Ocean and Air Shipping from the US to Germany [Updated: Jul 2021]
FCL, LCL and Air shipping comprehensive guide and instant online quote
Trade between the United States and Germany totaled close to $250 billion in 2018. And it grew by nearly 3% in the first ten months of 2019. Whether your business is already importing from the US to Germany or is looking to do so for the first time, this page is for you. It’s a rich resource of information and guidance that will help you decide the best way to ship commercial goods between the two nations.
Businesses can choose between ocean and air shipping from the US to Germany. There are pros and cons to both forms of shipping which we’ll outline below.
Ocean Freight From the US to Germany
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Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL can often be the most economical way of shipping goods for import from the US to Germany. It involves transporting goods in a consolidated load, in which your consignment is combined in a shipping container with those of other shippers.
Full Container Load (FCL): Often quicker than LCL and sometimes cheaper, FCL is a mode of shipping in which businesses rent an entire container exclusively for their goods.
Air Freight from the US to Germany
For the quickest shipping of freight from the US to Germany, nothing beats air shipping. But it can be a lot more expensive than ocean shipping.
Calculating the price of an import or export from the US to Germany requires a freight forwarder to take into account the following:
- The type of cargo you are shipping
- Whether you want to ship by Air or Ocean (FCL or LCL)
- The weight of your consignment
- The size and volume of your freight
- How far the goods need to travel between origin and destination
- Whether you want a port-to-port, port-to-door, door-to-port, or door-to-door service
Cost-wise, there’s usually very little difference between air freight and ocean freight when you’re shipping consignments weighing under 100kg. Goods over 100kg are usually more economical to send as ocean freight.
It’s worth knowing that, like most freight forwarders, Shipa Freight, doesn’t provide quotes for consignments weighing 35 kg or less.
There’s a big difference between the time taken to ship by air and ocean. Air shipping is by far the fastest. It’s possible to ship air freight from the US to Germany in just two days.
Moving a shipping container from the US to Germany aboard a cargo vessel takes much longer. You should allow between two and four weeks for trans-Atlantic ocean shipping to be completed.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the US to Germany?
Here are some sample timings for transporting a container from the US to Germany aboard a cargo vessel:
- Baltimore to Hamburg – 15 days FCL
- Charleston to Hamburg – 23 days LCL
- New York to Hamburg – 14 days FCL
- How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the US to Germany?
- Typically, importing from the US to Germany using an air freight carrier involves the following approximate transit times:
- Atlanta or San Francisco to Frankfurt – 6 days
- Denver or Los Angeles to Frankfurt – 8 days
- New York to Frankfurt – 5 days
- Chicago to Hamburg – 5 days
Every shipment from the US to Germany will be subject to customs formalities. The complexity of the rules and regulations can be off-putting for businesses. That’s why many choose to engage a freight forwarder for the task. Doing so minimizes the risk of delay and ensures your consignment complies with local and international shipping laws.
That’s not to say there’s no work for you to do! You will be required to provide certain documents that must accompany your shipping. Usually, customs officials in both the United States and Germany will need to see the following:
- 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 (your freight forwarder will provide this for you)
Your freight forwarder will let you know if you need to submit further documentation such as a permit, certificate or license. You’ll find more details of the paperwork listed above, along with some visual examples, on this document list page.
Shipping from the United States to Germany will travel across the Atlantic and arrive at one of Germany’s two major ports on its north coast—Hamburg and Bremen.
Your goods will usually be shipped inside a 20ft or 40ft standard container. If your consignment requires a specialist container, your freight forwarder will let you know.
There are two ways to ship containers from the US to Germany: LCL and FCL. Both options can accommodate your door-to-door, port-to-port, port-to-door, or door-to-port delivery needs. The weight and volume of your goods might well be the deciding factor in choosing between FCL and LCL.
Learn more about Ocean Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping
Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipping could be best for you if:
- You’re shipping 14 CBM of cargo or less (this equals about six standard pallets).
- There’s no requirement for your freight to be in Germany urgently.
- You don’t want the hassle of choosing a container size for your cargo.
- Your consignment is suitable for shipping in a shared container.
- Sending your goods as air freight is not something you’re able to consider.
LCL shipping from the US to Germany can sometimes take longer than FCL and always takes longer than air shipping. That’s because as your goods share container space, they need to be consolidated with other products in the port of origin in the US. They will also need to be deconsolidated upon arrival in Germany.
LCL might not be the right choice if:
- You’re shipping perishables, delicates, or goods of high-value.
- You don’t want your goods moved or handled more than necessary.
- Your delivery date isn’t flexible, so you can’t accept delays.
- Your goods are big and/or heavy.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping
Usually, Full Container Load (FCL) shipping is the best option if:
- Your goods simply have to be in Germany by a certain date.
- You want to seal your container at source and for it to stay sealed throughout shipping
- Your shipment is more than 14 CBM (which is about half of the capacity of a 20ft container).
- The goods you’re shipping are heavy or delicate.
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
- Generally speaking, air shipping is the best option for:
- Goods with a short shelf-life.
- Cargo that’s required in Germany urgently.
- High-value goods that require the elevated levels of airline and airport security.
- Smaller, lighter consignments that won’t take up more than three or four pallets.
- Shipments in which the supplier and consignee are both nearer to airports than seaports.
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Cargo Ports of Origin in the US
- Officially named the Port of New York and New Jersey.
- The largest ocean freight terminal on the US East Coast.
- The third-busiest port in the US and one of the world’s top-20 busiest container ports.
- Shipments to Hamburg can be completed in 14 days.
Owned By: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Annual Container Volume: >3.2 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USNYC.
- The ninth-busiest port in the US.
- Surpassed the one million TEUs mark for the fifth year in a row in 2019.
- Closest port in the United States to the Panama Canal.
- Located at the intersection of international north-south and east-west shipping lanes.
- Easy access by road and railroad for suppliers and manufacturers based in Southeastern US.
- LCL shipping to Bremen can be completed in 28 days.
Owned By: Multiple owners. Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USMIA.
- Situated in San Pedro Bay, close to the Port of Long Beach.
- Rated the US number one container port every year since 2000.
- The port stretches along 70km of California coastline.
- Features eight container terminals and 80 cranes.
Owned By: City of Los Angeles. Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USLAX.
- Located in South Carolina.
- Facilities cover Charleston, North Charleston, and Mount Pleasant.
- The Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant is used for container cargo.
- A ten-year project to deepen the harbor began in 2018 to allow the port to accommodate the biggest container vessels.
Owned By: South Carolina Ports Authority. Annual Container Volume: 2.2 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USCHS.
- Situated on the banks of the Patapsco River in Maryland.
- Rated the fastest-growing port in the US every year since 2014.
- Set a monthly cargo throughput record in July 2019 by handling 98,500 TEUs.
- FCL shipping to Hamburg can be completed in 15 days.
Owned By: Maryland Port Administration. Annual Container Volume: >700,000 TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USBAL.
Other Ports of Origin in the United States
Shipa Freight can also coordinate ocean shipping from the US to Germany via the following export gateways:
- New Orleans
- San Francisco
- Long Beach
- Port Everglades
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Germany
- Twinned with the port of Bremen.
- Rated the 16th-biggest container port in the world.
- The fourth-busiest European sea port.
- Facilities include four container terminals
- LCL shipping from Miami can be completed in 28 days.
Owned By: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Annual Container Volume: >5.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: DEBRV.
- Germany’s biggest port and Europe’s third-largest.
- Rated among the world’s top-20 busiest ports for containerized goods throughput.
- Located on the River Elbe 110km from the North Sea.
- One of Europe’s top logistics hubs.
- The port’s railway handled 62,000 freight trains in 2019.
- FCL shipping to New York can be completed in 14 days, and to Baltimore in 15 days.
Owned By: Hamburg Port Authority. Annual Container Volume: >8.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: DEHAM.
Airports of Origin in the US
- Third-largest air freight hub in the United States.
- Situated 23km northwest of the Loop Business District.
- Processes around two million tonnes of cargo annually.
- Aprons have space for 15 wide-body freighters to be loaded simultaneously.
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Munich. Chicago to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: AirBridge Cargo, Air China Cargo. IATA CODE: ORD.
New York JFK
- Offers some of the fastest air freight shipping from the US to Germany.
- Located in the Queens area of New York.
- The Ark, a new domestic and wild animal facility, is under construction at the airport.
- Shipping to Frankfurt can be completed in as little as two days.
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Berlin-Tegel, Munich. New York to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: DHL Aviation, Lufthansa Cargo. IATA CODE: JFK
- Located just under 10km south of downtown Atlanta.
- Ideal airport of origin if your supply chain requires the movement of goods through Georgia.
- Extensive specialist storage facilities for perishable goods.
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich. Atlanta to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: Aerologic, Lufthansa Cargo. IATA CODE: ATL
- Largest airport in North America by land area (135 square kilometers).
- Non-stop services to 215 destinations worldwide.
- Cargo throughput exceeds 235,000 tonnes per year.
- 24-hour cargo operations.
- Shipments to Frankfurt can complete in 7 to 8 days.
Germany Airports Served: Frankfurt, Munich. Denver to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo. IATA CODE: DEN.
- 7 kilometers from downtown Philadelphia.
- Close to Interstate 95 which runs from Maine to Florida.
- Ideal airport of origin for supply chains requiring the movement of goods in Eastern US.
- Over half of the population of the US lives within a day’s drive of the airport.
Germany Airports Served: Berlin-Tegel, Frankfurt. Philadelphia to Germany Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA CODE: PHL.
Other Airports of Origin in the United States
Shipa Freight can also arrange to fly your goods to Germany from the following US airports:
Los Angeles Seattle Miami Dallas/Fort Worth Charlotte Boston Houston Cleveland Sacramento Cincinnati Detroit San Diego San Francisco El Paso
Airports of Arrival in Germany
- Just 7 kilometers from Dusseldorf city center.
- Germany’s third-biggest air cargo facility.
- Facilities include three terminals.
- Accommodates wide-body aircraft.
Connected Airports in the US: Atlanta, Miami. US to Dusseldorf Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: DUS.
- Europe’s biggest multimodal freight-handling facility.
- Two million tonnes of goods processed annually.
- Shipments from New York can be completed in just two days.
- Shipments from Los Angeles can be completed in eight days.
Connected Airports in the US: Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Philadelphia. US to Frankfurt Cargo-Only Operators: AirBridge Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo. IATA Code: FRA.
- Germany’s fourth-biggest cargo airport.
- Located 8km Northwest of Central Berlin.
- Ideal if the destination for your goods is Berlin, Potsdam, Oranienburg, or elsewhere in Northern and Eastern Germany.
Connected Airports in the US: Philadelphia, New York. US to Berlin Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: TXL.
- 84,000 square meter cargo terminal serves Southern Germany.
- More than a third of Germany’s air freight is handled here.
- Over 300 long haul flights connect the airport to major trade centers worldwide.
- Annual freight volume totals nearly 400,000 tonnes.
- Connected Airports in the US: Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston. US to Munich Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: MUC.
- Situated 8km north of Hamburg—Germany’s second-largest city.
- Known in Germany as Flughafen Hamburg.
- Shipping from Chicago can be completed in five days.
- No direct flights operate from the United States, so indirect services will be used.
Connected Airports in the US: None. US to Hamburg Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: HAM.
Shipa Freight can also arrange for your goods to be flown from the US to airports in Nuremberg, Leipzig, or Stuttgart.
For an easier way to ship freight from the US to Germany, choose Shipa Freight. Our online platform simplifies international shipping for everyone. Whether you’re sending air freight or ocean shipping, we’re a freight forwarder with the skill, knowledge, and experience to help.
Our sophisticated online portal lets you manage all your shipments in one place, so your supply chain is simplified. And you don’t have to use multiple agencies as we will be your one-stop shop.
The benefits of shipping with Shipa Freight include:
Get quotes and compare them fast. Book shipping directly online. Always know the paperwork that needs to accompany your shipping. We take management of customs complexities off your hands. All your imports and exports can be managed on our platform. Our team of customer advisors is available 24/7. Compliance with international shipping regulations is assured with every consignment.
- What Are Your Options for Freight From the US to Germany?
- How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the US to Germany?
- How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the US to Germany?
- Customs Clearance in the US and Germany
- Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?
- Ocean Cargo Port Guide
- Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide
- Why Ship From the US to Germany With Shipa Freight?
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