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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping From the US to the UAE

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

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The UAE was the United States' 19th-largest goods export market in 2018, with total goods exports totaling $19.5 billion.

Are you planning to add to this figure? Or maybe you are already actively importing from the US to the UAE.

In either event, this page will help you navigate the complexities of international freight transportation between the two countries. You’ll find lots of facts and guidance to help you get to grips with ocean and air shipping from the US to the UAE.


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

Flags of US and UAE to show Shipa Freight capacity to ship from the US to UAE

There are two alternatives for sending your goods from the US to the UAE: ocean freight and air freight. Both options come with distinct advantages and disadvantages.


Ocean Freight From the US to the UAE


Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is an acronym for less than container load. With this mode of transport, you are renting space in a shared container instead of hiring a full container. In many cases, LCL is the least expensive way to import from the USA to the UAE.


Full Container Load (FCL): FCL is an acronym for full container load. Choosing FCL means hiring an entire container for your exclusive use at a flat fee. This can prove more economical than LCL in some cases.


Air Freight From the US to the UAE

By far the fastest option for your goods to reach the UAE is through air shipping. Keep in mind, though, that it is often more costly than sea freight.


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

The final cost of transporting your cargo from the United States to the UAE depends on several factors. Freight forwarders take the following into consideration when preparing your quotes:

  • Nature of goods
  • Chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Dimension of the cargo
  • Distance between origin and destination
  • Type of service (such as Port-to-Port, Door-to-Door)

When comparing quotes, you may notice that the costs for air freight and ocean freight aren’t differing much when you are shipping cargo of less than 100 kg. In this case, you can simply opt for the quicker option.

If you want to move goods of 100 kg or more, though, sea freight is typically less expensive than air freight. In addition, we would like to point out that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, won’t handle cargo of 35 kg or less. For very light cargo, you can simply engage an international courier service.


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

Hourglass and a calendar to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight


You will notice immediately that the transit times of ocean and air freight vary considerably. With shipping durations as short as four days, air freight is by far the fastest option. This transit time is made up of the actual flight time, customs and security checks, as well as consolidation, loading and unloading.

Your transit time for shipping a container from the US to the UAE will largely vary by the port of origin. If you want to ship from the East Coast of the USA, then your cargo will arrive quicker than if you have to start on the West Coast. In general, you can expect durations anywhere between 29 and 54 days.


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


Here are a few examples of transit times involved when sending goods in a shipping container from the US to the UAE:

  • Boston to Jebel Ali – 38 days LCL
  • Boston to Sharjah – 38 days FCL, 46 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Jebel Ali – 46 days LCL
  • Long Beach to Jebel Ali – 44 days FCL
  • Miami to Jebel Ali – 37 days FCL
  • Mobile to Jebel Ali – 41 days FCL
  • Savannah to Jebel Ali – 33 days FCL
  • New York to Jebel Ali – 32 days FCL, 37 days LCL
  • Boston to Abu Dhabi - 44 days LCL
  • Chicago to Jebel Ali - 37 days LCL
  • Charleston to Jebel Ali - 29 days FCL, 35 days LCL
  • Houston to Jebel Ali - 38 days FCL, 46 days LCL
  • Houston to Sharjah - 39 days FCL, 54 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi - 52 days LCL
  • New York to Abu Dhabi - 43 days LCL
  • Long Beach to Abu Dhabi - 47 days FCL
  • New Orleans to Jebel Ali - 41 days FCL
  • New York to Jebel Ali - 32 days FCL
  • New York to Sharjah - 36 days FCL
  • Oakland to Jebel Ali - 40 days FCL
  • Norfolk to Jebel Ali - 29 days FCL
  • Port Everglades to Jebel Ali - 41 days FCL
  • Savannah to Jebel Ali - 33 days FCL

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


Here are a few examples of transit times for typical air freight routes between the United States and the UAE:

  • Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, or Detroit to Abu Dhabi – 5 days
  • Atlanta or Miami to Dubai – 6 days
  • Seattle, Boston, Dallas, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, or Cincinnati to Dubai – 5 days
  • Dallas/Fort Worth to Abu Dhabi – 8 days
  • Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi – 6 days
  • Chicago O’Hare to Dubai – 4 days
  • Cleveland to Dubai - 8 days
  • Los Angeles to Sharjah - 7 days
  • Philadelphia to Dubai - 7 days

Customs Procedures in the US and the UAE


Customs clearance is a mandatory part of the shipping process when you export from the US to the UAE. Most businesses hire an experienced freight forwarder or agent for the task to minimize any risk of delay. Another advantage of relying on experts for the customs formalities is that you can be sure that everything is processed according to current laws and regulations.

Even with the services of a freight forwarder, you still have to provide the necessary documentation for export release in the USA and import clearance in the UAE. As a minimum, your freight forwarder will require the following paperwork for the customs authorities:

  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)

It’s possible that other documents, such as licenses, permits, or certificates, will be required. If so, your freight forwarder will notify you immediately. To learn more about these documents, and see concrete examples, check out our handy documents list.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?


Ocean Freight


Sea freight is the primary shipping method for most commodities sent from the US to the UAE. Generally, goods are stored in a shipping container and loaded onto a specialized cargo vessel for the trip. Sometimes you may want to ship break-bulk materials that won’t fit into a container. In this case, the carrier will recommend other options.

When it comes to containerized ocean shipping, carriers offer two types: LCL and FCL. Both choices can be booked as port-to-port or door-to-door services. The right option for your business will depend on the weight, volume, and nature of your goods.

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


Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping


Advantages:

  • Reduces your costs when you ship cargo of six standard pallets (equivalent to 14 CBM) or less.
  • Conveniently drop off at, and pick up your cargo from, the warehouses where containers are loaded and unloaded.
  • It can accelerate your supply chain as you don’t have to accumulate enough cargo to fill an entire container.

Disadvantages:

  • The extra logistics and handling might damage fragile, delicate, and perishable products.
  • Longer transit times due to the consolidation and deconsolidation of the container.
  • Your cargo will be moved and handled more often, and will travel right next to the consignments of other shippers.
  • Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

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


Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Advantages:

  • Quickest mode of ocean shipping as no consolidation or de-consolidation is required.
  • Your goods travel isolated in a single container for the whole journey from the US to the UAE.
  • More economical than LCL when you transport more than 14 CBM (half the load capacity of a 20ft container).

Disadvantages:

  • No matter how much or how little you stuff into it, you pay a flat fee for the entire container.
  • Could restrict your delivery options as not all recipients are able to receive a full container.

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


Air Freight


Your cargo will always reach its destination much quicker with an air carrier than by sea. Keep in mind that increased speed comes at certain costs. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of air shipping below.

Advantages:

  • Short transit times make air shipping ideal for perishable goods.
  • Lowest risk and highest level of security.
  • Might be less expensive than LCL if you are transporting small cargo of just a few pallets.
  • High reliability with regard to the delivery date.
  • Convenient when the buyer and supplier are both located close to an international airport.

Disadvantages:

  • In most cases, it is too expensive for large quantities of goods.
  • Might not be a viable option for bulky or awkwardly shaped cargo.

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


Ocean Cargo Port Guide


Cargo Ports of Origin in the US


Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • The United States’ largest port.
  • Covers over 70 km of California coastline.
  • Boasts eight container terminals and more than 80 cranes.

Owned By: City of Los Angeles. Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USLAX.


Long Beach

Port Facts:

  • Located right next to the Port of Los Angeles in California.
  • Second-busiest container port in the United States.
  • Stretches over 40 km of waterfront in the city of Long Beach.

Owned By: City of Long Beach. Annual Container Volume: >8 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USLGB.


Savannah

Port Facts:

  • Located 30 km away from the ocean on the Savannah River in Georgia.
  • Houses the largest container terminal in North America.
  • Direct access to interstate highways.
  • Best choice for importers located in the East and Midwest states of the US.

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority. Annual Container Volume: >4 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USSAV.


Seattle

Port Facts:

  • Facilities include one of the largest container terminals on the west coast of the US.
  • Great choice for importers in the Northwest.
  • Container capacity will be increased soon.
  • Extensions will be made to berths to accommodate larger vessels.

Owned By: Northwest Seaport Alliance. Annual Container Volume: >3.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USSEA.


Port Everglades

Port Facts

  • Situated in the city of Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
  • Tenth-busiest container port in the USA.
  • More than 20 container-shipping lines operate here.
  • Convenient access to Florida’s interstate network.
  • Owned By: Broward County, Florida. Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: USPEF.

Other Ports in the US

In addition to the five container gateways mentioned above, the following ports are suited for importing from the US to the UAE:

  • New York
  • Houston
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • New Orleans
  • Boston
  • Baltimore
  • Atlanta
  • Charleston
  • Norfolk
  • Tacoma
  • Miami
  • Mobile

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the UAE


Khor Fakkan

Port Facts:

  • Principal port of Sharjah and a vital Middle Eastern transshipment center.
  • The only UAE ocean port not located on the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Famous for fast and efficient container-handling operations.
  • Boasts first-rate facilities for commercial freight processing.

Owned By: Sharjah Ports Authority. Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AEKLF.


Khalifa Port

Port Facts:

  • Ultra-modern, hi-tech container port with the capacity to grow further.
  • Features the only semi-automated container terminal in the region.
  • Offers GPS-enabled container tracking and integrated customs systems, services, and solutions.

Owned By: Abu Dhabi Ports. Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AEKHL.


Jebel Ali

Port Facts:

  • Largest port in the Middle East and best port in the region for the last 25 years.
  • Built in 1970 in the world’s largest man-made harbor.
  • Overtook Port Rashid to become the UAE’s principal port.
  • Tenth-busiest container port in the world.
  • Offers services to more than 150 ports around the globe.

Owned By: DP World. Annual Container Volume: >14.5 million TEUs. UN/LOCODE: AEJEA.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide


Airports of Origin in the US


Los Angeles

Airport Facts:

  • Tenth-busiest cargo airport in the world.
  • Located 30 km southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
  • The only facility to rank among the top five U.S. airports for both passenger and cargo traffic.
  • Handled more than two million tons of cargo in 2018.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Abu Dhabi. Los Angeles to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo. IATA Code: LAX.


Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

  • Third major cargo airport in the USA.
  • Handled over 1.8 million tons of cargo in 2018.
  • Features a 185,000 square meter freight terminal.
  • Can accommodate 15 wide-bodied cargo aircraft simultaneously.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Abu Dhabi. Chicago O’Hare to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo. IATA Code: ORD.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Has the highest inbound cargo volume among all U.S. airports.
  • Located in the district of Queens, New York.
  • Almost 100 air cargo carriers offer services out of JFK.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International, Abu Dhabi. New York JFK to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo. IATA Code: JFK.


Houston

Airport Facts:

  • Located about 37 km north of downtown Houston.
  • Officially called the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
  • Features five runways.
  • Serves approximately 180 destinations worldwide

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International. Miami to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo. IATA Code: IAH.


Dallas/Fort Worth

Airport Facts:

  • Fourth-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements.
  • Moves close to 2,000 tons of freight every day.
  • Largest hub of American Airlines.

UAE Airports Served: Dubai International. Atlanta to UAE Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo. IATA Code: DFW.


Other Airports in the US

In addition to the five airports mentioned above, you can also fly your cargo to the UAE from the following US gateways:

  • Atlanta
  • Charlotte
  • Denver
  • El Paso
  • Miami
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Sacramento

Airports of Arrival in the UAE


Dubai International Airport

Airport Facts:

  • Sixth-busiest cargo airport in the world.
  • Main air-freight gateway of the UAE.
  • Home of Emirates SkyCargo, the second-largest cargo-only carrier in the world.
  • Handles 2.5 million tonnes of freight annually.

Connected Airports in the USA: Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, Dallas Fort Worth, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston. USA to Dubai Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo. IATA Code: DXB.


Dubai Al Maktoum

Airport Facts:

  • Opened in 2010, primarily as a cargo airport.
  • Projected annual throughput of 12 million tonnes of freight.
  • Total cost of the airport is estimated at $82 billion.

Connected Airports in the USA: None. USA to Al Maktoum Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: DWC.


Abu Dhabi

Airport Facts:

  • UAE’s Second-busiest airport for freight.
  • Close to one million tonnes of annual freight throughput.
  • Over 30 airlines connect it to more than 60 countries.
  • Capacity enhancement program is underway to enable handling of 2 million tonnes of freight per annum.

Connected Airports in the USA: Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK. USA to Abu Dhabi Cargo-Only Operators: Etihad Crystal Cargo. IATA Code: AUH.


Sharjah

Airport Facts:

  • Features modern cargo-handling facilities in five cargo terminals.
  • Can manage a wide range of imports, including temperature-controlled freight.
  • Can accommodate 13 cargo aircraft simultaneously.

Connected Airports in the USA: None. USA to Sharjah Cargo-Only Operators: None. IATA Code: SHJ.


Why Ship From the US to the UAE With Shipa Freight?


With Shipa Freight, exporting your goods safely and in time from the USA to the UAE is easier than you think. Our digital-first, online-only approach will catapult you to the forefront of freight forwarding and supply chain management.

Whether your preferred mode of transport is sea freight or air freight, we can satisfy all of your global freight shipping needs. Our convenient online portal lets you manage your entire shipment process in one place and simplify your supply chain. You won’t waste time coordinating multiple agencies anymore.

The Shipa Freight benefits, in a nutshell, are:

  • Quick and straightforward online quotes.
  • Direct and simple online booking.
  • Transparent shipping documentation.
  • Customs complexities taken off your hands
  • All imports and exports managed on one convenient platform.
  • Friendly customer service available 24/7.
  • Full compliance with shipping rules and regulations.

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

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