallets
  • The supplier and recipient are located within easy reach of an international airport

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in the UAE

Although there are several ocean-freight facilities in the UAE from which commercial freight can be shipped, many ocean carriers concentrate on routing goods to the UK from the following ports.

Khor Fakkan

Port Facts:

  • Lies on the coast of the Indian Ocean
  • Only three hours from Dubai and Abu Dhabi
  • Renowned for its fast and efficient container-handling
  • Features six quays and 20 gantry cranes
  • 450,00 square meters of storage space

Owned By: Sharjah Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.


Jebel Ali

Port Facts:

  • The largest container port in the Middle East
  • Rated the best port in the region for the last 25 years
  • Ranked the tenth-busiest container port in the world
  • Four container terminals offer the latest cool and cold storage facilities
  • Shipments to Felixstowe can be completed in around 35 days and to London Gateway and Grangemouth in 38 days

Owned By: DP World.

Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs.


Khalifa Port

Port Facts:

  • Handles all of Abu Dhabi’s container traffic
  • First semi-automated port in the region
  • Serves over 25 shipping lanes
  • Directly connected to over 70 international destinations
  • Strategically located halfway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Owned By: Abu Dhabi Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs.


Cargo Ports of Arrival in the United Kingdom


Port Facts:

  • Situated on the South Coast of England, less than 160km from the European mainland
  • Strong links to the UK road network including the M3 and M27 motorways
  • Just 8km from Southampton Airport
  • 15.5m draft vessels—the biggest currently in use— can access the port
  • Container terminal features specialist facilities for handling fruit and vegetables

Owned By: Associated British Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >1.9 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the River Tees on England’s northeast coast
  • The third-largest port in the UK
  • In the wake of Brexit, the owners are seeking Freeport status by the end of 2020
  • Situated 2 kilometers inland with easy access to Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, and other towns and cities in the area

Owned By: PD Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Handles almost 50% of the UK’s containerized goods traffic
  • Ranked the seventh-busiest port in Europe
  • Over 3,000 ships use the port each year
  • Among the world’s top-50 busiest container gateways
  • Offers shipping services to and from 700 global ports
  • Imports can easily be distributed to London, Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich, and Colchester

Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings.

Annual Container Volume: >3.8 million TEUs.


London Gateway

Port Facts:

  • Located on the northern bank of the River Thames
  • The UK’s fastest-growing sea freight hub
  • An ultra-modern, technologically-advanced port close to London
  • Features the UK’s largest port rail terminal
  • Quick distribution of goods following discharge with truck turnaround times of under 40 minutes
  • Shipments from Jebel Ali can be completed in 38 days by FCL

Owned By: DP World.

Annual Container Volume: >1.3 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Northern Ireland’s main port for handling containerized goods
  • Six container cranes available to load and unload vessels
  • 24.6 million tonnes handled in 2018
  • In 2019, container traffic surpassed 130,000 TEUs for the first time since 2008
  • Beneficiary of an ongoing £250 million investment program

Owned By: Belfast Harbor Commissioners.

Annual Container Volume: >130,000 TEUs.


Additionally, Shipa Freight can arrange for your commercial goods to be sent as ocean freight from the UAE to Grangemouth in Scotland.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in the UAE

Dubai International

Airport Facts:

  • The sixth-busiest cargo airport in the world
  • The United Arab Emirates’ major air cargo gateway
  • Its freight terminal is known as Dubai Airport Cargo Village
  • Annual cargo throughput of 2.5 million tonnes
  • Located in a free trade zone which helps reduce customs and administrative delays
  • Shipments to London Heathrow can be completed in as little as one day, but more usually three to eight days

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, London Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh.

Dubai to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo.


Dubai Al Maktoum

Airport Facts:

  • Located 70 kilometers south of Dubai International Airport
  • The newer of Dubai’s two international airports, having opened in 2010.
  • Handled over 200,000 tonnes of cargo in 2018
  • The total cost of the airport is estimated at $82 billion

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow

Dubai to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo


Abu Dhabi

Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest cargo airport in the United Arab Emirates
  • Annual cargo throughput of nearly one million tonnes
  • Direct flights to several UK airports
  • Etihad Cargo announced plans for a major extension of its cargo hub in 2019

United Kingdom Airports Served: Birmingham, London Heathrow, Manchester.

Abu Dhabi to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Five cargo terminals
  • Cargo apron able to accommodate 13 aircraft
  • Specialist facilities include temperature-controlled freight storage area
  • Total storage space of 32,000 square meters
  • Singapore Airlines flies direct to London Heathrow from Sharjah

United Kingdom Airports Served: London Heathrow.

Sharjah to the United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Singapore Airlines.


Airports of Arrival in the United Kingdom

London Heathrow

Airport Facts:

  • One of the busiest airports in the world
  • The UK’s premier air freight hub, situated to the west of London
  • Strong road and railroad links into London and around England
  • Over 115,000 tonnes of air freight passed through the airport in January 2020
  • Addition of a third runway still in the consultation stage

Connected Airports in the UAE: Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai,.

UAE to London-Heathrow Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Singapore Airlines Cargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo, .



Airport Facts:

  • Located just 13 kilometers from Birmingham city center in the Midlands area of England
  • Direct road and railroad connections to London and many other UK destinations
  • Annual cargo throughput exceeds 8,000 tonnes
  • The single runway was extended in 2014 to allow larger aircraft to use the facility
  • Emirates Airways flies direct from Dubai International

Connected Airports in the UAE: Abu Dhabi, Dubai.

UAE to Birmingham Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo.



Airport Facts:

  • The UK’s eighth-busiest airport
  • Scotland’s second-busiest airport
  • Located 16 kilometers west of Glasgow city center
  • Direct flights from Dubai International in the UAE
  • Handles 13,000 tonnes of air freight every year

Connected Airports in the UAE: Dubai.

UAE to Glasgow Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 11 km southwest of Manchester city center
  • Facilities include two runways and one cargo terminal
  • Handles 117,000 tonnes of air freight annually
  • Home to the largest concentration of freight forwarders in the UK outside of London
  • Around 100 logistics companies are based at the airport
  • World Freight Terminal is located adjacent to the apron

Connected Airports in UAE: Abu Dhabi, Dubai.

UAE to Manchester Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo.


Shipa Freight can also arrange for air freight from the UAE to be received at London Gatwick and London Luton airports.

Why Ship From the UAE to the United Kingdom With Shipa Freight?

As a digital-only freight forwarder, Shipa Freight makes importing from the UAE to the United Kingdom easier for businesses of all sizes. Our advanced online platform combined with our experience of managing air and ocean freight deliveries makes us an ideal partner for all your international shipping needs.

With Shipa Freight, you can reduce shipping issues and simplify your supply chain. Your business no longer has to engage multiple agencies to move freight from the UAE to the United Kingdom. We can coordinate all of the logistics, giving you more time to concentrate on getting that next big international order for your business.

Shipa Freight will bring the following benefits to your international shipping operations:

  • Quick access to online quotes.
  • Easy to register your details.
  • Simple bookings and payments via our platform.
  • We provide the essential information about the paperwork your shipping will require.
  • We simplify the complex world of customs and handle much of the time-consuming admin.
  • Our friendly customer service team is available 24/7 via email, telephone, or online chat.
  • Our expertise and attention to detail will ensure your shipments from the UAE to the UK comply with international legislation and regulations.

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