Ocean & Air Freight Shipping From the UK to Australia [Updated: Feb 2022]
FCL, LCL and Air freight forwarding: information and online quote
Exports from the United Kingdom to Australia were valued at close to $5.9 billion in 2018. With the British Government keen to agree on a free trade agreement with Australia in the next few years, the shipping of commercial goods between the two nations is likely to increase significantly. That’s good news for enterprises already importing from the United Kingdom to Australia or looking to do so for the first time.
This page contains information that all businesses seeking to export from the United Kingdom to Australia will find useful. It includes details and guidance about ocean and air shipping, profiles of key ports and airports in both countries, and insights into customs clearance procedures and shipping documentation.
Commercial goods can only be transported from the UK to Australia by sea or air. Each mode of shipping has advantages and disadvantages that we’ll outline on this page.
Ocean Freight From the United Kingdom to Australia
Less than Container Load (LCL): If you don’t need an entire container for your goods, LCL shipping enables your freight to be transported in a shipping container from the United Kingdom to Australia alongside other shippers’ goods. It’s usually the least expensive option for smaller consignments but is often slower than FCL.
Full Container Load (FCL): This type of shipping involves paying for the exclusive use and transportation of a shipping container from the United Kingdom to Australia. The container will be occupied by your cargo alone and you don’t have to fill the entire space. FCL is often financially worthwhile for larger, heavier freight thanks to the flat-fee pricing structure.
Air Freight From the United Kingdom to Australia
Air freight is the best choice for moving your commercial goods if you need them to reach Australia as soon as possible. However, air freight is also far more expensive than ocean shipping.
Various criteria must be considered when calculating the cost of shipping goods for export from the United Kingdom to Australia. A freight forwarder will issue a quote based on the following:
- Type of freight
- The chosen mode of transportation (FCL, LCL, Air)
- Dimensions of the consignment
- Weight of the cargo
- Distance between the point of origin and destination
- Type of delivery service required (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Port)
The cost of shipping is directly impacted by the weight of your goods. If 100 kg or more of goods needs shipping, ocean freight is likely to be the most cost-effective mode of transportation. For loads weighing less than 100 kg, there’s usually little difference in price between air and ocean shipping. Shippers usually choose air freight as it’s quicker.
Shipa Freight and most other freight forwarders will decline shipments with a weight of 35 kg and under. International courier companies will typically be pleased to handle these small shipments, and can do so cost effectively.
If your freight is urgently required in Australia, air freight is the quickest way to transport it from the UK. An air-cargo carrier can get your merchandise to the other side of the world in two to eight days. Compare that with ocean shipping, which typically takes between 35 and 51 days, and you can see why businesses needing a fast supply chain choose to fly their freight.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the UK to Australia?
Shipping by ocean from the UK to Australia is a long process as the following transit-time examples show:
- Felixstowe to Adelaide – 51 days FCL
- Southampton to Brisbane – 51 days FCL
- Southampton to Fremantle – 35 days FCL
- Southampton to Melbourne – 42 days FCL
- Southampton to Sydney – 45 days FCL
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the UK to Australia?
The following examples highlight the length of time you should allow for transporting goods for import from the United
Kingdom to Australia when sending them by air:
- Birmingham or London to Melbourne – 8 days
- Birmingham to Sydney – 5 days
- Glasgow or London to Perth – 3 days
- London to Brisbane – 5 days
- London to Sydney – 4 days
- Manchester to Perth – 4 days
Customs formalities are an essential element of ocean and air shipping from the United Kingdom to Australia. Many enterprises hire a freight forwarder to manage the complexities of the process. A forwarder’s expertise ensures that your goods comply with UK and Australian customs regulations and international shipping laws. The forwarder will also ensure your documentation is correctly completed to reduce the chances of unnecessary delays for your consignment.
To export from the United Kingdom to Australia—even when partnering with a forwarder—you will need to supply customs authorities with essential paperwork, which is likely to include:
- Commercial Invoice
- Packing List
- Certificate of Origin
- Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
- An Airway Bill for air shipments or a Bill of Lading for ocean cargo (this will be provided by the carrier or freight forwarder)
You might be required to submit additional documents with your consignment, such as a license, permit, or certificate. Your forwarder will help you identify the exact needs for your shipment.
If you want to get ahead of the game and take a look at the shipping documents listed above before you ship, this documents list contains examples of each.
Your cargo is likely to be transported from port to port in a standard 20ft or 40ft shipping container aboard a cargo vessel. Freight forwarders and ocean carriers offer options for sea freight requiring a special container.
For example, refrigerated containers are available for goods that need to be kept cool or frozen throughout the shipping process. Goods that are awkwardly shaped or too big to fit into a standard unit can be shipped in extra-high containers, or as break-bulk in a special area of the vessel.
If your goods are to ship in a container, you’ll need to decide between LCL and FCL ocean shipping. Your forwarder can help you choose the right option. The information below will also help you come to a decision:
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
- Less-than-container-load (LCL) shipping is right for you if:
- Your goods don’t need to be in Australia urgently
- Your consignment is small—occupying no more than six standard pallets
- You’re happy for your goods to share a container with other shippers’ merchandise
- You can’t entertain the idea of air shipping, due to budget, safety, size, or other reasons
LCL shipping is unlikely to meet the needs of your supply chain if:
- You need total certainty about the delivery date
- You want to ship delicate or perishable goods (LCL entails more moving and handling of goods than other modes of shipping)
- Your freight is awkwardly shaped, very large, or heavy
- Your cargo isn’t suited to share a container with other products
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
Full-container-load (FCL) shipping is probably your best option if:
- You want your shipping container to remain sealed until it’s in the hands of the recipient
- You need a more definite delivery date than LCL shipping can offer
- Your freight is delicate or heavy
- Your consignment is large enough to occupy more than half of the load capacity of a 20ft container
Air shipping is likely to meet your needs if:
- Your consignment is small—no more than three pallets’ worth
- The recipient wants the goods in Australia as quickly as possible
- You want to pay less insurance than you would with ocean shipping
- Your cargo is high value, requiring the extra security offered by airlines and airport operators
- You’re shipping food, plants, flowers, or other perishables that won’t survive weeks at sea
Cargo Ports of Origin in the United Kingdom
- The UK’s fastest-growing ocean port
- Located in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex
- Home to the most technologically advanced container terminal in the country
- Able to handle the world’s biggest container vessels
- Boasts the UK’s largest port rail terminal
Owned By: DP World. Annual Container Volume: >2 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBLGP.
- Ranks as the third-biggest port in the United Kingdom
- Ideal port of discharge for any supplier based on the Northeast coast of England
- Occupies a 200-hectare site and is home to two container terminals
- Among the top-ten busiest containerized goods ports in Western Europe
Owned By: PD Ports. Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBTEE.
- The largest port in the United Kingdom
- Ranks as the seventh-busiest port in Europe
- Its two container terminals are called Landguard and Trinity
- Almost half of the UK’s containerized goods traffic is processed here
Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings. Annual Container Volume: >3.8 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBFXT.
- Located in The Solent, 16 kilometers inland from the English Channel
- Strong road and rail links connect the port to cities across Southern England
- Can handle loading and unloading of four container vessels at once
- Infrastructure includes a specialized fruit and vegetable terminal and temperature-controlled storage facilities
Owned By: Associated British Ports. Annual Container Volume: >1.9 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBSOU.
- Scotland’s biggest commercial port
- Located between Edinburgh and Glasgow
- Serves towns and cities in the north of the UK
- The container terminal holds 12,000 containers simultaneously
- The majority of Scotland’s most populous areas are within an hour’s drive of the freight hub
Owned By: Forth Ports. Annual Container Volume: >250,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBGRG.
- Northern Ireland’s leading maritime logistics gateway
- Approximately 70% of Northern Ireland’s sea trade is handled here every year
- Turnover fell slightly in 2019 to $88.4m
- Just under 25 million tonnes of freight was handled here in 2019
- 542,000 freight vehicles passed through the port’s terminals in 2019
Owned By: Belfast Harbor Commissioners. Annual Container Volume: >125,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: GBBEL.
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Australia
- Situated 14 kilometers outside of Adelaide City Center
- Infrastructure includes a 510-meter quay and 23-hectare cargo terminal
- There are 3,000 square meters of warehouse space across the port
Owned By: Flinders Ports Ltd. Annual Container Volume: >322,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUADL.
- Australia’s largest containerized goods port
- Situated at the mouth of the Yarra River
- Among the Southern Hemisphere’s top-four container ports
- Accommodates the world’s biggest container vessels
Owned By: The Lonsdale Consortium. Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUMEL.
- Australia’s fastest-growing seaport
- Situated on Fisherman Island in the Brisbane River
- Third-busiest port in the country
- 29 berths available for incoming vessels
- Ideal port of entry for cargo destined for locations in Queensland
Owned By: Port of Brisbane Corporation. Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUBNE.
Officially called Port Botany Occupies a 40-hectare site Over 33% of Australia’s annual container traffic is processed here New South Wales’s largest shipping gateway
Owned By: Sydney Ports Corporation. Annual Container Volume: >2.6 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUSTD.
- Located at the mouth of the Swan River
- Ideal port of arrival for goods required at Western Australian destinations
- Situated in the Perth Metropolitan Region
- The largest seaport in the state
- About 1,000 container vessels visit the port every year
Owned By: Fremantle Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >780,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUFRE.
Airports of Origin in the United Kingdom
- Located 16 kilometers west of Glasgow City Center
- Formerly known as Abbotsinch Airport
- Scotland’s second-busiest airport (after Edinburgh)
- The UK’s eighth-busiest airport
- No direct flights to Australia
Australia Airports Served: None. Australia to Glasgow Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: GLA.
- Located in the Midlands region of England
- Over 8,000 tonnes of cargo is handled here every year
- Freight will be flown to Australia via indirect services
- An excellent choice if your supply chain moves goods from Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, and other central regions of the UK
Australia Airports Served: None. Australia to Birmingham Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BHX.
- Located 11 kilometers outside of Manchester’s city center
- A $1 billion airport expansion program is currently underway and is due to be completed in 2024
- Manchester Airport has two runways
- No direct flights to Australia
Australia Airports Served: None. Australia to Manchester Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MAN.
- The seventh-busiest airport in the world
- Located to the west of London
- Offers modern and extensive freight facilities
- Currently has two runways, with a third the subject of a controversial planning application
- Qantas offers direct 16hr flights to Perth in Western Australia
Australia Airports Served: Perth Australia to London-Heathrow Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: LHR.
Airports of Arrival in Australia
- Australia’s fourth-busiest airport
- Situated just outside of central Perth
- Its two runways allow wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A380 to use the airport
- Qantas offers direct passenger flights from London Heathrow
Connected Airports in the United Kingdom: London Heathrow. United Kingdom to Perth Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: PER.
Located eight kilometers outside of the city of Sydney Close to half of all Australia’s air cargo is processed here Infrastructure includes seven terminals and three runways
Connected Airports in the United Kingdom: None. United Kingdom to Sydney Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: SYD.
- Australia’s third-biggest air cargo handling facility
- 13% of Australia’s air cargo imports and exports are handled here
- Annual cargo movements exceed 190,000 tonnes
- No direct flights from the UK
Connected Airports in the United Kingdom: None. United Kingdom to Brisbane Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: BNE.
- A third of Australia’s air freight is handled here
- Ranks as the country’s second-busiest airport behind Sydney
- Located 23 kilometers outside of Melbourne’s city center
- Officially named Tullamarine Airport
Connected Airports in the United Kingdom: None. United Kingdom to Melbourne Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MEL.
- The fifth-busiest airport in Australia
- Situated six kilometers outside of the city of Adelaide
- Can handle wide-body cargo and passenger aircraft
- No direct flights from the United Kingdom
Connected Airports in the United Kingdom: None. United Kingdom to Adelaide Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: ADL.
Shipa Freight’s digitally-driven online platform simplifies and speeds-up supply chains. Whether your business is large or small, experienced at importing from the United Kingdom to Australia or not, we will get your freight to Australia cost-effectively.
The benefits we bring to international shipping include:
- Instant online quotes.
- Easy bookings and payments by card or wire transfer
- A one-stop-shop for the entire shipping process
- Guidance to help manage the complexities posed by shipping-related paperwork
- Comprehensive customs clearance services
- Access to a friendly customer service team, available 24/7
- Assurance that your freight will comply with shipping rules and regulations
Building an understanding of the language of shipping can help you communicate more effectively with shipping experts. That’s why we’re defining some of the confusing jargon in common usage. You’ll find two industry-specific terms below, and there are more on our other country-to-country pages.
- Know Your Options for Shipping From the United Kingdom to Australia
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the UK to Australia?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the UK to Australia?
- Customs Clearance in the United Kingdom and Australia
- Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
- Ocean Cargo Port Guide
- Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
- Why Ship From the United Kingdom to Australia With Shipa Freight?
- Know Your Shipping Terminology
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