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Ocean and Air Shipping from US to Saudi Arabia

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The United States and Saudi Arabia have strong trade relations. The U.S. exported goods worth $13.6 billion to Saudi Arabia in 2018, making the Arab nation the 23rd-largest export market for the United States.

Are you planning to export from the USA to Saudi Arabia? If so, this page will provide you with a range of vital information that will help your business ship freight successfully between the two countries. We cover various shipping methods, costs, transit times, customs clearance procedures, and ports.

Know Your Options for Shipping Freight From the USA to Saudi Arabia

If you have products to import from the USA to Saudi Arabia, you have two possible methods of transportation: ocean freight and air freight. The subsequent sections of this page will explain both alternatives in some detail.

Ocean Freight From the USA to Saudi Arabia

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL allows shippers who don’t want to pay for an entire container to transport their freight in a shared unit instead. This mode of transport is usually the most affordable when you want to import small quantities of goods from the USA to Saudi Arabia.

Full Container Load (FCL): With FCL, you are moving a full shipping container from the USA to Saudi Arabia. It’s an ideal solution for larger consignments, as you pay a flat rate per container instead of paying fees based on dimensional weight calculations as you would with LCL shipping.

Air Freight from the USA to Saudi Arabia

Air freight is the fastest choice for shippers in a hurry. However, you have to be prepared to foot a larger bill, since air-freight shipping is often much costlier than ocean shipping.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the USA to Saudi Arabia?

Calculator and pen to represent the cost of Shipa Freight's quotes

The final cost of ocean and air shipping from the USA to Saudi Arabia depends on much more than one factor. Here are the most common aspects that freight forwarders consider when preparing your quote:

  • The nature and type of your freight
  • Mode of transportation (such as FCL, LCL, or Air)
  • Weight and dimensions of your shipment
  • Port or airport of origin and arrival
  • Type of service (e.g. Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)

When it comes to the weight of your cargo, here’s something you should know: The cost of air and ocean shipping usually won’t differ much for consignments weighing less than 100 kg. But, if your freight is heavier than 100 kg, ocean freight is typically the more economical choice.

Also, don’t be surprised if freight forwarders, like Shipa Freight, reject any shipments that weigh less than 35 kg. They simply don’t handle this weight bracket. You can engage an international courier service instead.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the USA to Saudi Arabia?

Your transit time will vary significantly depending on whether your cargo is crossing the Atlantic via air or by sea. While air freight can reach its destination in Saudi Arabia within a couple of days, ocean freight will take a few weeks. Sending your goods from the west coast of the USA will also take longer than if your shipment originates on the east coast.

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the USA to Saudi Arabia?

Here are a few examples of how long it takes to transport a shipping container from the USA to Saudi Arabia:

  • Atlanta to Ad Dammam – 35 days LCL
  • Atlanta to Jeddah - 41 days FCL
  • Chicago to Ad Dammam – 42 days LCL
  • Long Beach to Jeddah – 45 FCL
  • Miami to Jeddah – 32 days FCL
  • Miami to Ad Dammam - 41 days FCL
  • New York to Jeddah – 36 days LCL

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the USA to Saudi Arabia?

Here are a few examples of transit times for commonly used air freight routes between the USA and Saudi Arabia:

  • Atlanta, Chicago, New York, or Dallas to Dammam, Jeddah, or Riyadh – 5 days
  • Houston to Riyad – 1 day
  • Houston to Dammam - 5 days
  • Los Angeles to Dammam – 5 days
  • Los Angeles to Jeddah or Riyadh - 6 days
  • Miami to Riyad or Dammam – 5 days
  • Miami to Jeddah - 6 days
  • San Francisco to Dammam – 7 days
  • Cincinnati to Dammam or Riyadh - 5 days

Customs Clearance in the USA and Saudi Arabia

When importing from the USA to Saudi Arabia, customs clearance is a compulsory part of the process. To play it safe, most businesses engage experts, like freight forwarders, for this complex task. These professional service providers can minimize the risk of delays and additional costs to your business, since they ensure formalities are completed in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.

However, hiring a freight forwarder doesn’t absolve you of all responsibilities. You still have to gather and submit the necessary documentation for export and import customs clearance. Most customs authorities ask for the following paperwork, as a minimum:

  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)

Should the authorities request any other documents to complete the process, your freight forwarder will inform you.

If you want to learn more about the different forms required for ocean and air shipping from the USA to Saudi Arabia, then head over to our documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

The majority of commercial products ship across the Atlantic Ocean as sea freight. With ocean shipping, your goods travel in shipping containers for their journey to a port in Saudi Arabia. Maritime carriers also provide solutions for products that don’t fit into standard containers. Simply ask your freight forwarder about break-bulk shipping or alternative container types.

In the next sections, we will explain the pros and cons of the two options for containerized ocean shipping: LCL and FCL.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Pros:

  • Save costs when shipping smaller loads of freight (around six standard pallets or less).
  • Accelerates the supply chain, as you can move cargo when needed instead of waiting to fill a container.
  • Simplifies the drop-off and collection of your goods, as the freight forwarder or carrier will load and unload the containers at their warehouses.

Cons:

  • Involves additional steps that may lengthen the transit time compared to FCL.
  • Extra handling and movements may harm fragile, delicate, or perishable goods.

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

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Pros:

  • Typically more affordable than LCL for larger amounts of freight (14 CBM or more).
  • Usually has slightly shorter transit times than LCL.
  • Isolates your cargo in a container for the entire journey from the USA to Saudi Arabia.

Cons:

  • Involves paying a flat rate for the full container, even if you only partially fill it.
  • Can restrict your options for loading and delivery - not all companies can handle containers in their facilities.

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

Air Freight

Pros:

  • Offers the shortest transit times, which is ideal for perishable cargo.
  • Can be as cost-effective as LCL for small shipments of only a few pallets.
  • Provides the highest levels of security, reducing any risk for high-value freight.
  • Might be preferable for a buyer or supplier located close to an international airport.
  • Air shipping is very reliable, as it’s less dependent on the weather.

Cons:

  • Can be very costly for large loads and heavy cargo.
  • Not a viable option for any freight that can’t fit into the hold of an aircraft.

Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in the USA

Seattle

Port Facts:

  • Port of choice for suppliers in the northwestern states of the USA.
  • Has one of the largest container terminals on the U.S. west coast.
  • Planned extension will allow larger vessels to berth.

Owned By: Northwest Seaport Alliance.

Annual Container Volume: >3.5 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USSEA.

Boston

Port Facts:

  • Key port in the northeast of the USA.
  • Convenient access via a truck-only haul road and three Interstate highways.
  • The container terminal handled almost 300,000 TEUs in 2019.

Owned By: Government of Massachusetts.

Annual Container Volume: >298,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USBOS.

Mobile

***Port Facts:

  • Offers direct access to the Atlantic via the Mobile River and Mobile Bay.
  • The only deepwater port in Alabama and main export gateway for the state.
  • The container handling facilities are to be expanded on a 12-hectare site.

Owned By: Alabama State Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >285,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USMOB.

Charleston

Port Facts:

  • Situated in South Carolina on the southeastern coast of the United States.
  • Two terminals, Wando Welch and North Charleston, deal with containerized freight.
  • Third container facility due to open in 2021, increasing the port’s capacity by 50%.

Owned By: South Carolina Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >2.2 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USCHS.

Savannah

Port Facts:

  • Located 30 km from the Atlantic on the Savannah River in Georgia.
  • Houses the largest container terminal on the continent.
  • Direct access to interstate highways.
  • Ideal for exporters in the East and Midwest.

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USSAV.

Other Ports in the USA

Besides the five container seaports mentioned above, the following gateways are suited for shipping your freight from the USA to Saudi Arabia.

  • New York
  • Long Beach
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • New Orleans
  • Los Angeles
  • Baltimore
  • Atlanta
  • Charleston
  • Norfolk
  • Tacoma
  • Miami
  • Port Everglades

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Saudi Arabia

Jeddah

Port Facts:

  • Main port of Saudi Arabia, able to accommodate even the largest container vessels.
  • Second-largest seaport in the Arab world.
  • Faces the Red Sea.
  • Stretches over an area of 12 square kilometers.

Owned By: Saudi Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: SAJED.

Ad Dammam

Port Facts:

  • Located on the Persian Gulf, on the opposite side of the country from Jeddah.
  • Critical import gateway for the capital Riyadh and other landlocked cities.
  • Officially named King Abdul Aziz Port.

Owned By: Saudi Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.5 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: SADMM.

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in the USA

Houston

Airport Facts:

  • Named the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
  • Located around 37 km north of central Houston.
  • The airport has five runways.
  • Provides routes to 180 destinations worldwide

Saudi Arabian Airports Served: None.

Houston to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: IAH.

El Paso

Airport Facts:

  • Largest airport in the border region with Mexico.
  • Main airport for West Texas, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico.
  • Located six kilometers northeast of Downtown El Paso.
  • Offers an 8,700 square-meter cargo complex.

Saudi Arabian Airports Served: None.

El Paso to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: ELP.

Sacramento

Airport Facts:

  • Located 16 km northwest of Sacramento’s city center.
  • Ideal for exporters in Northern California, Napa Wine Country, and Lake Tahoe.
  • Very eco-friendly, with solar power providing 30% of the airport’s electricity.

Saudi Arabian Airports Served: None.

Sacramento to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: SMF.

Denver

Airport Facts:

  • Serves the state of Colorado and the western USA.
  • Largest airport on the continent by total area and second-largest globally.
  • Handles over 230,000 tonnes of air freight annually.

Saudi Arabian Airports Served: None.

Denver to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: DEN.

Seattle-Tacoma

Airport Facts:

  • Located between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma in Washington.
  • Known as Sea-Tac.
  • Largest airport in the Pacific Northwest region.
  • Processes more than 430,000 tonnes of air cargo annually.

Saudi Arabian Airports Served: None.

Seattle-Tacoma to Saudi Arabia Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: SEA.

Other Airports in the USA

Besides the five airports mentioned above, you can also fly your goods to Saudi Arabia from any of the following air cargo gateways in the USA:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Charlotte
  • Philadelphia
  • Miami
  • Philadelphia
  • Atlanta
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Sacramento
  • Los Angeles

Airports of Arrival in Saudi Arabia

Jeddah

Airport Facts:

  • Busiest airport in Saudi Arabia.
  • Located 19 km north of central Jeddah.
  • Known as King Abdulaziz International Airport.
  • Covers a 105 square-kilometer area.

Connected Airports in the USA: New York JFK.

USA to Jeddah Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: JED.

Riyadh

Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest airport in the country after Jeddah Airport.
  • Named King Khalid Airport.
  • Situated in Central Saudi Arabia as the main gateway to the capital city and its surroundings.

Connected Airports in the USA: None.

USA to Riyadh Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: RUH.

Dammam

Airport Facts:

  • Famous as the largest airport worldwide with an area of 780 square kilometers.
  • Located in the east of Saudi Arabia.
  • Offers a two-story air freight facility that can store 94,000 tonnes of cargo.

Connected Airports in the USA: None.

USA to Dammam Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA CODE: DMM.

Why Ship From the USA to Saudi Arabia With Shipa Freight?

We are your partner for shipping ocean and air freight from the USA to Saudi Arabia. With our cutting-edge online platform, you can now manage all of your imports and exports in one place. This will surely satisfy your logistics needs and even speed up your supply chain.

Your advantages when shipping with us:

  • Receive and compare easy-to-understand quotations online in no time.
  • Book your shipment online instantly to send your cargo on the way.
  • Manage your entire shipping process on one platform.
  • Have the right shipping documents ready.
  • Don’t expend time and effort on customs complexities – we will handle them.
  • Ask our friendly customer service team anything via phone, email, and chat.
  • Enjoy the peace of mind that you are always complying with shipping rules and regulations.

“With Shipa Freight, I could do everything from quotation to booking with just a click”.

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