Ocean and Air Shipping from the US to Thailand
FCL, LCL and Air freight forwarding: information and online quote
The United States of America is Thailand’s eighth-largest source of imports. Thai companies import a range of commodities from the US, with the majority comprising organic products such as soybeans, cotton, wheat, fruits, and even frozen fish.
Is your business looking into the possibilities of a US/Thai trade partnership? If so, and the venture will require the shipment of goods from a US supplier, this page will be useful to you. It is our platform to share essential guidance and facts about importing from the US to Thailand on a commercial basis.
Unlike many other resources in the public domain, our US to Thailand shipping page does not focus solely on ocean freight. Instead, it offers a balanced view of both sea and air freight services.
Among the hints and tips we share here, you’ll find information about accessible ports and airports of origin and arrival, and insights into customs documentation. We also offer some tips for working with a freight forwarder, which is one of the most effective ways to keep international shipping simple.
How to Ship Ocean Freight From the US to Thailand
Trade partnerships between US and Thai enterprises will necessarily be long-distance affairs, requiring deft coordination if you are to export from the US to Thailand successfully. A freight forwarder specializing in FCL and LCL ocean shipping can be the best friend you have in this business. That’s unless you have the big logistics budget and the velocity of a supply chain using airborne transportation.
Air freight will be discussed elsewhere on this page, but most shippers are keen to understand ocean freight. That's because it's typically the least costly approach when shipping goods for export from the United States to Thailand.
Sea freight shipping is not fast, and there are plenty of complicated procedures and protocols with which to become familiar. For example:
- Your goods will need transporting from the supplier to the port of loading
- They will need to clear export customs checks at the US port
- They may need transshipping at a port en route to Thailand
- They must clear import customs checks in Thailand
- You will need to ship your goods onwards from the port of discharge to their final destination
A freight forwarder will spare you a lot of the complexity, and help you to move your freight with minimal delays. That's especially true if you find one offering door-to-door shipping. However, it still helps to understand some of the essentials of ocean freight, such as the difference between LCL and FCL shipping services.
Less than Container Load (LCL) From the US to Thailand
LCL means less-than-container-load, and is the standard approach to shipping small freight quantities. Like FCL shipping, it involves carriage of your goods, by a shipping line, in a container from the US to Thailand. However, unlike an FCL service, your LCL shipment will not have exclusive use of the container. Instead, your goods will be consolidated, with other shippers' freight, into a 20-foot or 40-foot container.
Aside from adding to the overall shipping time, consolidation (and deconsolidation on arrival in Thailand) involves additional handling of your products. Nevertheless, it is typically the most attractive option if for shipments of fewer than six pallets. That’s because the fees charged for volume and weight will be lower than an FCL container rate. The fewer goods you have to ship, the lower the costs.
Learn more about Less than Container Load on our dedicated page on LCL shipping.
Full Container Load (FCL) From the US to Thailand
What then, if you have more than six pallets of goods to send in a shipping container from the US to Thailand? At that point, the price difference between LCL and FCL freight begins to narrow. For eight, nine pallets or more, you will probably find it more advantageous to use FCL, or full-container-load shipping, using a 20-foot container.
FCL shipping uses flat-rate pricing, so you pay for the use of the container, and a fee for transporting it on a container ship. It doesn't matter whether you fill the container or not; the price will remain the same for a full or partial container load.
While most suitable for shipments that will fill a container, there are other reasons you might want to use an FCL service. For instance, FCL is popular with shippers wishing to keep freight handling to a minimum, to isolate their cargo, or those trying to minimize transit time. It’s usually a little faster than LCL shipping because there is no added time for consolidation.
Learn more about Full Container Load on our dedicated page on FCL shipping.
Cargo Ports of Origin in the USA
Here you’ll find some facts and details for some of the most utilized ocean ports among shippers with goods to export from the US to Thailand.
- The 11th-busiest port in the United States in 2019
- One of 14 deep-water seaports in the state of Florida
- Nicknamed the Cargo Gateway of the Americas
- The only port in the Southeastern states able to accommodate neo-Panamax container vessels
- The largest of Florida’s container ports
Owned By: Multiple owners.
Annual Container Volume: >700,000 TEUs.
- Situated on the Patapsco River in Maryland
- The largest specialized cargo port in the United States
- The country’s fastest-growing port since 2014
- It’s the 14th-busiest port in the US
Owned By: Maryland Port Administration.
Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.
- The only deep-water port in the state of Alabama
- A gateway to inland ports in the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys
- The port’s container terminals are linked directly to the interstate road network
- It’s the US’s 19th-busiest port
Owned By: Alabama State Port Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >170,000 TEUs.
- Ideal port of departure for exports from the Northwest United States and Alaska
- Ranked 41st in the world for container-port throughput
- The eighth-busiest port in the United States
- Operates state-of-the-art container facilities
- Four container terminals are available for processing exports to Thailand
Owned By: Port of Tacoma Commission.
*Annual Container Volume: *>3.7 million TEUs.
- The second-largest cargo port on the US east coast
- Four neo-Panamax cranes were added to the facilities in 2017, with six more due in 2020
- 35th busiest container port in the world
- Houses the largest single-terminal container facility in the US
- It’s the fourth-busiest of all US seaports
Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.
Annual Container Volume: >4.3 million TEUs.
Other Departure Ports in the United States
Other ports from which you can send your goods for import from the US to Thailand include:
- San Francisco
- New York
- New Orleans
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Port Everglades
Cargo Ports of Arrival in Thailand
There are eleven commercial ports in Thailand. Nevertheless, the majority of ocean freight arrives at Bangkok, the port of the country's capital, and Laem Chabang, which lies a little further East, near to Pattaya.
- Constructed in the 1990s as an overflow for Bangkok Port
- Located 25 kilometers to the north of Pattaya
- Today, Laem Chabang is the largest port in Thailand
- Laem Chabang is among the 20 busiest container ports in the world
- Houses a total of seven container terminals
Owned By: Hutchison Laem Chabang International Terminal Ltd.
Annual Container Volume: >7.5 million TEUs.
- One of the top 100 container ports in the world
- Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River
- Connected to Bangkok City by fast road and rail links
Owned By: Port Authority of Thailand.
Annual Container Volume: >1.5 million TEUs.
Air Freight From the US to Thailand
If the sedate pace of container vessels is not adequate for your supply chain, you can always take advantage of air shipping to move freight from the US to Thailand. Of course, air freight is much more expensive than ocean shipping. Still, the cost difference might be negligible if you ship consignments of around 100 kilograms or less.
On the other hand, if your shipments comprise significant quantities of goods on pallets, your logistics budget will need to be generous indeed.
That said, when short transit times are more critical than cost concerns, airport-to-airport cargo services offer the speed you need. Less than a week is typically required to complete shipments between the US and Thailand, and that includes the time your freight will spend in consolidation/deconsolidation and customs processing.
Other benefits of air freight, aside from the substantial time saving, are as follows:
- Airport and airline security is much more stringent than in maritime shipping
- Cargo insurance costs are often lower for air freight than for LCL and FCL ocean shipping
- With less time in transit, the risk of damage or losses to your shipments is lessened
- It is a flexible approach to transportation, due to the sheer number and frequency of flights
- Schedules are reliable and delays of more than a few hours are uncommon
Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.
Airports of Origin in the US
- Serves the state of Colorado and surrounding localities
- Situated 40 kilometers from the center of Denver’s city perimeter
- The largest airport in North America
- Annual freight throughput exceeds 230,000 tonnes
- No direct flights from Denver to Thailand
Thailand Airports Served: None.
Denver to Thailand Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: DEN.
Airport Facts Combined civil and military air transport facility Situated just eight kilometers from the city of Charlotte Has a cargo terminal located adjacent to the runway No direct flights from Charlotte to Thailand
Thailand Airports Served: None.
Charlotte to Thailand Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: CLT.
- A critical air-cargo gateway linking the US with Asia
- Located 21 kilometers south of San Francisco
- Handled more than half a million tonnes of cargo in 2018
- Boasts a cargo facility covering more than 100,000 square meters
- No direct flights from San Francisco to Thailand
Thailand Airports Served: None.
San Francisco to Thailand Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: SFO.
- Located seven kilometers from the city of Philadelphia
- Ideally situated for air-freight exports from the US’ eastern seaboard
- The airport is within one day's driving from more than half the United States' population
- No direct flights from Philadelphia to Thailand
Thailand Airports Served: None.
Philadelphia to Thailand Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: PHL.
- Any location in the US can be reached within four hours by plane from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport
- The central hub for the US' national flag carrier, American Airlines
- Flights serve the airport from more than 190 US cities
- Freight throughput is approaching 2,000 tonnes per day
- No direct flights from DFW to Thailand
Thailand Airports Served: None.
Dallas/Fort Worth to Thailand Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: DFW.
Other Airports in the US
Due to the vast distances between the US and Bangkok, there are currently no direct cargo or passenger flights available. Nevertheless, your freight forwarder can still move your exports quickly, using connecting flights, from many US cities, including those mentioned above, and those in the following list:
- New York
- El Paso
- San Diego
- Los Angeles
Airports of Arrival in Thailand
- Handles three million tonnes of air freight annually
- Connected to Bangkok City and other areas of Thailand by efficient road and rail links
- One of the largest international airports in Southeast Asia
- Covers an area of 3,240 hectares
*Connected Airports in the US: *None.
US to Bangkok Cargo-Only Operators: None.
IATA Code: BKK
Clearing Customs in the US and Thailand
It would take more than a section of this page to familiarize you entirely with the intricacies of export and import customs clearance. However, if you have some idea of the documents that need to accompany your freight, it will be a step in the right direction.
At the same time, there is no substitute for a freight forwarder with working knowledge of your origin and destination countries. By working with such a partner, you can reduce the need for specialized customs clearance expertise within your business—and minimize the chances of delays arising from procedural errors.
To return to those documentation requirements, though, note that the necessary documents may vary depending on your cargo's nature. However, the following list highlights the documents almost always required for export customs clearance in the United States and import clearance in Thailand:
- Commercial Invoice
- Certificate of Origin
- Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depending on the contract between buyer and seller)
- Packing List
- Bill of Lading (for ocean freight) or Airway Bill (for air freight
Although the list above might seem daunting, remember that some of the documents, such as the bill of lading or airway bill, will be provided for by your freight forwarder. If you choose not to work with a
forwarder, then your carrier will deliver the airway bill or bill of lading. To find out more about these documents, and others often used in commercial freight shipping, visit our Document List page.
How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From the US to Thailand?
LCL and FCL ocean freight services involve lengthy transit times for shipping between the United States and Thailand—anything from four to eight weeks. Actual shipping durations will depend on where in the US your cargo will originate. Sailings from East Coast ports will take considerably longer than those from gateways on the western seaboard.
Air freight, as mentioned elsewhere on this page, is considerably faster, so you can expect a shipment by air to be completed in a week or perhaps less.
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea From the US to Thailand?
The following examples of transit times between US ports and Bangkok, are extracted from Shipa Freight’s schedule database, and highlight the long transit time required for ocean shipping:
- From Los Angeles – 38 days
- From New York – 33 days
- From Seattle or Houston – 44 days
- From Philadelphia – 58 days
How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air From the US to Thailand?
Air freight from the US takes between three and eight days to arrive and clear customs in Bangkok, as you will see from the following examples:
- From Philadelphia or Chicago – 5 days
- From Los Angeles or Atlanta – 3 days
- From New York, Cincinnati, Denver, Seattle, and Houston – 8 days
How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From the US to Thailand?
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Trade lanes from the US to Thailand involve some of the longest journeys between any two points on earth. You probably won’t be surprised to know, therefore, that shipping cargo between these two countries is expensive.
For small shipments (around the 100-kilogram mark), you might find little difference in cost between air and ocean freight. Therefore, the speed advantage might make air cargo the more desirable option. The same is far less likely to be true for large shipments. The cost of shipping large freight quantities by air can be several times that of ocean shipping.
A competent freight forwarder will help you determine the most cost-effective mode of shipping for your circumstances, unless you’re exporting less than 35 kilograms of freight at a time. Few freight forwarders will handle such small quantities. In any case, international courier companies can usually offer more favorable shipping rates—and a very straightforward shipping process.
Why Ship From the US to Thailand With Shipa Freight?
If you need to send freight shipments over 35 kilograms in weight between the US and Thailand, Shipa Freight’s digital forwarding platform offers all the advantages of traditional freight forwarders. The difference, though, is in the additional benefits that only a digital-first, online freight forwarder can provide.
- You can receive quotes online in a fraction of the time taken for traditional forwarders to provide them.
- You can compare air and ocean freight quotes, and, once decided on your preferred mode of shipping, turn the most favorable quote into a booking instantly.
- Quotations, bookings, payment, and real-time freight tracking are all at your fingertips. At the same time, a dedicated customer service team is always on hand (24/7) when you need a little human assistance.
- You get access to our global network of logistics and customs specialists. Our experts are ready to help you select, execute, and manage your carrier transactions, and to help you through the complex business of customs clearance.
- Shipping documentation is simplified, too. Our integrated compliance engine helps you identify and complete the specific documents required, based on your cargo, transportation mode, and protocols of the US and Thai customs authorities.
You don't even need to sign up as a Shipa Freight user to get your first ocean or air freight quote. Once you do register on the platform, though, you'll be eligible for further benefits, such as discounted shipping rates and special offers.
Doesn’t that sound like a better way to manage your international shipping activity? Why not find out for sure? The first step is to complete our online form for a lightning-fast online freight quote—it’s waiting for you at the top of this page.
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