Ocean and Air Shipping from the US to Australia [Updated: Aug 2021]
FCL, LCL and Air shipping comprehensive guide and instant online quote
The United States is Australia’s biggest economic partner. Trade deals between the two countries are formalized in the Australia and United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) which was signed in 2005. Since then, importing from the US to Australia has grown by 91%.
If your business has established trade links between the nations, or if you’re looking to export from the US to Australia for the first time, this page will be of interest. Its varied content includes information about ocean and air shipping from the US to Australia, as well as guidance on customs clearance and shipping transit times. You will also find profiles of key airports and seaports in both countries.
Know Your Options for Shipping Freight From the US to Australia
Air and ocean shipping are the only ways to ship freight from the US to Australia. Each mode of transportation has benefits and drawbacks that we’ll outline below.
Ocean Freight From the US to Australia
Less than Container Load (LCL): Goods from multiple shippers share the same container with LCL shipping. It’s typically the most cost-effective way to ship smaller, non-urgent consignments from the US to Australia.
Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping allows shippers to rent and fill an entire container and pay for it to be shipped aboard a cargo vessel from the US to Australia. With exclusive use of a container, businesses can decide to wholly or partially fill it. FCL is usually less expensive than LCL for shipping larger consignments.
Air Freight from the US to Australia
The fastest way to import from the US to Australia is with an air freight carrier. Consignments can be transported in as little as two days, although five to eight days is more realistic. It is, however, the most expensive way to ship freight.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the US to Australia?
Plenty of factors come into play when calculating the cost of shipping freight from the US to Australia. These include:
- The type of freight being shipped
- The cargo’s size, weight and volume
- The mode of shipping that’s been selected: LCL or FCL ocean shipping, or air freight?
- The distance the consignment needs to be transported
- The preferred method of delivery: door-to-door, port-to-door, port-to-port, or door-to-port?
The cost of ocean and air cargo is heavily influenced by the weight of the consignment.
Normally, there won’t be much difference between the cost of ocean or air shipping for freight that weighs under 100 kg. However, freight forwarders will not quote for cargo weighing under 35 kg. You should engage international couriers to get a quote for loads in this weight bracket.
For goods that weigh 100 kg and over, ocean shipping will almost certainly offer the most cost-effective option. Air freight is expensive for heavy cargo.
How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the US to Australia?
The US and Australia are both vast nations. Shippers have plenty of airports and seaports to choose from as their port of origin and destination.
Shipment times will depend on the mode of transport you select. Air freight is easily the fastest. Aircraft travel at an average speed of 900 kilometers per hour, compared to a cargo vessel’s much slower 35 km/h. Air cargo typically takes two to eight days to reach Australia from the United States. A time span of 33 to 65 days is more realistic for shipping a container from the US to Australia by sea.
Distance also has a bearing on the time required for shipments from the US to reach Australia. Being such big nations, the distances between the port of arrival and port of origin varies greatly. For example, it’s 12,066 km from Los Angeles to Sydney, while New York to Perth is 18,690 km.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the US to Australia?
Below is a selection of ocean transportation times that give you an idea of how long it takes to move a shipping container from the US to Australia:
- Baltimore to Brisbane – 44 days FCL
- Chicago to Brisbane – 44 days LCL
- Chicago to Fremantle – 52 days LCL
- Chicago Sydney – 41 days LCL
- Charleston to Adelaide – 47 days FCL
- Houston to Brisbane – 44 days FCL
- Houston to Fremantle – 38 days FCL, 54 days LCL
- Houston to Melbourne – 40 days LCL
- Los Angeles to Adelaide – 34 days LCL
- Los Angeles to Brisbane – 39 days FCL, 39 days LCL
- Los Angeles to Melbourne – 44 days FCL, 31 days LCL
- Los Angeles to Sydney – 44 days LCL
- Long Beach to Brisbane – 38 days FCL
- Long Beach to Sydney – 36 days FCL
- Miami to Adelaide – 57 days FCL, 47 days LCL
- Miami to Fremantle – 65 days FCL
- Miami to Melbourne – 41 days LCL
- Miami to Sydney – 38 days LCL
- New York to Fremantle – 59 days LCL
- New York to Melbourne – 45 days LCL
- New York to Sydney – 45 days FCL, 44 days LCL
- Oakland to Fremantle – 35 days FCL
- Seattle to Brisbane – 38 days LCL
- San Francisco to Brisbane – 39 days LCL
- San Francisco to Fremantle – 52 days LCL
- San Francisco to Melbourne – 33 days LCL
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the US to Australia?
Please see the below examples of transit times for air freight from the US to Australia:
- Atlanta to Sydney or Brisbane – 5 days
- Boston or Philadelphia to Brisbane – 6 days
- Charlotte to Melbourne – 4 days
- Charlotte or Miami to Perth – 5 days
- Denver to Adelaide – 6 days
- Dallas to Perth – 3 days
- Dallas or Chicago to Sydney – 7 days
- Detroit to Adelaide or Sydney – 5 days
- Houston to Melbourne or Perth – 7 days
- New York or Los Angeles to Adelaide – 5 days
- New York to Sydney – 6 days
- Los Angeles to Melbourne – 4 days
- Los Angeles to Sydney – 5 days
- Chicago or Seattle to Brisbane – 5 days
- San Francisco to Melbourne – 5 days
Customs Clearance in the US and Australia
Customs clearance is mandatory for every commercial freight export from the US to Australia. The process is complex. Many companies choose to engage a freight forwarder to manage it. Doing so negates the chance of unnecessary delays affecting your shipment and will ensure your consignment is compliant with shipping rules and regulations in the United States and Australia.
Your freight forwarder will still require you to play a role in the customs clearance process. For example you’ll be responsible for providing the compulsory documentation (or, in some cases, the details enabling your forwarder to provide them). Customs officials in the US and Australia will almost certainly want to see:
- A Commercial Invoice
- A Packing List
- A Certificate of Origin
- A Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
- An Airway Bill for air cargo or a Bill of Lading for ocean freight (you can leave this to Shipa Freight)
Samples of these are available on the documents list page we’ve compiled, so you can take a closer look if you wish. You may need to submit additional paperwork with your consignment. A permit, certificate, or license may be required. It’s all dependent on the type of goods you are shipping.
Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
No matter where you’re shipping from in the United States, sending sea freight to a port in Australia is a long haul. Most consignments safely ship in a standard container that’s usually either 20ft or 40ft long. The smaller type can fit 10-11 standard pallets, the larger up to 21 pallets.
The nature of your goods may require them to be shipped in a special kind of container, perhaps one with an open-top, or refrigeration or ventilation capabilities. Your forwarder will advise you of your options. They can also help you decide between the two ocean shipping modes available to you—FCL or LCL.
To help you get ahead of the game, we’ve outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of both modes of shipping. This will help you make an informed decision about which is best for you.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
LCL shipping could be best for you if:
- Your consignment will occupy no more than six standard pallets
- Your delivery is not urgent
- Your freight can be safely shipped in a shared container
- The supplier or recipient does not have the facilities to load and seal a container
- You understand that the extra logistics associated with LCL shipping (consolidation and deconsolidation) could add extra time to your shipment when compared to FCL shipping
Your business might be advised to avoid LCL shipping if:
- Your cargo has to be in Australia by a certain date
- Your freight is delicate and may be damaged by the extra handling required with LCL shipping
- Your goods have a short shelf-life and will not survive the long ocean shipping transit time
- Your consignment is large, heavy, or otherwise unsuitable for shipping in a shared container
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
If LCL shipping doesn’t meet your needs, importing from the US to Australia using an FCL service could be what you’re looking for, especially if:
- Your cargo needs to arrive in Australia by a specified date
- You’re not happy with the idea of your goods sharing a container with other products
- The supplier and the recipient both have the facilities to load and seal a container in the US
- Your recipient can unload the container at their place of business
- Your shipment is large enough to fill at least half the capacity of a 20ft container
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
Businesses tend to choose air shipping if:
- They need their goods shipped from the US to Australia as quickly as possible
- Their freight is perishable and won’t survive weeks in transit at sea
- The consignee in Australia needs the goods urgently
- The cargo occupies three pallets at most and is safe to ship aboard an aircraft
- The goods are high-value, needing the stringent levels of security offered by airlines and airport operators
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Ocean Cargo Port Guide
Cargo Ports of Origin in the US
- Dubbed by many as the container gateway to the Americas
- Florida’s biggest port, and the ninth-largest in the United States
- Situated on Dodge Island on the Miami River
- More than 7.4 million tonnes of sea freight are processed annually
- Only 1,850 kilometers from the Panama Canal
Owned By: Miami Dade County.
Annual Container Volume: >1.1 million TEUs.
- America’s most productive port due to 37 crane movements every hour
- 13 of the world’s top-15 container carriers offer services to and from the port
- A new container terminal is planned for North Charleston
Owned By: South Carolina Ports Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >2.4 million TEUs.
- The US’s second-busiest container port (the neighboring Port of Los Angeles is the busiest)
- A huge port occupying 40 kilometers of waterfront
- Just three kilometers from downtown Long Beach
- The distance from Long Beach to Sydney is 12,055 km across the Pacific Ocean
Owned By: City of Long Beach.
Annual Container Volume: >8.1 million TEUs.
- The full name of the port is Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore
- 2019 saw a record cargo throughput of 43.6 million tonnes
- The US’s number-one port for vehicle imports and exports
Owned By: Maryland Port Administration.
Annual Container Volume: > 1 million TEUs.
- The biggest container freight facility in the Gulf of Mexico
- Processes over 70% of sea freight transported via the Gulf
- Its two container terminals are called Barbours Cut and Bayport
- Conveniently located for suppliers and manufacturers based in Galveston, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, or Dallas
Owned By: Port of Houston Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >2.9 million TEUs.
Other Ports in the US
Shipa Freight can also arrange shipping to Australia from the following ports in the United States:
- New York
- San Francisco
- Port Everglades
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Australia
- Medium-sized natural river port
- Situated 14 kilometers northwest of central Adelaide
- The port’s cargo facility occupies a 23-hectare site
- Infrastructure includes a 510-meter quay and 3,000 square meters of storage space
Owned By: Flinders Ports Pty Ltd. Annual Container Volume: >322,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AUADL.
- Located on Fisherman Island in the Brisbane River
- Australia’s fastest-growing seaport
- Third-busiest port in Australia
- Infrastructure includes nine deep-water container berths
- Convenient port of arrival for goods headed to locations in Queensland
Owned By: Port of Brisbane Corporation.
Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs.
- Located on the Swan River in the Perth Metropolitan Region
- Western Australia’s biggest and busiest port
- About 1,000 container vessels call at the port every year
Owned By: Fremantle Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >780,000 TEUs.
- Located on the Yarra River
- The fourth-busiest container port in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Australia’s largest container freight facility
- Capacity to handle the world’s largest container vessels
Owned By: The Lonsdale Consortium.
Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.
- Also known as Port Botany
- Over one-third of Australia’s annual container traffic is processed here
- Occupies a 40-hectare site
- Convenient port of arrival for goods required in New South Wales
Owned By: Sydney Ports Corporation.
Annual Container Volume: >2.6 million TEUs.
Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
Airports of Origin in the US
- Located to the northwest of Downtown Chicago
- The two main cargo-handling areas are in the south and northeast of the airfield
- Facilities include 190,000 square meters of airside cargo storage space
- Parking space for 40 wide-body freighters
- Over 18 million tonnes of air freight were processed here in 2018
Australia Airports Served: Sydney.
Chicago to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: ORD.
- Second-biggest airport in the United States—the biggest is Denver
- Operates services to 260 destinations
- Ninth-largest international gateway in the US
- Convenient airport if your supply chain moves goods from Dallas, Fort Worth, Euless, Grapevine, or Irving
Australia Airports Served: Sydney.
Dallas to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: DFW.
- Located in the Westchester neighborhood, 30 km southwest of downtown Los Angeles
- Ranks as the world’s tenth-busiest air cargo hub
- The only US airport to rank in the top five for both cargo and passenger traffic
- Most cargo is imported or exported aboard passenger aircraft
- Over two million tonnes of freight were handled here in 2019
Australia Airports Served: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne.
Los Angeles to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: FedEx Express, Qantas Freight.
IATA Code: LAX.
- Also known as MIA or Wilcox Field
- Located 13 kilometers northwest of downtown Miami
- No direct flights to Australia
- Distance from Miami to Sydney is 15,017 kilometers
- Convenient airport for any supplier or manufacturer based in Miami Springs, Hialeah, or Doral
Australia Airports Served: None.
Miami to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: MIA.
New York JFK
- Located in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens
- The airport has four runways, including the third-longest commercial runway in North America
- Cargo facilities are located to the north and west of the main terminals
- Nearly 100 cargo carriers operate services out of JFK Airport
- Qantas is testing direct flights between New York and Sydney
Australia Airports Served: None.
New York to Australia Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: JFK.
Other Airports in the US
Shipa Freight can also manage the shipment of goods to Australia by direct or indirect services from these other airports in the United States:
- San Francisco
- El Paso
- San Diego
Airports of Arrival in Australia
- Fifth-busiest air cargo facility in Australia
- Just six kilometers west of Adelaide city center
- Can handle wide-body aircraft
- Serves nine international destinations
- The majority of air freight arrives aboard passenger services
- No direct flights from the United States
Connected Airports in the US: None.
US to Adelaide Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: ADL.
- Australia’s third-largest air-cargo gateway
- Handles 13% of the nation’s air-freighted exports and imports
- About 190,000 tonnes of freight are handled here every year
- Serves 29 international airports
- Ideal airport of arrival for goods destined for South East Queensland
Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles, San Francisco.
US to Brisbane Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: BNE.
- Located 23 km outside of central Melbourne
- Officially called Tullamarine Airport
- Nearly one-third of Australia’s air freight is handled here
- Ranks as Australia’s second-busiest airport—Sydney is the busiest
- The airport has two intersecting runways, with more planned
Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles, San Francisco.
US to Melbourne Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: MEL.
- Australia’s fourth-busiest airport
- Situated ten kilometers east of central Perth
- Two runways accommodate wide-body aircraft, including the Airbus A380
- Convenient airport of arrival for freight destined for Perth, Belmont, Kalamunda, Swan, and other locations in Western Australia
Connected Airports in the US: None.
US to Perth Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA CODE: PER.
- Full name is Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport
- Situated eight kilometers south of central Sydney
- Around 45% of Australia’s air cargo is handled here
- Over 80% of air freight is transported aboard passenger services
- Infrastructure includes seven cargo terminals and three runways
Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago.
US to Sydney Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation, FedEx Express, Qantas Freight.
IATA Code: SYD.
Ocean and Air Shipping From the US to Australia: Why Shipa Freight?
Shipa Freight is making it easier for all types of businesses to import from the US to Australia. We’re taking away the hassles of international shipping and customs clearance, and giving shippers access to an innovative online platform that simplifies supply chains.
Choosing Shipa Freight when importing from the US to Australia gives your business the following benefits:
- Easy registration
- Quick quotes
- Online booking and payment
- No customs clearance hassles—we’ll handle it
- 24/7 access to a friendly customer support team
- Assurance that your consignment complies with all shipping regulations
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