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Ocean & Air Shipping From the US to the UK

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The United Kingdom is the USA’s seventh-largest trade partner and the fourth-largest destination for exports of American goods. Over 42,000 US firms export to the United Kingdom.

Negotiations regarding a new trade deal between the two nations will start in 2020 as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. In the meantime, trade lanes across and over the Atlantic will stay busy as companies continue to export or import from the US to the United Kingdom.

Experienced and new shippers who are looking to export from the US to the United Kingdom should find this page a handy source of information. Its varied content includes details about the pros and cons of ocean and air shipping from the US to the United Kingdom. It profiles key airports, and seaports, and also discusses shipment costs and transit times.


Know Your Options for Shipping From the US to the United Kingdom

Warehouse operative pushing a trolley stacked with cartons from the flag of the US towards the flag of the United Kingdom

The only feasible way to conduct trans-Atlantic shipping between the US and the United Kingdom is via air or ocean shipping. Each has advantages and disadvantages. And on this page, we’ll be outlining both so you can make an informed decision about which is best for your consignment.


Ocean Freight From the US to the United Kingdom

Less than Container Load (LCL): Businesses use LCL shipping when they have smaller consignments to export from the US to the United Kingdom. LCL ocean shipping requires your goods to share a container with cargo from other shippers. The process is subject to logistics procedures known as consolidation and deconsolidation, which can mean LCL shipping takes longer than FCL.

Full Container Load (FCL): FCL shipping gives your business the option to reserve a container exclusively for their goods when importing from the US to the United Kingdom. You’re under no obligation to fill the interior space. FCL is often quicker and, for larger shipments, usually less expensive than LCL.


Air Freight from the US to the United Kingdom

If you’re in a hurry to get your goods from the US to the United Kingdom, choose air freight. Shipments are completed in a matter of days (ocean freight takes weeks). But air freight is substantially more expensive than shipping by sea.


How Much Does it Cost to Ship From the US to the United Kingdom?

Calculating a shipping quote requires freight forwarders to take into account the following:

  • The preferred port of origin in the US
  • The port of arrival in the United Kingdom
  • Whether ocean or air shipping is chosen
  • The nature of the goods being shipped
  • The volume, size, and weight of those goods
  • Whether a port-to-door, door-to-door, door-to-port or port-to-port delivery is required

You should consider sending your shipment as air freight if it:

  • Is urgently required in the United Kingdom
  • Weighs under 100kg
  • Can fit on up to three standard pallets

It’s usually more economical to send goods weighing above 100kg as sea freight. Shipa Freight, like many freight forwarders, does not provide quotes for shipments that weigh under 35kg.


How Long Does it Take to Ship From the US to the United Kingdom?

The quickest way to ship freight from the US to the United Kingdom is via passenger or cargo flights. A freight forwarder should be able to get your goods shipped by air in eight days. If you want to have your goods transported by sea in a shipping container from the US to the United Kingdom, the transit time will be considerably longer.


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

The examples below show the difference in shipping durations for ocean freight from the US to the United Kingdom:

  • New York to London Gateway—15 days FCL, 17 days LCL
  • Atlanta to London Gateway—41 days FCL, 19 days LCL
  • Chicago to London Gateway—39 days FCL
  • Philadelphia to London Gateway—41 days FCL
  • Miami to London Gateway—41 days FCL, 18 days LCL
  • Houston to London Gateway—20 days FCL, 29 days LCL
  • Boston to Belfast—27 days LCL
  • Boston to Felixstowe—26 days LCL
  • Chicago to Liverpool—28 days LCL
  • Charleston to Belfast—29 days LCL
  • Los Angeles to London Gateway—39 days LCL
  • New York to Felixstowe—25 days LCL
  • New York to Liverpool—41 days FCL, 20 days LCL
  • Atlanta to Belfast or Felixstowe—41 days FCL
  • Baltimore to Grangemouth—23 days FCL
  • Boston to Grangemouth—21 days FCL
  • Charleston to Southampton—16 days FCL
  • Houston to Felixstowe—29 days FCL
  • Houston to Liverpool—41 days FCL
  • Miami to Southampton—60 days FCL
  • Norfolk to London Gateway—17 days FCL

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

You should allow up to eight days for transatlantic air freight shipments between the United States and the UK to be completed, as highlighted by the following transit-time examples:

  • Atlanta or Miami to London Heathrow—4 days
  • Houston to London Heathrow—7 days
  • Los Angeles to Glasgow—8 days
  • Denver to London Heathrow—8 days
  • Charlotte to London Heathrow or Manchester—7 days
  • Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York to London—5 days
  • Boston to Glasgow—5 days
  • Philadelphia, New York, Miami, or Los Angeles to Manchester—5 days

Customs Clearance in the US and the United Kingdom

Many businesses choose to hire a freight forwarder to help them with the complexities of customs clearance. These shipping experts will help avoid unnecessary delays and ensure compliance with local and international shipping rules and regulations.

A forwarder still requires the shipper to play a part in customs clearance, as forms will need to be completed and accompany the consignment. The documents required 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 the cargo, you may also be required to submit a license, permit, or certificate with their shipment. Whatever is required (and the freight forwarder will advise) this handy documents list page we’ve compiled gives you the chance to see samples of the paperwork we’ve listed above.


Should You Choose Ocean Freight or Air Freight?


Ocean Freight

The time taken for a carrier to ship commercial goods in a container from the US to the United Kingdom depends on the port of origin. Consignments leaving from the Port of New York on the East Coast can reach the United Kingdom in just 15 days. Shipping sea shipping from other ports such as Chicago in the north and Los Angeles in the west takes considerably longer—around 40 days.

The chances are that your cargo will ship in a container aboard a cargo vessel. Shipping containers come in various shapes and sizes with 20ft or 40ft-long containers that open at one end being suitable for most types of cargo.

If your goods need transporting in a non-standard container—such as one that’s half-height, insulated, refrigerated, or has an open rack—your forwarder will advise you of your options.

Another way your freight forwarder can assist is by helping you decide between FCL or LCL ocean shipping. We’ve included information about both below:


Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

Choosing LCL shipping is often a good move if:

  • Your consignment is small—no more than six standard pallets
  • Your goods aren’t urgently required in the United Kingdom
  • Your freight can safely share a shipping container with other goods
  • You cannot load or unload a container yourselves

You appreciate that the logistics of consolidation and deconsolidation can increase shipment time when compared with FCL freight

  • LCL ocean shipping is probably best avoided if:
  • Your cargo has to be in the United Kingdom by a certain date
  • Your goods may be damaged if handled or moved too often
  • Your freight is perishable or fragile
  • You are shipping a large or awkwardly-shaped consignment unsuited to sharing a container

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

The advantages of choosing FCL over LCL when importing from the US to the United Kingdom include:

  • No time-consuming consolidation and deconsolidation
  • Fewer touches of goods during shipping
  • Suitability for bigger shipments
  • The opportunity to seal a container after loading
  • Faster shipping between the US and the United Kingdom (in most cases)

Air Freight

You may wish to avoid ocean shipping altogether and ship your freight by air. Air shipping is likely to be your best option if:

  • You need the fastest shipping possible
  • Your goods are perishables, such as plants, flowers, or food
  • Your customer in the United Kingdom needs the goods urgently
  • You only have a small consignment to ship—perhaps no more than three pallets
  • Your goods are high-value, requiring the elevated security standards employed by airport operators

Ocean Cargo Port Guide


Cargo Ports of Origin in the US


New York

Port Facts:

  • The largest port on the eastern seaboard of the United States
  • The USA’s third-busiest seaport
  • Facilities include four container terminals
  • ExpressRail provides quick routes into port for any supplier or manufacturer located in New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, or other areas in the Northeastern US

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

Annual Container Volume: >3.2 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USNYC.


Miami

Port Facts:

  • The ninth-biggest seaport in the US
  • Known as PortMiami, it’s official name is the Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami
  • Located in Biscayne Bay at the mouth of the Miami River
  • If your supply chain moves goods from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or elsewhere in Florida, this port is a good option.

Owned By: Multiple owners.

Annual Container Volume: >1 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USMIA.


Los Angeles

Port Facts:

  • The largest port in the United States
  • Facilities stretch for 70 kilometers along the California coastline
  • Eight freight terminals process goods for shipment to the United Kingdom
  • 80 cranes are available to load and unload visiting cargo ships
  • Local roads and railroads allow easy access to the port from locations across Southern California, including Anaheim, Santa Monica, and Central Los Angeles

Owned By: City of Los Angeles.

Annual Container Volume: >9 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USLAX.


Philadelphia

Port Facts:

  • Situated on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania
  • The Packer Avenue Marine Terminal is the port’s busiest terminal, handling containerized goods
  • Steel, fruit, and frozen meat are among the most popular imports and exports handled here

Owned By: State of Pennsylvania.

Annual Container Volume: 600,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USPHL.


Savannah

Port Facts:

  • A major seaport in the Southeastern United States
  • From 2000 to 2005 the port grew faster than any other in the US
  • Infrastructure includes over 120,000 square meters of covered storage space
  • 15 high-speed container-lifting cranes ensure fast loading and unloading of container ships
  • The Garden City Terminal handles containerized goods and it’s the largest facility of its kind on the United States’ Gulf and Atlantic coasts

Owned By: Georgia Ports Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >4.3 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: USSAV.


Other Destination Ports in the United States

Other gateways from which you can ship your exports to the United Kingdom from the US include:

  • Atlanta
  • New Orleans
  • San Francisco
  • Tacoma
  • Oakland
  • Norfolk
  • Boston
  • Charleston
  • Houston
  • Seattle
  • Dallas
  • Baltimore
  • Mobile
  • Long Beach
  • Port Everglades

Cargo Ports of Arrival in the United Kingdom


Teesport

Port Facts:

  • The United Kingdom’s northern gateway for international shipping
  • Located on the River Tees close to Middlesbrough in Northeast England
  • Discharging US exports here enables access by road and rail to Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool, York, Leeds, and other northeastern towns and cities

Owned By: PD Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >500,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBTEE.


Felixstowe

Port Facts:

  • Processes nearly half of the United Kingdom’s containerized goods
  • Situated in Suffolk, to the northeast of London
  • Europe’s seventh-busiest container port
  • Consignments from the US can easily be transported from here to London or cities in Eastern England such as Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge, and Colchester

Owned By: Hutchison Port Holdings.

Annual Container Volume: >3.8 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBFXT.


London Gateway

Port Facts:

  • Located on the northern bank of the mouth of the River Thames
  • The United Kingdom’s most technologically-advanced port and its fastest-growing cargo hub
  • Goods shipped on the world’s largest cargo vessels are unloaded by state-of-the-art cranes
  • Strong road and rail connections enable swift transportation of goods across the South East of England

Owned By: DP World.

Annual Container Volume: >1.3 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBLGP.


Southampton

Port Facts:

  • Lies 16 kilometers inland on The Solent
  • The biggest port on the South Coast of England
  • The container terminal has facilities for handling fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Following discharge, goods can be transported across Southern England and up to London using rail and road connections

Owned By: Associated British Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >1.9 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBSOU.


Belfast

Port Facts:

  • Handles almost 20% of Ireland’s ocean trade
  • Is the major UK port that’s closest to the US
  • A vital gateway for consumer goods and raw materials
  • Northern Ireland’s leading logistics hub

Owned By: Belfast Harbor Commissioners.

Annual Container Volume: >125,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBBEL.


Grangemouth

Port Facts:

  • Located in Scotland, the northernmost country of the UK.
  • Excellent road and rail links to all Scottish regions.
  • The largest commercial port in Scotland.
  • 70% of Scotland’s population lives within a one-hour drive of Grangemouth Port.

Owned By: Forth Ports.

Annual Container Volume: >250,000 TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: GBGRG.


Flying Your Freight: Airport Guide


Airports of Origin in the US


Chicago O’Hare

Airport Facts:

  • Covers a 3,087-hectare site 23 kilometers northwest of the Loop business district
  • Infrastructure includes two sets of parallel runways
  • The aprons can accommodate 15 wide-bodied cargo aircraft simultaneously
  • Over 1.8 million tonnes of cargo was shipped from here in 2018-2019

United Kingdom Airports Served: London-Heathrow, Manchester.

Chicago to United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo, United Airlines Cargo.

IATA Code: ORD.


New York JFK

Airport Facts:

  • Located in Queens, New York, 26 kilometers southeast of Manhattan
  • Occupies a 21 square-kilometer site with four runways
  • The number one international air freight gateway in the US, with close to 100 carriers operating out of the airport

United Kingdom Airports Served: London-Heathrow, Manchester, London Gatwick, Edinburgh.

New York to United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Aer Lingus Cargo, DHL Aviation, Virgin Atlantic Cargo, Delta Cargo.

IATA Code: JFK.


Denver

Airport Facts:

  • The largest airport in North America and the second-largest in the world
  • Occupies a 135 square-kilometer site
  • Cargo teams handle over 230,000 tonnes of cargo every year
  • The airport is home to world-leading freight firms including DHL, UPS, and FedEx

United Kingdom Airports Served: London-Heathrow.

Denver to United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: United Airlines Cargo.

IATA Code: DEN.


Charlotte

Airport Facts:

  • Known as ‘The Gateway to the Caribbean’
  • Just eight kilometers outside uptown Charlotte
  • Four runways serve a modern air freight terminal that accommodates all types of aircraft
  • Air freight can be routed to the United Kingdom via direct flights into London Heathrow Airport
  • United Kingdom Airports Served: London-Heathrow.

Charlotte to United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: CLT.


Miami

Airport Facts:

  • Located 13 kilometers northwest of Downtown Miami
  • In 2018 the airport processed 2.3 million tonnes of air cargo
  • The facility is regarded as a primary connecting point for freight out of Latin America

United Kingdom Airports Served: London-Heathrow.

Miami to United Kingdom Cargo-Only Operators: Virgin Atlantic Cargo.

IATA Code: MIA.


Other Arrival Airports in the United States

You can also arrange to fly your goods to the United Kingdom from the following US airports:

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

Airports of Arrival in the United Kingdom


Birmingham

Airport Facts:

  • A key air freight hub in Central England
  • Just 13 kilometers from Birmingham city center
  • Good access to road and rail links that connect with destinations all over the United Kingdom
  • The single runway was extended in 2014 allowing larger aircraft to land
  • Freight from the US will be routed here via indirect flights

Connected Airports in the US: None.

US to Birmingham Cargo-Only Operators: None.

IATA Code: BHX.


Glasgow

Airport Facts:

  • Only 15 kilometers outside Glasgow city center
  • Located in Paisley, Renfrewshire
  • For consignments arriving from the US, the motorways and railroads that connect to Glasgow airport make for easy transportation across Scotland and Northern England

Connected Airports in the US: Orlando.

US to Glasgow Cargo-Only Operators: Virgin Atlantic Cargo.

IATA Code: GLA.


Manchester

Airport Facts:

  • Located just 12 kilometers south of Manchester city center
  • The fourth-busiest airport in the United Kingdom for freight
  • Its two runways and 510,000 square-meter world freight terminal make it the premier air cargo hub in Northwest England

Connected Airports in the US: Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Orlando, Newark.

US to Manchester Cargo-Only Operators: Lufthansa Cargo, United Airlines Cargo, Virgin Atlantic Cargo.

IATA Code: MAN.


London Heathrow

Airport Facts:

  • United Kingdom’s premier air cargo hub
  • Situated to the west of London
  • Popular with freight forwarders due to its proximity to the massive consumer markets in South East England and the manufacturing hubs along the M4 corridor

Connected Airports in the US: Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Newark, Orlando, Washington DC.

US to London-Heathrow Cargo-Only Operators: Virgin Atlantic Cargo, Delta Cargo, United Airlines Cargo.

IATA Code: LHR.


Shipping From the US to the United Kingdom: Why Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight is making international shipping easier for all kinds of businesses with goods to import from the US to the United Kingdom. We’re taking care of customs clearance for our customers and giving them a user-friendly online platform that brings simplicity to supply chains.

Choose Shipa Freight when importing from the US to the United Kingdom for the following benefits:

  • Simple sign up for fast access to shipping on hundreds of tradelanes
  • Fast quotes based on real-time rates
  • Online booking and payment using credit cards or wire transfer
  • A friendly customer support team, available 24/7 via online chat, email, or telephone
  • Assured compliance with US and United Kingdom shipping rules and regulations

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

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