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Air & Ocean Freight From US to India

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Updated on 11 Aug 202117 min read

India is the US’s ninth-largest trade partner. Exports from the United States to India totaled $33.5 billion in 2018. But tariffs imposed by India are higher than those charged by the other leading economies. Yet that hasn’t caused any reduction in the number of companies in the US shipping commercial goods to the subcontinent. And India’s demand for US-made products such as electrical machinery and optical and medical instruments shows no signs of waning.

Whether your business is a buyer or a supplier looking to make the most of the trading opportunities between the two nations, you should find this page a useful resource of information. It outlines the pros and cons of ocean and air shipping from the US to India and gives details about ports, airports, customs clearance, as well as transit times and freight costs.

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

Female warehouse worker, smiling in aisle while using pick by voice software to assemble a shipment from the US to India

The only options you have when importing goods in any substantial quantity from the US to India are ocean shipping and air freight. Both have their pros and cons, which you’ll find outlined elsewhere on this page.

Ocean Freight From the US to India

Less than Container Load (LCL): LCL is a method of shipping used by many businesses with smaller consignments to import or export from the US to India. With LCL, goods from multiple businesses share the same container. Customs checks and consolidation take place in the United States and when ready, the container is lifted aboard a cargo vessel bound for India.

Full Container Load (FCL): Despite its name, FCL shipping does not require you to fill a container. The term is used to differentiate FCL from LCL shipping. With LCL, your goods share a container. With FCL, your goods get exclusive use of a container. How much freight you pack into it is up to you. Of course, it makes financial sense to load as many products as you can, up to the limit of the unit’s capacity.

Air Freight from the US to India

Air freight offers shippers the fastest way to import from the US to India. Shipments take a matter of days (unlike ocean freight which takes several weeks). As you might expect though, air freight is significantly more expensive than shipping by sea.

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

The cost of shipping freight from the US to India depends on several variables:

  • The chosen port of origin in the US
  • The preferred port of arrival in India
  • The choice of air or ocean shipping
  • Whether FCL or LCL shipping is required for ocean freight
  • The type of goods to be shipped
  • The volume, dimensions, and weight of those goods
  • Whether a door-to-port, port-to-door, door-to-door, or port-to-port delivery is needed

You should think about using air freight if your shipment:

  • Is urgently required in India
  • Weighs less than 100kg
  • Can be shipped on a maximum of three standard pallets

Usually, it’s more cost-effective to send consignments weighing above 100kg as ocean cargo. Please note that Shipa Freight, like many freight forwarders, does not quote for consignments weighing less than 35kg.

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

Mechanical chronometer to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight

Consignments can be flown from the US to India in three to eight days. Ocean shipping takes considerably longer. You should allow 30 to 56 days for international sea freight carriers to deliver your goods.

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

The examples below illustrate the time needed to ship a container from the US to India, depending on the ports chosen and whether you opt for FCL or LCL shipping:

  • San Francisco to Chennai—33 days FCL, 38 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Nhava Sheva—38 days FCL, 54 days LCL
  • New York to Nhava Sheva—42 days FCL, 48 days LCL
  • New York to Chennai—48 days FCL, 44 days LCL
  • Long Beach to Nhava Sheva—47 days FCL
  • Atlanta to Nhava Sheva—56 days FCL, 30 days LCL
  • Atlanta to Chennai—41 days LCL
  • Chicago to Chennai—46 days LCL
  • Chicago to Nhava Sheva—50 days FCL, 47 days LCL
  • Charleston to Chennai—42 days FCL, 47 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to Chennai—33 days FCL, 45 days LCL
  • Philadelphia to Chennai—50 days LCL
  • San Francisco to Kolkata—38 days LCL
  • Baltimore to Chennai—46 days FCL
  • Boston to Mundra or Nhava Sheva—44 days FCL
  • Charleston to Haldia—45 days FCL
  • Charleston to Mundra—38 days FCL
  • Charleston to Nhava Sheva—40 days FCL
  • Newark to Mundra—37 days FCL
  • Houston to Nhava Sheva—42 days FCL
  • Houston to Visakhapatnam—48 days FCL
  • Jacksonville to Mundra—56 days FCL
  • Long Beach to Chennai—56 days FCL
  • Long Beach to Mundra—49 days FCL
  • Long Beach to Visakhapatnam—45 days FCL
  • Miami to Nhava Sheva—39 days FCL
  • New York to Haldia—48 days FCL
  • New York to Mundra—45 days FCL
  • New York to Visakhapatnam—50 days FCL
  • Oakland to Cochin—40 days FCL
  • Oakland to Nhava Sheva—42 days FCL
  • Norfolk to Nhava Sheva—39 days FCL
  • Philadelphia to Nhava Sheva or Visakhapatnam—56 days FCL
  • Savannah to Mundra—41 days FCL

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

Most air shipping between the US and India takes between three and eight days, as highlighted by the following list:

  • Los Angeles or Miami to Mumbai—8 days
  • San Francisco to Chennai or Bangalore —8 days
  • Los Angeles or New York to Chennai—8 days
  • Philadelphia or Boston to Bangalore—8 days
  • Chicago to Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi—8 days
  • Atlanta to Delhi—6 days
  • Boston to Ahmedabad or Chennai—5 days
  • Cleveland to Ahmedabad—5 days
  • New York to Kolkata—5 days
  • New York to Delhi or Mumbai—7 days
  • Miami to Delhi—7 days
  • Chicago or Atlanta to Chennai—5 days
  • Chicago to Hyderabad—3 days
  • Philadelphia to Ahmedabad—5 days

Customs Clearance in the US and India

Every export from the US to India must comply with customs clearance rules and regulations. It’s a complex process which, if not strictly adhered to, can cause delays to consignments—but not if you get a freight forwarder to assist with the process. A forwarder’s expertise will help avoid unnecessary hold ups and ensure compliance. Shippers will still be required to contribute by completing and providing essential forms. These will include:

  1. A Commercial Invoice

  2. A Packing List

  3. A Certificate of Origin

  4. A Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)

  5. An Airway Bill for air cargo or a Bill of Lading for ocean freight (you can leave this to Shipa Freight)

Depending on the nature of your freight, you may need to provide extra papers, such as permits, licenses, or certificates. In any case, you can take a closer look at samples of the documents we’ve listed above on this handy documents list page.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

Transporting a shipping container from the US to India is a process that takes several weeks. A ship embarking for India from a west-coast port such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco will use a trans-Pacific shipping lane. Ships launching from ports on the Southern and Eastern seaboard of the United States including Miami, New York, and Savannah will cross the Atlantic.

Either way, it’s a long journey that can take between 30 and 56 days using LCL or FCL sea freight services.

Wherever in the United States your freight begins its journey to India, it will likely be shipped by an ocean carrier inside a standard container aboard a cargo vessel. Standard shipping containers open at one end and are usually 20ft or 40ft-long. They suit most types of freight, but if your consignment requires a different kind of container your forwarder will advise.

Forwarders can also assist in helping you decide between FCL and LCL shipping. And below, we outline the pros and cons of both forms of ocean shipping, to help you in that decision-making process.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

You might be best advised to choose LCL shipping if:

  • Your goods can safely share a container with other products
  • Your consignment is small, occupying no more than six pallets
  • Your goods aren’t urgently required in India
  • You don’t have access to facilities to enable you to load a container with your freight
  • You’re aware that the logistics necessities of consolidation and deconsolidation can cause LCL shipments to take longer than FCL shipments

LCL might not be best for your consignment if it’s:

  • Required in India by a certain date
  • Likely to be damaged if handled or moved more frequently than necessary
  • Perishable or fragile (such as food or plants) and might not survive a long voyage
  • A large or awkwardly-shaped consignment unsuited to sharing a container

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

Importing from the US to India using an FCL service could be your best option if:

  • Your freight is needed in India by a specific date
  • Your cargo cannot share a container for whatever reason
  • You wish to seal your container in the US and want it to remain sealed until arrival in India
  • You have a large volume of goods to ship, enough to fill at least half the capacity of a 20ft shipping container

Air Freight

Air shipping is likely to be the best way for you to ship from the US to India if:

  • Your goods are required in India in a hurry
  • Your cargo is fragile or perishable, like plants, flowers, or food
  • You want to pay a lower insurance premium than you’d pay for ocean shipping
  • Your goods are high-value, requiring the high levels of security employed by airport operators
  • You only have a small consignment to ship—perhaps no more than three pallets

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in the US


Port Facts:

  • Situated in Boston Harbor on the Eastern seaboard of the United States
  • The Conley Terminal is the container-handling facility
  • It processed close to 300,000 TEUs in 2019
  • A truck-only haul road and three Interstate highways make it easy to get goods into port for any supplier or manufacturer based in New England

Owned By: Government of Massachusetts.

Annual Container Volume: >298,000 TEUs.


Port Everglades

Port Facts:

  • One of Southern Florida’s key economic hubs
  • Over 230,000 jobs rely on the facility
  • It’s Florida’s busiest container port and the tenth-busiest in the US
  • Was the first port in the US to join the Green Marine program

Owned By: Broward County.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • The only deepwater port in Alabama
  • Two giant cranes were constructed on the quayside in 2017
  • It’s a focal point for businesses in the state seeking to export from the US to India
  • Plans announced in 2019 will see container capacity expand through the redevelopment of a 12-hectare site at the port

Owned By: Alabama State Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >285,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Also known as PhilaPort, the facility is located on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania
  • The Packer Avenue Marine Terminal handles containerized goods
  • If your supply chain process involves the shipment of goods from Philadelphia, Wilmington, Trenton, or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New - York State, this is a convenient port of origin

Owned By: State of Pennsylvania.

Annual Container Volume: 600,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • The US’ fastest-growing port between 2000 and 2005
  • The Garden City container terminal is the largest on the United States’ Gulf and Atlantic coasts
  • Storage space spans 120,000 square meters
  • 15 high-speed cranes do the heavy lifting of containers onto cargo vessels

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4.3 million TEUs.


Other Destination Ports in the United States

Additionally, Shipa Freight can coordinate shipping to India from these other ports in the United States:

  • Atlanta
  • New Orleans
  • San Francisco
  • Tacoma
  • Oakland
  • Norfolk
  • New York
  • Charleston
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Dallas
  • Baltimore
  • Miami
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles

Cargo Ports of Arrival in India

Nhava Sheva

Port Facts:

  • Initially built as a relief port for nearby Mumbai
  • Now handles over 50% of India’s containerized freight
  • Many shippers use the port as an alternative to Mumbai for transporting goods to inland areas
  • Places that are easy to reach by road and railroad from here include Nashik, Pune, and other destinations in Maharashtra

Owned By: Government of India.

Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the northern shores of a peninsula near Vasco da Gama in Western India
  • One of India’s oldest ports
  • Total covered storage areas at the port total nearly 40,000 square meters
  • If your goods from the United States are destined for Margao, Dandeli, or cities in Karnataka, strong rail and road links from the port will help speed-up onward transportation

Owned By: Mormugao Port Trust.

Annual Container Volume: >20,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • An alternative arrival gateway to the congested port of Chennai to the south
  • A modern privately-owned port that’s well-connected to India’s national highways
  • The port handles the world’s largest cargo vessels
  • Congestion-free roads out of the port aid the swift onward transportation of goods from the US

Owned By: Adani Group.

Annual Container Volume: >493,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the South Coast of Gujarat
  • Close to Surat and Rajkot in Northwestern India
  • Facilities include eight cranes and two berths for container vessels
  • This is India’s first privately-owned port and one of the nation’s newest, having opened in 2002

Owned By: A.P. Moller Maersk Group.

Annual Container Volume: >880,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in Tamil Nadu
  • India’s second-largest sea freight hub for containerized goods
  • The premier port on India’s eastern coast
  • Broke its container-handling record in 2019, processing 15.7 million TEUs
  • Freight forwarders will usually use Pacific trade lanes to ship goods from the Western United States and Atlantic routes from ports in the south and east of the US

Owned By: Chennai Port Trust, Ministry of Shipping.

Annual Container Volume: >15.7 million TEUs.


Other Destination Ports in India

Shipa Freight can also coordinate shipping from the US to the following ports in India:

  • Haldia
  • Mundra
  • Cochin
  • Hazira
  • Kolkata
  • Visakhapatnam
  • Krishnapatnam
  • Tuticorin

Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in the US

San Diego

Airport Facts:

  • Formerly known as Lindbergh Field
  • Located under five kilometers from Downtown San Diego
  • The busiest single-runway airport in the United States
  • If your goods destined for India originate in the Southwestern US, this international airport, located close to the border with Mexico, is a convenient outbound gateway

India Airports Served: None.

San Diego to India Cargo-Only Operators: None.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Located in Queens, around 25 kilometers southeast of Manhattan
  • Over 20% of all US international air freight—measured by value—passes through here
  • Nearly 100 air cargo carriers have operations at this four-runway air facility

India Airports Served: Mumbai, Delhi.

New York to India Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in Romulus, Michigan
  • The site covers 1,960 hectares
  • Operated by the Wayne County Airport Authority
  • An important cargo hub and Delta Airlines’ main gateway to Asia

India Airports Served: None.

Detroit to India Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Also known as Cincinnati/North Kentucky Airport
  • Serves the Greater Cincinnati area
  • North America’s fifth-busiest for cargo tonnage
  • It’s DHL’s largest global hub

India Airports Served: None.

Cincinnati to India Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 13 kilometers northwest of Downtown Miami
  • Imports and exports totaled $5.6 billion in 2018
  • Has a dedicated pharma hub
  • The world’s largest aviation gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Perishables, high-tech commodities, and telecommunications equipment are the goods most often processed here

India Airports Served: None.

Miami to India Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports of Origin in the United States

Shipa Freight can ship your goods as air freight from the US to India from these other airports:

  • Los Angeles
  • Philadelphia
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Boston
  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Cleveland
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • San Francisco
  • Denver
  • Sacramento
  • El Paso

Airports of Arrival in India


Airport Facts:

  • Officially called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport
  • India’s second-busiest airport
  • Cargo can be flown directly to Mumbai aboard passenger services from New York’s JFK Airport
  • Cargo teams here handle close to one million tonnes of air freight every year
  • The airport’s aprons can accommodate five wide-body aircraft simultaneously

Connected Airports in the US: New York JFK.

US to Mumbai Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • India’s busiest freight hub
  • Known as Indira Gandhi International Airport
  • Located 16 kilometers from New Delhi city center
  • Receives direct passenger flights from JFK Airport in New York
  • Offers onward connections to areas in Northern and Central India, including the large consumer centers in Jaipur and Agra

Connected Airports in the US: New York-JFK.

US to Delhi Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located in Southern India, west of Chennai and north of Coimbatore
  • Three cargo terminals and two runways welcome passenger and cargo flights
  • Freight from the United States arrives via indirect services

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Bangalore Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Serves the city of Kochi in the state of Kerala
  • It’s the world’s first fully solar-powered airport
  • Has won recognition from the United Nations with a ‘Champion of the Earth’ award in 2018
  • The airport’s only air cargo terminal covers a 20-hectare site
  • Features a large dedicated cold storage center for perishables

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Cochin Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located on the southeast coast of India
  • There are no direct flights from the United States

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Chennai Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Arrival Airports in India

Freight forwarders should also be able to arrange air cargo shipments from the United States to another four airports in India, namely; Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Coimbatore.

Ocean and Air Shipping From the US to India: Why Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight is a digitized freight forwarding platform that’s dedicated to making international shipping easier for all kinds of businesses. If you’re frustrated by the complexities of importing from the US to India, choose Shipa Freight for.

  • Quick and easy sign-up and quotes
  • Shipment tracking
  • Port-to-port, door-to-port, door-to-door or port-to-door deliveries
  • Expert customs clearance advice and assistance
  • 24/7 customer service

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