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Ocean and Air Freight Shipping From the US to Spain

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Updated on 04 Jul 202114 min read

The United States and Spain are close allies and established relations as early as 1783. In 2019, the US exported goods worth $15.1 billion to the fifth-largest economy in Europe. Spain ranked No. 24 in the list of U.S. trading partners by total trade value.

Importing from the US to Spain can be tricky, given the complexities of international ocean and air freight logistics. To help you move your cargo in time and without hassle, we have compiled essential information right here on this page, relating to ocean and air shipping from the US to Spain.

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

Flags of US and Spain to show Shipa Freight capacity to ship from the US to Spain To import from the US to Spain, two alternatives are available: ocean freight and air freight. You will learn more about both of them below.

Ocean Freight From the US to Spain

Less than Container Load (LCL): One shipping option is to send your freight in a shared container. It’s called LCL shipping. In this case, you only pay for the weight and volume of your cargo and not for the full container. That’s why this mode of transport is often the least expensive way to ship your freight from the US to Spain.

Full Container Load (FCL): The second option, when you have a shipping container for your exclusive use, is called FCL Shipping. You will pay a flat fee for the entire container. Under certain circumstances, this can be cheaper than LCL shipping.

Air Freight from the US to Spain

If you need your goods in Spain in as little time as possible, air freight will get the job done. The speed comes at a price, though. In most cases, air shipping is much more costly than sea freight.

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

Calculator to represent the price of shipping with Shipa Freight The costs of shipping your goods via air or in a container from the United States to Spain by sea, depend on several factors. When you request a quote from a freight forwarder, the following variables will be taken into consideration:

  • 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)

Your cargo’s weight will largely determine which mode of transport is best for you. If you are shipping 100 kg or less, the price for air freight won’t vary much from that of ocean freight. You can simply choose the faster option. If you are shipping more than 100 kg, though, sea freight will generally be a less expensive option than flying your goods.

We also want to make you aware that most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, won’t handle consignments of 35 kg or less.

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

Shipping your cargo across the Atlantic by air is the fastest option. Your goods can reach their destination in as little as five days. While that’s longer than the actual flight time of a few hours, remember that your cargo needs to pass customs and security checks, which adds to the overall transit time.

Shipping a container from the US to Spain by sea will naturally be much slower. Besides, your final transit time will largely vary by origin. Shipping from a supplier on the East Coast of the US is much quicker than if your cargo originates on the West Coast. In general, you can count on your container being at sea anywhere between 22 and 42 days.

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

Here are a few examples of transit times for routes that Shipa Freight operates between the United States and Spain:

  • Boston to Barcelona – 27 days LCL
  • Houston to Barcelona – 25 days LCL & LCL
  • Houston to Valencia – 22 days FCL
  • Long Beach to Barcelona – 35 days FCL
  • Long Beach to Valencia – 28 days FCL
  • Miami to Barcelona – 30 days FCL
  • New York to Barcelona – 29 days LCL, 35 days FCL
  • Oakland to Valencia – 42 days LCL & FCL

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

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

  • Boston or Los Angeles to Barcelona – 5 days
  • Miami to Barcelona – 8 days
  • New York to Bilbao - 5 days

Customs Clearance in the US and Spain

When you export from the US to Spain, customs clearance is a must. Most businesses engage an experienced freight forwarder for this process to avoid any delays or issues. Also, you want to be sure that all formalities are settled according to existing laws and regulations.

However, hiring a freight forwarder doesn’t mean that your responsibility ends. You are still required to provide the necessary documents. The customs authorities in the US and Spain will typically request the following documentation:

  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)

In some cases, you might have to submit other documents, such as licenses, permits, or certificates. Your freight forwarder should advise you immediately if this is the case. We have put together a handy documents list that you can use to learn more about the required documentation and to see examples.

Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Ocean Freight

The majority of cargo that crosses the Atlantic Ocean is transported as sea freight. Specialized cargo vessels will carry your goods in a shipping container from the US to Spain. It is possible that your cargo doesn’t fit into a container, though, due to its size or shape. If this is the case, your forwarder or carrier will propose other options, such as break-bulk shipping.

When it comes to containerized ocean shipping, you have two options: LCL and FCL. Both are available as port-to-port or door-to-door services. The weight, volume, and nature of your cargo will influence the most appropriate choice for your needs. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both shipping modes.

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping


  • Most economical option when shipping six standard pallets ( 14 CBM) of freight, or less.
  • Container will be loaded/unloaded in a warehouse - you simply drop-off and collect your goods.
  • Allows you to move your cargo as soon as possible instead of waiting to fill an entire container


  • Extra handling involved may damage fragile, delicate, and perishable goods.
  • Additional process steps of consolidation and deconsolidation lead to slightly longer transit times compared to FCL.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping


  • Fastest mode of ocean shipping.
  • Isolates your cargo in a container for the entire journey from the US to Spain.
  • Less costly than LCL if you are shipping more than 14 CBM (half the load capacity of a 20ft container).


  • Flat fee applies for the entire container, even if you have only a small amount of cargo.
  • Restricted options for loading or delivery might apply, because not all businesses can accommodate a full container on their premises.

Air Freight


  • Air shipping offers short transit times.
  • Ideal for perishable cargo.
  • Low risk, since airlines and airport operators maintain high levels of security.
  • Most economical option when transporting a couple of pallets or less.
  • High reliability because less affected by the weather.


  • Very expensive for large quantities of goods in most cases
  • Not a viable option for extremely bulky or awkwardly shaped cargo.

Ocean Cargo Port Guide

###Cargo Ports of Origin in the US

Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • The number one container port in the US.
  • Downtown Los Angeles is just about 40 km away.
  • Located in San Pedro Bay.
  • Stretches over more than 70 km of coastline in California.
  • Has eight container terminals and more than 80 cranes.

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.


Long Beach

Port Facts:

  • Located right next to the Port of Los Angeles in the state of California.
  • Second-busiest container port in the United States.
  • 10 piers and 62 berths stretch over more than 40 km of waterfront.
  • 140 shipping lines connect the port to 217 destinations worldwide.

Owned By: City of Long Beach.

Annual Container Volume: >8 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Situated on the Savannah River, 30 km from the ocean, in the state of Georgia.
  • Hosts the largest container terminal in North America.
  • Previously known as the fastest-growing port in the US.
  • Convenient direct access to interstate highways.
  • Port of choice for suppliers in the East and Midwest.

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Busiest port in the United States with regard to foreign tonnage.
  • Private and public facilities that include a petrochemical complex stretch over 40 km.
  • Part artificial and part natural port.

Owned By: City of Houston.

Annual Container Volume: >1.6 million TEUs.


Port Everglades

Port Facts:

  • Tenth-busiest port in the US for container traffic.
  • Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
  • Over 20 container shipping lines offer connections to destinations around the world.
  • Direct access to Florida’s interstate highways.

Owned By: Broward County, Florida.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.


Other Ports in the US

Aside from the five ports mentioned above, the following container gateways are suited for shipping your cargo to Spain:

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

Cargo Ports of Arrival in Spain


Port Facts:

  • 28th busiest container port in the world, and number five in Europe.
  • Largest port in Spain and in the entire Mediterranean basin.
  • Offers a storage area of 1.2 square kilometers and a total quay length of 12 km.

Owned By: Port Authority of Valencia.

Annual Container Volume: >5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located in the Bay of Gibraltar.
  • Third-busiest port in the Mediterranean and seventh-busiest container port in Europe.
  • Known for its high container-handling efficiency.
  • Named third-most-productive container port in Europe for 2015.
  • Handles around 3,000 container vessels per year.

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de la Bahia de Algeciras.

Annual Container Volume: >4.5 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Ninth-largest container gateway in Europe, and the third-largest in Spain.
  • Located in the northeast of the country.
  • Serves the city of Barcelona, a fruitful hub for business and commerce.
  • Offers connections to the region of Catalonia and Spain’s hinterland.

Owned By: Puertos Del Estado.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.



Port Facts:

  • Located on Spain's northern coast.
  • Ideal for containerized freight bound for cities such as Burgos, Leon, Zaragoza, and even the Spanish capital, Madrid.

Owned By: Port of Bilbao Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid, Barcelona.

Los Angeles to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Port Facts:

  • Smallest of the five main ports of Spain.
  • Stretches over 14,000 hectares.
  • Located on Spain’s short west coast, close to the border with Portugal.
  • Ideal for importers in the north and northwestern regions.
  • Best known as one of the world’s premier fishing ports, but also handles a steady throughput of cargo.

Owned By: Autoridad Portuaria de Vigo.

Annual Container Volume: >200,000 TEUs.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide

Airports of Origin in the US

Los Angeles

Airport Facts:

  • Tenth-busiest airport in the world for freight.
  • Handled over two million tons of cargo in 2018.
  • Among the top-five airports in the United States for both passenger and cargo traffic.
  • Situated 30 km southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid, Barcelona.

Los Angeles to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

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

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid.

Chicago O’Hare to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Airport with the highest inbound cargo volume in the US.
  • Sixth-busiest airport in the country.
  • Located 26 km southeast of Manhattan in the district of Queens.
  • Stretches over 21 square kilometers and features four runways.

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid, Barcelona.

New York JFK to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • 15th-busiest airport in the world for freight.
  • Largest international cargo volume among all airports in the country.
  • Offers connections to more than 160 cities on four continents.
  • Specialized freighter services available to 112 destinations worldwide.

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid, Barcelona.

Miami to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 11 km south of downtown Atlanta.
  • Main international airport for the southern states of the US
  • Boasts five parallel runways and extensive refrigeration and freezer units.

Spanish Airports Served: Madrid.

Atlanta to Spain Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Other Airports in the US

In addition to the five airports above, you can also fly your freight to Spain from any of the following airports in the United States:

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

Airports of Arrival in Spain


Airport Facts:

  • Second-largest airport in Europe.
  • Boasts a total area of over 3,000 hectares.
  • Main air freight center for Spain.
  • Hub of national flag carrier Iberia.

Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Charlotte.

US to Madrid Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Second-busiest airport in Spain, after Madrid, and sixth-busiest in Europe.
  • Located 12 km southwest of Barcelona’s center.
  • Ideal for importers in the region of Catalonia.
  • Has three runways.

Connected Airports in the US: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco.

US to Barcelona Cargo-Only Operators: None.



Airport Facts:

  • Located 9 km north of the city of Bilbao.
  • Largest airport in the Basque Country of Spain.
  • Best for importers located in the north of the country.

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Bilbao Cargo-Only Operators: None.


Why Ship From the US to Spain With Shipa Freight?

When you partner with a reliable freight forwarder such as Shipa Freight, you can be certain that your goods will reach Spain safely and on time. Our sophisticated online portal will remove most complexities around international logistics and satisfy your global shipping needs – no matter which mode of transport you choose.

With Shipa Freight, you don’t need to coordinate multiple agencies anymore because you can now manage your entire shipment process conveniently in one place. This will certainly help to simplify your supply chain.

These are your advantages when you ship with us:

  • Receive and compare easy-to-understand quotes online.
  • Place your order online immediately without losing time.
  • Know exactly which shipping documents to prepare.
  • Have all customs complexities removed for you.
  • Manage all of your imports and exports on one single platform.
  • Receive help from our friendly customer service whenever you need it, 24/7.
  • You will always be compliant with international shipping rules and regulations.

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