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Ocean and Air Shipping from the US to China

Information and quote from the US to China for LCL, FCL and Air shipping

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Freight forwarders can make shipping freight from the US to China hassle-free. Whatever the size of your business, they can save you time and money by coordinating your import or export. It starts with getting a quote for which you’ll need to tell your freight forwarder:

  • The type of cargo you want to ship
  • Your preferred ports of origin and arrival
  • Your chosen shipping method—by air or ocean?
  • Your choice of door-to-door, port-to-port, port-to-door or door-to-port delivery

Despite the trade war between the nations, exporting and importing from the US to China remains buoyant. Exports totaled $120.3 billion in 2018—that’s over 7% of all US exports. Soybeans are by far the product most frequently exported.

Whatever product you are looking to import or export from the US to China, freight forwarders will give your business access to international carriers. They can fly your air freight from the US to China in as little as eight days or ship your goods via ocean trade lanes in anything between 27 and 51 days.

Shipping Ocean Freight From the US to China

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley, stacked with boxes, from the Flag of the US towards the flag of China

22 seaports in China feature in the Lloyds One Hundred Ports 2019 list, with nine ports from the United States joining them. It’s evidence of the trading dominance enjoyed by the world’s two biggest economies.

Shipping lanes between the two nations are well-traveled and freight forwarders can connect your business with carriers that can transport your containerized freight from the US to China.

Ocean shipping gives you two ways to send your goods:

  • FCL gives you exclusive use of a container for your goods.
  • LCL requires your goods to share container space with other products

Your choice of FCL or LCL will usually depend on:

  • The size of your consignment
  • The urgency of your shipment
  • The nature of your goods

Both forms of port-to-port shipping are explained in more detail below. Whether you choose FCL or LCL, here’s some information about the various containers in which your goods could be shipped aboard a cargo vessel:

  • Containers generally come in two sizes—20ft and 40ft
  • A standard container opens at one end
  • 20ft containers can carry 10 or 11 standard pallets
  • 40ft containers can fit up to 21 standard pallets
  • Specialist containers are available such as high cube, open-top, tunnel, refrigerated, and half-height containers

Your freight forwarder will help you to decide which type of container is best for your sea freight.

Sending a Less-than-Container-Load (LCL) From the US to China

Got a small shipment to import or export from the US to China? If it doesn’t make commercial sense to book exclusive use of a container, LCL is the answer. Cargo handlers consolidate your goods with others in a container at your port of origin in the United States before transferring the container onto a cargo vessel bound for China.

After the ocean carrier has transported the shipping container from the US to China,freight handlers offload it from the ship and de-consolidate the goods. Customs clearance occurs before and after shipping.

LCL is often slower than FCL due to the extra logistics involved. But for smaller consignments, LCL is often the more cost-effective option.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.

Full Container Load (FCL) From the US to China

FCL shipping will allow you to ship your goods in a container from the US to China, without the need to share the internal space with other shippers’ freight. With exclusive use of the container, you can load as many or as few goods into it as you wish. Of course, it makes commercial sense to fill the container if possible.

The key differences between FCL and LCL shipping are:

  • No consolidation or deconsolidation is required with FCL
  • Fewer touches of goods will occur with FCL
  • FCL is often quicker than LCL

With FCL, you can seal your container wherever you load it. With LCL a container is sealed in the port of origin following consolidation.
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping

Cargo Ports of Origin in the US

New York / New Jersey

The elevation of the Bayonne Bridge in 2017 now enables 18,000 TEU cargo vessels to use the Port of New York and New Jersey. This has triggered more investment in container-handling facilities across the port. Its owners anticipate at least 4% annual growth in each of the next few years.

Owned By: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Annual Container Volume: >7.1 million TEUs.



Recent upgrades to the Port of Houston’s terminals have spurred a rise in container throughput. It grew by nearly 13% in 2017 thanks, in part, to the installation of three new cranes in the Bay Port terminal. This extra container-lifting capacity makes Houston a good choice if your supply chain requires the transit of goods from anywhere in Texas.

Owned By: Port of Houston Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >2.7 million TEUs.


Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles moved more cargo in 2018 than during any year in its 111-year history. The trade war between the US and China is expected to impact future growth. Nevertheless, the port’s automated terminal and rail facilities make this an attractive proposition for companies with goods to export or import from the US to China.

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: >9.4 million TEUs.


Long Beach

This is the second-largest container port in the US. Only the nearby Port of Los Angeles handles a larger throughput. Located just 3km south of downtown, Long Beach is only 40km from its rival port. If your supplier or manufacturer is based in the Western United States, a freight forwarder is likely to recommend either Long Beach or Los Angeles as your port of origin.

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: 8 million TEUs.



Only New York/New Jersey has a bigger cargo throughput than Savannah on the US East Coast. Four new neo-Panamax cranes were built in the port in 2017. Another six are due to be added to the Garden City terminal by the end of 2020. If you are seeking an ocean gateway for goods required in China, Savannah is a smart choice.

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4.3 million TEUs.


Other Ocean Ports of Origin in the United States

More gateways from which you can ship to China from the US are:

  • Atlanta
  • New Orleans
  • San Francisco
  • Tacoma
  • Oakland
  • Norfolk
  • Boston
  • Charleston
  • Miami
  • Seattle
  • Dallas
  • Baltimore
  • Mobile
  • Philadelphia
  • Port Everglades

Cargo Ports of Arrival in China

As the world’s biggest economy there are plenty of ports in China in which your goods from the US can be discharged:


Ningbo-Zhoushan overtook Shenzhen in 2018 to become the world’s third-busiest port, according to the Lloyds One Hundred Ports list. The facility is located in Zhejiang Province, the fifth-largest import and export hinterland in China, with a population of over 55 million. There are seven container terminals, 28 deepwater berths and 112 cranes in the port.

Owned By: Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >26.3 million TEUs.



Shenzhen served over 225 international shipping routes in 2017. The port is something of a pioneer in China when it comes to reducing shipping emissions, having started a green port incentive scheme in 2015. This sea freight-handling facility is located within the Pearl River Delta Emission Control Area.

Owned By: Multiple owners.

Annual Container Volume: >25.7 million TEUs.



Located in Northern China’s Bohai Bay, Tianjin is close to the ports of Dalian and Qingdao. It ranks in the world’s top ten largest ports and is just 170km from Beijing. If your goods from the United States are destined for the Chinese capital or other areas in North China, Tianjin is a good option as an arrival port.

Owned By: Tianjin Port Group Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >15.9 million TEUs.



Shanghai continues to rank as the world’s busiest containerized goods port. Whether it can retain that status in the face of trade and tariff tensions between China and the United States remains to be seen. For now, the port is a magnet for imports from all over the world. Strong road and rail links make for easy onward distribution of goods into neighboring areas such as:

Hangzhou Jinhua Suzhou Wuxi

Owned By: Shanghai International Port Company Ltd.

Annual Container Volume: >42 million TEUs.



Ranked as China’s busiest port for domestic trade, Guangzhou is also popular with international shippers. Container-handling facilities are spread across four areas of the port. If the destination for your goods from the US is in Southern China, such as Macao or Hong Kong, this port is a good place to discharge your goods.

Owned By: Guangzhou Port Group.

Annual Container Volume: >21.9 million TEUs.


Other Arrival Ports in China

These are some of the other ports in China that can receive goods from the United States:

  • Wuhan
  • Qinzhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zhongshan
  • Shantou
  • Lianyungang
  • Wuhu
  • Dalian
  • Xiamen
  • Qingdao
  • Shekou

Air Freight From the US to China

Freight forwarders can coordinate air shipping from the US to China in around eight days. That’s considerably quicker than ocean shipping. Plenty of US airports operate direct flights to China, including Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Assuming your goods are suitable to be flown, a forwarder will arrange for your import or export from the US to China to be shipped by passenger or cargo flight. The benefits of choosing air freight over ocean shipping include:

  • Quicker transit time
  • Ideal for urgent orders
  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Higher airport and airline security standards
  • More suitable for perishable, fragile, and temperature-sensitive goods
  • Cost-effective for smaller consignments of a maximum of three pallets

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

Airports of Origin in the US

Los Angeles

Commonly known as LAX, Los Angeles International Airport is located in Westchester, about 30km southwest of downtown LA. The airport is a thriving hub for passenger and cargo-only services between the US and China with direct flights to many locations in the People’s Republic.

China Airports Served: Beijing-Capital, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Nanjing, Shanghai-Pudong, Chongqing, Qingdao, Xiamen.

Los Angeles to China Cargo-Only Operators: Air China Cargo, AirBridge Cargo Airlines, China Cargo Airlines, China Southern Cargo, National Airlines.


Dallas/Fort Worth

Situated between the two cities that give the airport its name, Dallas/Fort Worth is the second busiest international gateway in Texas. Over 60% of the state’s cargo is processed at this freight hub which covers a 43km site and has seven runways and 15 berths for cargo aircraft.

China Airports Served: Shanghai-Pudong, Beijing-Capital.

Dallas/Fort Worth to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.


El Paso

This airport is the gateway to West Texas, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico. It’s located 6km northeast of the city that shares its name and is the largest airport in the border region. It has an 8,700 square meter cargo complex and over $60 million has been invested in freight facilities. It makes the airport an ideal port of origin for businesses with goods to ship to China.

China Airports Served: None.

El Paso to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.



This airport is 16km northwest of downtown Sacramento, the capital city of California. For goods originating in Northern California, Napa Wine Country, and Lake Tahoe, this is a convenient airport of origin. It’s eco-friendly too with around 30% of the facility’s electricity generated by solar power. Freight forwarders will use indirect flights to transport goods to China.

China Airports Served: None.

Sacramento to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Denver International is North America’s largest airport. It occupies a 135 square kilometer site and handles more than 230,000 tonnes of freight every year. World-leading freight firms DHL, UPS, and FedEx are some of the many to have hubs at the airport. There are no direct flights from Denver to China so freight forwarders will use stopping services to transport commercial goods.

China Airports Served: None.

Denver to China Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Departure Airports in the United States

Commercial goods can also be flown to China by direct or indirect routes from the following airports in the United States:

  • Charlotte
  • Philadelphia
  • Miami
  • Boston
  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Detroit
  • New York JFK
  • Chicago O’Hare

Airports of Arrival in China

Your consignments from the United States can enter China through any of the following freight-handling airports:


This Liaoning Province airport is about 10km northwest of Dalian. The distance between the airport and the United States prevents direct flights making the journey, but indirect services can be used for air freight. Dalian is a good port of arrival for goods destined for Chaoyang, Jinzhou, and Tieling.

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Dalian Cargo-Only Operators: None.



A world top-three air freight hub, Shanghai Pudong handled 3.7 million tonnes of cargo in 2017. There are five runways and a whole host of passenger and cargo-only flights from the US to land on them.

Connected Airports in the US: Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Detroit, Seattle, Oakland.

US to Shanghai Cargo-Only Operators: China Southern Cargo, AirBridge Cargo, Air China Cargo, FedEx Express, China Cargo Airlines, Atlas Air, Korean Air Cargo, Kalitta Air, Southern Air, National Airlines, UPS Airlines, Qantas Cargo, Suparna Airlines,.



Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is the world’s 19th-busiest for cargo and China’s third-busiest. The one-million tonne freight capacity of the airport is due to increase to 2.5 million by the end of 2020. This will reaffirm the airport’s status as a key international freight hub, ideal for processing commercial goods from the United States.

The longest direct flight into this airport is the 12,857km journey from JFK Airport in New York. China Southern Airlines also flies direct from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Connected Airports in the US: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco.

US to Guangzhou Cargo-Only Operators: China Southern Cargo.



Landing goods from the United States at the main international airport serving Beijing enables quick access to the massive consumer markets in the area. Three air freight terminals process nearly two million tonnes of freight annually. The airport receives direct flights from several airports in the US.

Connected Airports in the US: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Dallas, Detroit, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston.

US to Beijing Cargo-Only operators: Air China Cargo.



One of three large airports serving cities on the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen can give shippers easy access to Hong Kong. The facility has two runways and is just 30km from Shenzhen City and about 70km by road from Hong Kong. Freight forwarders can book your goods aboard a direct passenger service from Los Angeles Airport.

Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles.

US to Shenzhen Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other airports in China where you can offload air cargo from the US include Qingdao, Chongqing, Wuhan, Xiamen, Zhengzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai-Hongqiao, and Tianjin.

Customs Clearance Procedures in the US and China

Customs stamp of wood and rubber, resting on a customs invoice document stamped with export customs clearance in red ink

To clear customs checks in the United States and China, your consignment needs to be accompanied by several documents. These are:

  • Bill of Lading / Airway Bill (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)
  • Letter of credit or other payment terms
  • Certificate of origin
  • Packing list
  • Commercial invoice

We have collated more information about this essential paperwork and samples of these forms and letters in another page on our site, that’s dedicated to shipping and customs documents.

How Long Does It Take To Ship Freight From the US to China?

If your goods need to be in China quickly, shipping them as air freight from the US is the quickest option. Most air freight will ship in eight days. Sending ocean freight is a longer process. 27 to 51 days should be allowed for sea freight to reach China from the United States.

How Long Does It Take To Ship Cargo by Ocean From the US to China?

Below are examples of how long it takes to send commercial goods by ocean freight from the US to China:

  • Chicago to Shanghai—44 days FCL, 36 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Shanghai—35 days FCL, 35 days LCL
  • New York to Shanghai—51 days FCL, 46 days LCL
  • Philadelphia to Shanghai—*46 days FCL *
  • Boston to Shanghai—45 days FCL, 50 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Shenzhen—46 days FCL
  • Dallas to Shanghai—39 days FCL, 27 days LCL
  • Detroit to Shenzhen—46 days FCL

How Long Does It Take to Ship Air Freight From the US to China?

It takes eight days to ship air freight from airports in the US to airports in China, as illustrated by the following route examples from the Shipa Freight schedules:

  • Chicago to Shanghai—8 days
  • Los Angeles to Shanghai—8 days
  • New York to Shanghai—8 days
  • Philadelphia to Shanghai—8 days
  • Los Angeles to Beijing—8 days
  • Boston to Shanghai—8 days
  • Los Angeles to Shenzhen—8 days
  • Dallas to Shanghai—8 days
  • Los Angeles to Tianjin—8 days
  • Miami to Shanghai—8 days
  • Houston to Beijing—8 days

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Cargo From the US to China?

Your freight forwarder will calculate the cost of your shipment after receiving details about your goods from your business. The forwarder will need to know whether you are looking for air or ocean shipping, and the ports of origin and arrival you wish to use.

Details of the nature of the goods you’re sending are also required, including their volume, weight, and dimensions. Then you’ll need to decide if you want your goods delivered door to door, port to port, port to door or door to port.

If your consignment weighs above 100kg, sea freight is usually the most economical shipping method. For goods weighing under 100kg, it’s worth considering air freight, as that’s usually just as economical as ocean freight for shipments around this weight. Shipa Freight does not quote for consignments weighing under 35kg.

Why Choose Shipa Freight For Shipping Cargo From the US to China?

Shipa Freight provides a modern way for contemporary businesses to ship their commercial goods from the US to China. Our digital platform brings ease and simplicity to international shipping. Your business benefits from easy access to global air and sea carriers.

Use our website to get quick quotes on exporting and importing from the US to China. Book and pay online too, and track your shipment from source to China using advanced GPS technology.

Shipa Freight also gives you access to shipping specialists at our parent company Agility Logistics. And the once confusing world of customs clearance is given fresh clarity thanks to the simple and useful advice and information featured on our platform.

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

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