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Ocean and Air Shipping from the US to Italy

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

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Updated on 28 Nov 202115 min read

Italy is the United States’ 12th-most important trade partner in terms of value. Despite a $33 billion trade deficit in 2019, making the US the importer in the partnership, it is nevertheless the seventh-largest origin country for international shipping to Italy.

While the majority of products that enterprises export from the US to Italy relate to medicine, healthcare, and heavy industry, there is enormous scope for diversity.

If you've identified a market for your commodities in Italy, or are already exporting but looking for ways to simplify your supply chain management, you should find some useful information here. This page offers facts and guidance for importing from the US to Italy using ocean and air freight services and explains how a freight forwarder can help your business.

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

Flags of the US and Italy representing Shipa Freight's capacity to ship by Ocean & Air from the US to Italy

Air and ocean shipping provides businesses with the only possibilities to export from the US to Italy. Air freight is considerably more expensive, which perhaps explains why using an ocean carrier is the most popular way of shipping between the two nations. Below, we assess the advantages and disadvantages of both air and ocean shipping, so you can decide which is best for your business.

Ocean Freight From the US to Italy

Less than Container Load (LCL): With LCL ocean shipping, your goods must share a container with products from other shippers. It’s usually the most cost-effective form of shipping if you only have a small consignment to send that’s not urgently required in Italy.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL ocean shipping entails renting an entire container and paying for its shipment to Italy. Your goods will be the only products inside the container, and there’s no obligation to fill the interior space. FCL is typically the preferred mode of shipping for businesses with larger shipments, as it’s often quicker and less expensive than LCL.

Air Freight from the US to Italy

Air freight is the quickest way to import from the US to Italy. A shipment can reach Europe in a matter of days, whereas ocean freight transportation can take weeks. Not all shippers can afford to use air freight services though, as they are significantly more expensive than ocean freight.

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

If you’re looking for an accurate calculation of prices for sending ocean or air freight from the United States to Italy, you’ll need to seek some quotes from carriers or freight forwarders. Many variables are involved, and a price for shipping this week might be considerably more or less than for shipping next month.

Generally speaking, if you are shipping goods with a total weight of 100 kilograms or more, ocean freight will cost a lot less than air cargo. For shipments in the sub-100-kilogram range, air and ocean freight costs may not differ too much.

Note that many freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, will not ship consignments weighing less than 35 kilograms. You should approach an international courier for a quote.

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

For extra fast shipping from the US to Italy, you’ll need to send your commodities as air freight. It’s the only way to ensure delivery within days rather than weeks. You will be able to get shipments from most US cities to either Milan or Rome in a week or perhaps slightly longer.

If you have a large shipment to send, or the high rates for air freight exceed your logistics budget, you’ll need to settle for the more sedate pace of FCL or LCL ocean shipping. Where air freight might take five days, you’ll be looking at five weeks or more for your goods to transit from the US to Italy by sea.

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

Ocean freight transit times between the United States and Italy can vary considerably. Much will depend on whether you ship from the U.S. east or west coasts, and whether the destination port is on the east or west coast of Italy.

For example, you should allow about 44 days for ocean shipping from Seattle to the Italian port of La Spezia, and 41 days for shipments from Seattle to Genoa.

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

Here are some typical transit times for air freight from the United States to Milan airport in Italy:

  • From New York – 5 days
  • From Detroit – 5 days
  • From Dallas/Fort Worth – 5 days

Customs Clearance in the US and Italy

Customs stamp resting on a customs invoice document stamped with export customs clearance in red ink as Shipa Freight assist you with customs clearance

International freight shipping would be a lot more straightforward without the complications of export and import customs clearance. However, customs formalities are a necessity if you wish to export from the US to Italy.

With the help of a freight forwarder, you can feel assured that the chances of any customs delays will be minimized. Your forwarder will know what's required for your cargo to transit uninterrupted between the supplier dispatch-point and arrival at its final destination.

However, working with a forwarder does not mean you can abdicate all responsibility for your freight. At the very least, you will need to provide specific documents or give your forwarder the necessary information to complete documentation on your behalf.

The requirements 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)

In some cases you might need to supply additional documentation, such as a license, permit, or certificate with your shipment. Much depends on the nature of your goods. For a closer look at the documents we’ve listed above, please see this handy documents list page we’ve compiled.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

When you book an ocean carrier for port to port transportation of goods in a shipping container from the US to Italy, you will probably be offered a standard container. These units are usually 20ft or 40ft long and open at one end. Your freight forwarder may recommend a different kind of shipping container though, such as one with an open-top, ventilation, or refrigeration, depending on the nature of your goods.

Your forwarder will also have a key role to play in helping you decide if FCL or LCL ocean shipping offers the best way to transport your container from the US to Italy. Below, we’ve detailed the good and bad points about both these sea freight options to help you make an informed decision before you ship.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

The chances are that LCL will be your best option if:

  • Your consignment is relatively small—no more than six standard pallets
  • Your goods are not required urgently in Italy
  • Your cargo is suited to sharing a shipping container with other goods
  • You cannot load a container with your cargo
  • You appreciate that the essential logistics of consolidation and deconsolidation can make the shipment time longer than FCL

LCL is unlikely to meet your shipping needs if:

  • Your recipient in Italy must receive the goods by a certain date
  • Too much handling and moving could damage your cargo
  • Your freight is fragile or perishable
  • You have a consignment that’s large or awkwardly-shaped

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

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

  • Your recipients need the goods in Italy by a specific date
  • Your shipment is too large or awkwardly-shaped to share a container
  • You can load and seal your container in the US and want it to remain sealed until arrival in Italy
  • Your consignment is big enough to take up at least half the capacity of a 20ft container

Air Freight

You should opt for air shipping if:

  • You need a fast delivery
  • Your cargo comprises fragile goods or perishables like plants, flowers, or food
  • Your freight must reach Italy urgently
  • Your consignment is small, perhaps no more than three pallets
  • You are transporting high-value goods and require the high standards of security exercised by airport operators and airlines

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

Cargo Ports of Origin in the US

Port Everglades

Port Facts:

  • Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • The busiest of Florida’s container ports
  • 10th-busiest container port in the United States, and the 11th-busiest cargo port
  • The USA’s deepest port south of Norfolk, Virginia
  • Served by more than 20 container shipping lines
  • Has excellent transportation links, with direct access to Florida’s interstate network
  • Currently undergoing expansion to increase capacity

Owned By: Broward County, Florida.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located inside the mouth of the Elizabeth River
  • Seventh-busiest container port in the United States
  • Can handle container vessels of up to 14,000 TEU capacity
  • The deepest port on the US East Coast
  • Around 30 shipping lines operate cargo services between Norfolk Port and 200+ countries
  • Houses the sixth-largest containerized cargo facility in the US

Owned By: Virginia Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.3 million TEUs.



Port Facts

  • One of the USA’s principle east-coast ports
  • Capable of handling Panamax and post-Panamax container vessels
  • The port’s container facility received a $20 million improvement grant from U.S. government
  • Ranked 20th on the list of busiest US container ports

Owned By: Government of Massachusetts.

Annual Container Volume: >160,000 TEUs.


Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • The number-one container port in the United States
  • The port is spread over 70 kilometers of California’s coastline
  • Houses eight container terminals operating more than 80 cranes
  • 17th-busiest container port in the world
  • Boasts eight container terminals

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Alabama’s only deep-water port
  • Covers an area of 1,700 hectares
  • Facilities include an 8.5-hectare container yard
  • The 19th-busiest port in the United States

Owned By: Alabama State Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >170,000 TEUs.


Other Departure Ports in the United States

Other ports from which you can send your goods for export from the US to Italy include:

  • San Francisco
  • Jacksonville
  • New York
  • Tacoma
  • New Orleans
  • Oakland
  • Baltimore
  • Seattle
  • Charleston
  • Miami
  • Atlanta
  • Savannah
  • Long Beach
  • Philadelphia
  • Houston

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Italy

La Spezia

Port Facts:

  • La Spezia was established as a shipping port in the late 1800s
  • The port is one of the most important in the Mediterranean
  • Italy’s leading container port
  • Boasts more than five kilometers of quayside
  • Has excellent rail connections

Owned By: Port of La Spezia Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Italy’s busiest port, measured by freight tonnage
  • Among the top three ports in the Mediterranean
  • Offers some of Europe’s most modern logistics and forwarding services
  • The second-largest port in Italy, after Trieste
  • Italy’s second-busiest port for container traffic
  • Ranked 68th in the world for container throughput

Owned By: Genoa Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >2 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • This port occupies an area of 1.4 million square meters
  • Situated midway down the Adriatic Coast of Italy
  • The port’s container terminal covers a 5,000 square-meter area
  • Facilities include secure storage for dangerous goods and container repair/cleaning services

Owned By: Central Adriatic Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >150,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on the southwestern coast of Italy
  • Facilities include 38 berths
  • The port has over 11 kilometers of docks
  • One of Italy’s most significant and busiest container ports

Owned By: Port Authority of Naples.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in the northeast of Italy
  • The eighth-busiest commercial port in Italy
  • Excellent connections to all of Italy via the rail-freight network

Owned By: Port Authority of Venice.

Annual Container Volume: >1.4 million TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Los Angeles

Airport Facts:

  • The world’s tenth-busiest airport for cargo
  • Handled more than two million tonnes of freight in 2018
  • Cargo facilities occupy an area of two million square feet
  • Offers direct cargo flights to Italy

Italy Airports Served: Milan.

Los Angeles to Italy Cargo-Only Operators: Cargolux.


Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

  • Cargo apron has capacity for 15 wide-bodied aircraft to be serviced simultaneously
  • The airport of origin for direct flights to more than 200 destinations around the world
  • Parking for 40 wide-body cargo aircraft in the airport’s two air freight facilities
  • The third-busiest cargo airport in the United States
  • Offers direct cargo flights to Italy

Italy Airports Served: Milan.

Chicago to Italy Cargo-Only Operators: Cargolux, Qatar Airways Cargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Handles more than 2.3 million tonnes of freight annually
  • The world’s 15th-busiest cargo airport
  • Served by more than 1,000 flights per day
  • More than 90 carriers operate flights carrying cargo to and from Miami Airport
  • One of the largest cargo airports in the US
  • Offers direct flights to Italy, with cargo carried on passenger airliners

Italy Airports Served: Milan, Rome.

Miami to Italy Cargo-Only Operators: None.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • 21st-busiest airport in the world
  • Sixth-busiest airport in the US
  • Busiest freight airport in the United States
  • Third-busiest freight gateway in the US after Los Angeles and New York
  • Located in the Queens district of New York
  • Served by around 100 carriers, most of which carry commercial freight
  • Offers direct cargo flights to Milan

Italy Airports Served: Milan, Rome.

New York to Italy Cargo-Only Operators: Emirates SkyCargo.



Airport Facts:

  • Fifth-busiest airport in the US by aircraft movements
  • Sixth-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements
  • Has a cargo terminal located beside one of the four runways
  • No direct flights from Charlotte to Italy

Italy Airports Served: None.

Charlotte to Italy Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in the US

Aside from the US airports mentioned above, direct flights to Italy operate from airports in several states, including some listed below. Indirect routing of your freight is possible from any of these gateways:

  • Atlanta
  • Denver
  • El Paso
  • Houston
  • Philadelphia
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Seattle
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Sacramento

Airports of Arrival in Italy


Airport Facts:

  • Located approximately 50 kilometers north of Milan
  • Situated beside the Ticino River
  • Has two runways and extensive cargo facilities
  • Italy’s largest cargo airport
  • Has been operating since 1909
  • Serviced by direct passenger and cargo flights from several airports in the US

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

US to Milan Cargo-Only Operators: United Airlines Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo, Qatar Airways Cargo, Cargolux.



Airport Facts:

  • The eighth-busiest airport in Europe
  • Headquarters of Italy’s national flag carrier, Alitalia
  • The airport’s freight terminal is known as Cargo City
  • Served by direct flights from New York and Miami airports

Connected Airports in the US: New York, Miami.

US to Rome Cargo-Only Operators: None.


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

Shipa Freight is a forwarder with a big difference. Aside from the fact that we’re equally at home handling ocean or air freight shipping for our commercial customers, we’re also a digital-first, online-only enterprise.

Unlike the traditional freight-forwarding model, we make all our services accessible via our online platform. Our technology simplifies and speeds up interaction between your business and our expert team. You can request a quote right now, receive it in moments, and have your freight booked onto a container ship or cargo aircraft within hours.

Other benefits of shipping with us include the ability to:

  • Compare ocean and air-freight quotes - choose the option that meets your needs and budget
  • Get your quote, book your freight, pay for it, and track it, all on one platform
  • Get human help when you need it from our customer service team – we’re available 24/7
  • Place your freight in the hands of a globally renowned logistics company – Agility Logistics
  • Entrust customs clearance to a team of experts who know the landscape and how to navigate it
  • Ensure compliance with customs laws and shipping regulations, aided by our industry-leading compliance software

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