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All shipping modes from China are operational but the speed and cost have been impacted significantly, depending on the mode of transportation. Your best option is to work with a reputable China Freight Forwarder to minimize the impact on your business.
As of August 2020, China still has not reopened its borders to international travelers. While certain groups of people are allowed into the country, they are still required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in designated hotels. Because of these restrictions, the number of commercial airlines flying into China is still significantly reduced.
For a large portion of air shipments, commercial airlines rely on available space in the belly of their planes to subsidize the cost of travel. With significantly fewer planes entering and leaving China, the available space for air shipments is reduced. Demand is increasing, and due to the supply shortage, we are still witnessing volatile pricing.
Fortunately, the pricing has already peaked, which had the cost per kilogram more than 500% higher than the pre-COVID-19 rates. While the cost to ship is stabilizing, we are still in a period of high cost and volatility.
In regards to other shipping lanes, such as sea freight, the various international quarantine measures have impacted the cost and caused delays, however, as of today, it is not nearly as delayed and expensive as air freight. Shipping lines are routinely canceling voyages, which causes intensive shortages in capacity. Because of this, the ocean rates rise as more vessels get delayed.
At this time, the United States has not placed restrictions on imports from China, so there are no delays with customs clearance. But, the US-side logistics capacity has been reduced, leading to higher prices and delays. Most terminals in the US are understaffed, causing congestion. These delays highly depend on location. States with strict quarantine orders could be a cause for slower importing and inland shipping due to the lack of workers when compared to other states willing to take more chances.
Amazon FBA warehouses are understaffed and overwhelmed, which is leading to significant delays when booking appointments to ship products to Amazon’s warehouses.
For customer shipping to Amazon, we strongly recommend allotting more time than usual to account for delays from both shipping schedules and unloading appointments at Amazon warehouses. When encountering these delays, they are oftentimes unavoidable, with the only option being patience.
We are informing all of our customers if your inventory is time sensitive, or you have concerns regarding running out of stock, your best course of action is to order significantly earlier than you normally would. By providing yourself with as much as 30-days of buffer room can help give you enough extra time for above-average delays.
Communication and strength in your supply chain is key to avoiding significant impact caused by COVID related logistic issues. Work with a reputable China Freight Forwarder who can navigate the hurdles in both China and the US, and one that stays up to date with the changing political climate.
Here’s What Guided Imports is doing to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on shipments to the US
There is no universal “best way” to ship from China. You should carefully consider the following variables:
Product and Load: Some shipments, like aerosol cans and strong magnets, are very difficult to ship by air. Other products like lithium-ion batteries can be shipped via air, but the documentation required is often difficult for suppliers to provide, and can only ship via specialized aircraft. Because of this, it is often easier to ship batteries by sea.
Some products might be too heavy or too large to be shipped via air, and can only be shipped by sea or rail.
There are some situations where it would be better to ship products by air. Products with dimensions less than 1 cubic meter are often ideal for air shipments. High-value cargo is sometimes both safer to be shipped via air and at times a requirement by China freight insurance companies.
Destination: End to end shipping services that most reputable China third-party logistics companies offer are capable of delivering shipments to warehouses, small commercial buildings, and residential locations. But, there are times where it could prove to be difficult to ship a container to a location that is not equipped to unload the container. Because of this, the end destination should be considered and how the cargo will be unloaded, so the most ideal shipping plan can be defined.
In some instances, buyers may find it easier to ship smaller sized shipments via China air freight, whereas others could benefit from deconsolidation services once the cargo arrives at the port in the United States.
Timing Requirements: If cargo is needed urgently, there is no faster way than shipping by air. For some containerized shipments going by sea, the transport time could be reduced by shipping to the West Coast, as opposed to the East Coast, and then fulfilled from truck or rail once the cargo arrives in America.
If timing is not a priority, shipping by ocean freight to a popular port close to the final destination, and trucking the final leg of the journey is most likely the least expensive option.
When timing is the top priority, businesses will look for all possible options to move their cargo the fastest possible way. If a business were to ship a 40-foot container filled with clothing to New York City, from Shenzhen, they would most likely ship by sea, but how much would it cost if they needed it faster? Below, we have created a table with three shipping options the business could choose from, which would allow them to get their products in as little as 3 days, to as long as over a month.
Yantian (Shenzhen) Port to New York City Port, and trucked to the center of the city.
Yantian (Shenzhen) to Los Angeles Port, cargo unloaded at the port and trucked across the country to New York City.
Yantian (Shenzhen) to John F. Kennedy Airport via air freight, and trucked to the center of the city.
This illustration identifies the exact reason why there is no single answer as to what is the best way to ship from China. If the clothing inside the container were medium-sized t-shirts, then the approximate number of shirts that would fit in a 40’ container would be 74,000 t-shirts.
While $55,000 sounds like an enormous amount of money, shipping the cargo by air would cost an additional $0.74 per shirt. However, when you consider the same product could be shipped to New York for around $3,600, or 5-cents per shirt, and only take one month longer, the rationale relies on urgency.
A situation a lot of importers find themselves in is the delays caused by Chinese holidays. During, and around Chinese public holidays, delays in shipping, with the most notable being Chinese New Year are a common occurrence. All major ports in China are open 365 days out of the year, however, not all local carriers operate during major holidays.
In most instances, cargo can be shipped from China any day of the year. The most difficult time to ship is during Chinese New Year, and while the shipping lines do have vessels available, the large majority of truck drivers responsible for moving the containers return to their hometowns.
Below is a list of major annual Chinese holidays. Apart from Chinese New Year, it is possible to find truck drivers to carry cargo to ports throughout all of these calendar days, but, because these are statewide holidays, delays are not uncommon.
Time of the Year
New Years Day
First of January
Chinese New Year
End of January to mid-February
6-days (often longer)
Dragon Boat Festival
End of June
China’s Nation Day
Another delay worth considering is the Christmas/winter holiday rush. Chinese factories begin fulfilling Christmas orders as early as June, and the congestion at some suppliers only increases with each day that gets closer to December. Usually, by the end of November, and early-December, businesses that did not allow enough time to prepare end up racing the clock to try to get their products shipped out before it is too late.
This congestion leads to significant delays both in air and sea shipments. Shipping terminals and warehouses get so overwhelmed with parcels that cargo is frequently temporarily lost or delayed. In previous years, we’ve seen shipments delayed more than three weeks, as the entire world raced to get their final productions shipped from China to catch the end of the holiday buying season.
Our team in China routinely witnesses the chaos businesses put themselves through each holiday season, all because buyers place orders with suppliers too late into the season. Our biggest offering of advice is to plan as far into advance as possible.
It depends largely on what shipping mode you select. Typically, shipping from China to the US will take anywhere from 1-35 days. Shipping by air takes less than two weeks, and shipping by sea takes over 20-days. If your products must arrive quickly, air is the only option. If you can wait, sea freight is always more economical.
Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, and the impact it is causing within the logistics industry, shipping can take significantly. To understand if your shipment is at risk of facing delays, it is best to get a quote for your next shipment, so planning can start as early as possible.
As a general rule of thumb, below are the estimated days it takes to ship cargo from China to the US by various forms of transportation.
Remember, coronavirus has and will continue to impact these timeframes, so contact us for an accurate quote, and update on timelines for your shipments.
China Express Shipping is typically the fastest shipping option, but it normally only used for very small shipments or delivery of samples from China. Due to its increased cost, it is not ideal for large volume shipments.
Express Shipping from China Involves using a major international courier, like UPS, DHL, or FEDEX who handles all:
Express shipping companies are all very similar, and because these international companies have strong resources in virtually every country, they allow for incredibly simple solutions to move parcels, while relying on their own internal networks.
DHL, FedEx, and UPS all have their own cargo planes and trucks capable of efficiently picking up cargo from anywhere, and hand-delivering it to the final destination. While these services are incredibly simple for shippers to use, the cost is something that needs to be factored in, as these services are not the cheapest option when shipping from China.
Typically, you can ballpark the cost of using a courier service to ship goods from China to the United States at about $5 per kilogram pre-COVID-19, and up to $8 per kilogram during COVID-19. If you have a standing high-volume agreement like we do here at Guided Imports, express shipping can be considered for shipments weighing less than 150 kilos.
The difficulty with express shipping companies is the rates they quote to businesses is almost always higher than what they would quote directly to a China freight forwarder, like us. FedEx, UPS, and DHL have preferential rates, and the rates vary based on where the high-volume agreements are signed. For example, if a US-based freight forwarder applied for preferential rates, even if their shipping volume was significantly higher than a logistics company with offices in China, the rates would be based on the region of the account. Since the cost of labor is higher in the US than in China, freight forwarders with their operations stateside are at a disadvantage.
At Guided Imports, we take full advantage of this and rely on our registered company in China to ensure our express rates are the lowest on the market. We then pass those savings on to our customers. While we can confidently say our express rates are some of the lowest in the industry, it does not mean that shipping via express becomes a viable alternative to larger shipments.
Due to this high cost, the only instances where shippers send cargo via air express outside of product samples and very small-sized shipments is if urgency is the primary concern. An example of this is if an Amazon seller needs a solution for the fastest possible way to send their products from China to an FBA warehouse. While other options may cost less, air express is the only way that could ensure the products arrive at Amazon’s warehouse in as little as a few days.
Air express shipping, in general, can take between 1-3 days, and at times, up to 5 days, when factoring in hazardous products that might require unique routes.
Each international courier offers its own product, and while each forwarding company has their own preferences, DHL, FedEx, and UPS offer very similar shipping services.
FedEx International Priority & International Economy
FedEx offers two primary services when shipping internationally, the priority service focuses on speed, and its economy services focuses on savings.
With International Priority, nicknamed IP, FedEx can ship customers products from China to the US in 1-3 business days. If you are shipping over a weekend, there is a chance the days will not be counted, as FedEx only ships during Saturdays in some regions of the US, and not all. IP is the highest priced product FedEx offers.
For a slightly lower cost service, FedEx also offers its International Economy or IE service. Customers shipping via IE can have their cargo arrive in as little as three days, but at times up to 10 days, as this type of shipment is not prioritized.
It is worth noting that FedEx does not ship lithium-ion batteries, so any cargo containing batteries must be shipped using alternative services, such as DHL and UPS.
UPS Worldwide Expedited
UPS offers an international courier service called UPS Worldwide Expedited, which can ship from China to 220 countries worldwide. This service takes approximately 2-5 business days and includes door to door service.
UPS handles all customs clearance, and in our opinion, does a better job fulfilling larger cargo shipments than the other two.
DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express 12:00, & DHL Express 10:30
DHL offers three products to customers shipping from China to the US.
DHL Express Worldwide is its standard express shipping service and the service that most forwarders will quote when customers request DHL to ship their cargo via express mail. This method is ideal for smaller shipments, and DHL tries to deliver this cargo by the next business day. From China to the US, this usually means that it takes two days for cargo to arrive, however, results vary by 2-4 days on average.
DHL Express 12:00 is a service that allows for time-sensitive shipments to arrive the next day, before 12:00 noon, whenever possible. These shipments are usually prioritized the same way DHL Express Worldwide is prioritized, however, once the shipment arrives in the US, it is expedited to arrive at the destination before noon.
DHL Express 10:30 is a service for urgent shipments. This service is set up to allow for shipments to arrive by the next day, before 10:30 AM. This cargo is often prioritized immediately, once it arrives at any of the DHL’s warehouses in China.
COVID-19 continues to impact the timeline of express shipments from China. We recommend contacting us for an updated quote anytime you are shipping products from China.
Express shipments from China should only be considered when speed is a primary factor. Because the services are much more expensive than other forms of shipments, shippers should look to express as a last resort when shipping medium to high volume. For small shipments, less than 150 kilograms, samples, and documents, express is a worthy consideration.
While we like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various express courier services, for most shipments, any of the big three can offer a reliable service for your cargo. To assist in the decision making, we suggest avoiding the consideration of which company to use, as most freight forwarding companies will suggest the service they believe is the most ideal for your shipment. Once they offer their suggestion, the brand decision ultimately comes down to which offers the lowest rate.
When you are unsure if you should be using express or another form of shipping, it is best to compare express service as a whole with other forms of shipping, such as air freight and LCL. Below, we will discuss when it would be advantageous to use this service, and when it would be preferable to use sea or air freight.
Air express is excellent for product samples and documents. If a shipment weighs under 150 kilos such as;
Air express can be considered as one of the shipping options.
The disadvantages of air express are often greater than the advantages when urgency is not the priority. Express is not intended to move large volume cargo. Instead, it offers a streamlined service for small-sized shipments, that otherwise would not be worthy of shipping via sea or air cargo. Express shipping companies focus on shipping a lot of small products, for a lot of different customers. In order for them to stay true to this service offering, they make it inconvenient and expensive for large volume shipments.
Anytime large volume shipments need to be shipped via express, considerations need to be made. Some express shipping methods don’t allow for palletized cargo or have a weight limit. For example, DHL only allows for a maximum weight of 30 kilograms for their DHL Express 10:30 service. As a general rule, we often consider shipments greater than 150 kilograms to be too heavy to express.
Dangerous goods almost always need special compliance and safety documentation. However, when potentially dangerous cargo is shipped via air express, the compliance standards are more strict. One reason for this is that sometimes shipments are loaded into the cargo holds of commercial passenger planes. Commercial airline regulation restricts a lot of cargo that could be hazardous from being transported inside passenger airplanes.
Some examples of restricted cargo are;
With over 20 reliable courier companies serving customers wishing to ship goods quickly from China to the US, the best carrier is honestly the one who can meet your timeline and budget, while still getting goods to you safely.
At Guided Imports, we typically recommend:
Before COVID-19, anyone could typically estimate $5 per kilogram for the cost to ship express from China to the US, whenever shipping with a China Freight Forwarder who has a standing high-volume agreement with the carrier, as we do at Guided Imports. When customers opted to use their own accounts with FedEx, DHL, or UPS, the costs would be substantially higher. While we hope to see the cost of air express to go back down to $5 per kilogram, we anticipate that as long as commercial air travel is globally restricted, the per kilogram price will be considerably higher.
At the time of writing this, August 2020, we average the cost to ship products via air express at $8 per kilogram.
How to Calculate Air Express Shipments
Air express shipments take into account two potential weights, the actual weight, and the volume weight. Whichever weight between these two are higher, is the billable weight.
Calculating the actual weight is as simple as weighing the cargo. The actual weight, or gross weight is the total weight the shipment weighs.
When shipping via air, there are two special formulas used to calculate the volume weight.
In the explanations below, we will use the following example shipment; the cost to ship a product from Shenzhen, China to Memphis, Tennessee, is $6.67 per kilogram.
The following two formulas will yield the same billable weight, however, the first is ideal if you have the dimensions of the carton boxes, whereas the second is ideal if you have the total cubic meter volume.
LWH/5000: Volume Weight Formula: This formula is used when we have the dimensions of the export cartons that the cargo will be shipped in.
L * W * H / 5000. It is important to note that the dimensions should be in centimeters.
If, for example, a single carton box needs to be shipped from China to Amazon FBA, and the carton dimensions are 90 centimeters on all sides, then we would calculate the following;
90 * 90 * 90 / 5000 = 145.8 kilograms
Therefore, the billable weight of the shipment is 145.8 kilograms. As mentioned above, if the cost to ship was $6.67 per kilogram, then the total air express, door to door price would be $972.49.
CBM*200: Volume Weight Formula: This formula is used when we know the cubic meter volume of the shipment.
CBM * 200
If for example, a single carton box was 0.729 m3, then we would multiply 0.729 x 200, to give us 145.8 kilograms. Exactly the same as the formula above, this would mean that the billable weight would be 145.8 kilograms. Multiply that by $6.67 per kilogram, and the total air express, door to door price would be $972.49.
Comparing Actual Weight with Volume Weight:
Expanding on the above example, if the actual weight of the cargo weighed 75 kilograms, then the volume weight would be calculated as the chargeable weight because 145.8kg is greater than 75kg.
If the actual weight of the cargo weighed 195 kilograms, then the actual weight would be calculated as the chargeable weight, because it is higher than the DIM weight.
China air freight is a fast and reliable way to ship cargo from China to the US. It’s the ideal method when you need your goods in 20 days or less, or your shipping volume is between 300 and 500 kilograms.
WARNING: Coronavirus has caused reduced air freight capacity, leading to volatile pricing. Make sure to get a quote.
Air express is a door to door courier service that relies on a single company to collect, ship, and deliver small shipments. Air cargo is an airport to airport service for shipments of larger volumes and requires additional arrangements for pickup and delivery. By relying on freight forwarders, buyers can request air cargo to also be shipped door to door.
In general, terms, since air express is ideal for smaller shipments, it is helpful to understand the cutoffs of volumetric weight, and which sizes are ideal for air cargo, and what is considered too large.
When considering the various options to air ship cargo, timing plays an important role. How quickly you need your goods can help determine if air freight is a viable option. Shipping from China using air express is faster because:
China Air Freight takes more time because it relies on a freight forwarding company to arrange the following;
Because of the added steps involved in an air cargo shipment, and because the couriers at each leg of the journey are arranged individually, the process is not as streamlined as air express, where a single courier handles every leg of the journey. Typically, an air cargo shipment takes between 5 and 14 days, and in some cases, as short as 2 days, up to 20 days.
The overall benefit of air cargo is the ability for a third-party logistics company to pick and choose the best routes a shipment can take, and place a primary focus on speed or cost savings. Unlike air express, the rate is fixed based on the courier and type of express service, whereas air cargo allows the forwarder to act as a travel agent, and systematically select the most ideal couriers for each leg of the journey.
When a forwarding agent, like Guided Imports, understands each route, is aware of when rates are high and low, and has experience working with each airline and courier, it allows for a much more customized service that can be tailored to the needs of each customer shipping their cargo from China.
Air freight costs vary, depending upon the total volume, and if the rates are “all-included”. Air freight is almost always less expensive than express, and customers can find significant cost savings if they wish to collect their cargo at the airport. Airport to airport rates vary based on the two airports. Current COVID-19 rates average between $4 to $9 per kilogram.
COVID-19 continues to impact air cargo rates and delivery times. As of August 2020, air cargo rates continue to remain volatile. We suggest any customer wishing to ship cargo via air to get a quote from us to obtain the most up to date rates for their shipment.
When customers ship via air cargo, a significant amount of freight is moved via commercial airlines, as well as specialized cargo planes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese borders became heavily restricted, and only a very small group of approved travelers are allowed to fly into China. Because of this, international travel has significantly reduced the number of planes entering the country.
Currently, the majority of the airlines flying into China are only collecting revenue when the cargo leaves the country, which means their cargo rates need to account for both the cost for the airline to fly empty or semi-empty planes into China, before flying full loads out of the country.
With every country around the world facing the same situation, and each nation handling restrictions differently, airlines are in the middle, trying to figure out the best way to manage their fleets, while fighting to stay in business during a time when nobody is traveling.
To give an example of the volatility, before COVID-19, air cargo rates from Guanzhou’s International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport were as low as $3 per kilogram. The rate for the current route reached an all-time high of $17.00 per kilogram during April 2020. The current rates continue to fluctuate, at the time of writing this, we are seeing rates between $5 and $8 per kilogram from CAN to LAX. Other routes continue to fluctuate as well.
If you are shipping your products from China, it is best to tell us the details of your shipment, and we will help identify the most ideal route to ship your cargo.
All-included air freight costs include all costs associated with the shipment of cargo, allowing the shipper to receive a door to door service at a single quoted rate. When a logistics company quotes all-included, it means their rates most likely include the following;
Be sure to read each quotation carefully, as some forwarders will include import duty and customs clearance, and others will bill those services separately. This largely depends on what the products consist of, and if a forwarder is comfortable guessing the duty and import fees based on the explanation of the cargo.
When in doubt, double-check with your logistics provider.
Air Freight costs from China are calculated by determining the greater of the two; actual weight and volumetric weight. Similar to how air express is calculated, shippers need to use a special formula specific for air freight to calculate the volume weight, also called DIM weight. Airlines will take the greater of the two weights to calculate the chargeable weight.
The actual weight is calculated the same way it is calculated for air express. Actual weight, also known as gross weight is the total weight of the cargo.
The volume weight is calculated the same way the volume weight is calculated for air express, however, the formula is different. This means that there are two possible formulas one could use to determine the DIM weight of a shipment.
LWH/6000: Volume Weight Formula:
The first multiplies the carton dimension and divides it by 6,000,
If, for example, the dimensions of all sides of an export carton being shipped via air freight are 90cm, then we would multiply the 90 * 90 * 90 and then divide the sum by 6,000. This would give us a total volume weight for air freight of 121.5kg.
CMB*167: Volume Weight Formula:
An alternative calculation is to multiply the total cubic volume by 167. Continuing with the example of an export carton with six, 90cm sides, the cubic volume is 0.729 m3.
If we multiply 0.729m3 by 167, we have a total volume weight of 121.7kg.
Comparing Actual Weight with Volume Weight:
As we continue using the above dimensions as our example, airlines will always choose whichever is higher, the actual weight or the volume weight.
Therefore, if the actual weight of the export carton weighed 119kg, then the airline would count the volume weight as the billable weight, meaning that the weight would be calculated as 121.7kg.
If the actual weight of the export carton weighed 130kg, then the airline would count the actual weight as the billable weight, meaning that the weight would be calculated as 130kg, and not 121.7kg.
Typically, air freight traveling from China to the United States takes a little longer than Express Shipping, anywhere from 2 to 14 days, and up to 20 days. It should be noted that the Coronavirus has and will continue to impact these timeframes. Best is to get a quote to see how long your shipment will take.
The reason shipment times can vary is dependent on the route and couriers. When shipments are urgent, freight forwarders will find routes that are direct and leave little room for the delay between the legs of the journey.
The best way to understand how and why air freight can take as little as a couple of days to as long as three weeks is if you use the analogy of air freight being similar to planning a trip from one country to another.
When planning a trip, one needs to identify an airport they will fly out of, coordinate a way to get to the airport, and then purchase airline tickets from one destination to another. Oftentimes, direct flights to a destination are more expensive, and savvy travelers can find cheaper flights if they opt for a layover.
There are even some instances where it might be even cheaper to layover in a city and have to travel to a different nearby airport, before arriving at their destination airport. In these circumstances, transportation needs to be arranged to the different airports, and then again to the final destination.
This same process is done for air freight. Layovers can allow for cost savings, even when accounting for short term warehousing, similar to a traveler spending a night in a hotel before their next flight.
As a general rule of thumb, when air freight needs to arrive quickly, the cost is usually higher. When time allows, savvy freight forwarders who know all the potential routes from a country can find creative ways to save money when shipping by air.
China air freight is the preferred shipping method when any of the following conditions apply
Shipping via air freight from China is by far the most advantageous mode of transportation when urgency or security is a primary concern. The reason being is because of the significant level of customization a freight forwarder can offer, based on the unique requirements of each shipment.
Unlike air express, air freight has the flexibility to offer logistics options that focus on speed, cost, or security. Shippers can arrange for the cargo to be delivered anywhere, consolidated, deconsolidated, and transshipped in ways that air express does not offer.
While it is agreed upon that sea freight is the most economical way to transport large volume internationally, air freight allows for the greatest level of diversification and customization.
If cargo needs to be shipped from China to two cities that are not close to one another, air freight offers a significantly greater amount of options than air express and sea freight. This is especially true when the volume is less than 500 kilograms, or when the cargo must arrive quicker than 30 days.
For example, if an e-commerce company wanted to ship inventory urgently from Guangzhou, China to two fulfillment warehouses, one in Dallas, Texas and the other in Newark, New Jersey, air freight gives them any of the following options:
The possibilities are endless, and the above scenarios are not possible for either a door to door air express shipment or an ocean shipment.
The most significant disadvantages of air freight are that they are not perfect in either extreme. Meaning, when urgency is paramount, they will almost always take longer than air express, and when the cost is the primary concern, they will almost always be more expensive than sea freight.
For shippers looking for either urgency or cost, they may be disappointed to learn that shipping cargo via air could take weeks, and cost double, triple or sometimes more than the cost of sea freight.
On top of these, air freight is not as seamless as air express, and when customers are looking for the easiest solution for their cargo to arrive, they will notice there is more paperwork, and additional back and forth required.
If we continue with the example above where an e-commerce company wanted to ship inventory from Guangzhou, China to two fulfillment warehouses in Dallas, Texas, and Newark, New Jersey, there are some scenarios where air freight might not be a viable option.
While the disadvantages of airfreight are clear, the disadvantages are always specific to each shipment’s requirements. Because of this, it is never a wise idea to claim one form of shipment is the best for everything, instead, it is important to take into consideration the pros and cons or each shipping method whenever you plan to move cargo.
Anytime you are planning on shipping products from China, you will greatly benefit from sharing your shipment details with a freight forwarder who can help you choose the best option to move your cargo. To start this process, tell us your shipping details, and we will create a quotation and shipping plan that works for you.
Ultimately, the best airlines offering air freight services in China are the ones with routes and rates that are right for you. In general, most airlines can be considered to be reliable carriers, and worthy of consideration. However, we find that the best carriers are the ones with consistent routes, and maintain stable shipping rates.
At Guided Imports, we work with only the best China Air Freight companies, including
These companies are among the best because of their track record of:
If you’re looking for an affordable China Air Freight it’s in your best interest to work with a China freight forwarder. Freight forwarders have the distinct advantage of leveraging their high-volume rates while staying brand agnostic. This allows them to select the cheapest carriers, regardless of the airline.
It is known across the industry that China Southern, Air China, and China Eastern consistently have the lowest prices for air cargo shipments to the United States. However, other carriers such as Cathay Pacific, ANA, and Asiana routinely offer promotional rates sporadically throughout the year, which can at times be significantly less than the state-owned, Chinese carriers.
The answer to the question of which carriers are the cheapest in China always depends on the season and which carriers are offering special rates.
Because of this, at Guided Imports, we focus on staying up to date with all potential carriers flying out of Chinese cities and positioning ourselves so we can have high-volume rates with the top carriers, in order for our pricing to be the lowest in the industry.
China sea freight is the movement of cargo from China to the US via container ship. When opting to ship via this method, the buyer has the flexibility to customize their shipment in order to meet their unique needs. The unique customization options include:
Clearly, there are a lot of variables that influence how goods are shipped via China sea freight to the United States. Not to worry, we’ll cover them all in detail below.
When cargo shipped by sea is not enough to fill an entire container, buyers often opt to share container space with other shippers, and have a single shipping container hold cargo for multiple buyers. This type of shipment is called less than container load, or LCL for short.
LCL is a good option when sending loads greater than 1 cubic meter and smaller than 15 cubic meters. When a buyer opts to ship cargo via LCL, a third-party logistics company will assist them by collecting their cargo and transporting it to a local warehouse. At the warehouse, the cargo is consolidated with the other buyers’ cargo that will be stuffed into the same container. Once all cargo arrives at the warehouse it is loaded into the container. The logistics company is then responsible to truck the shipment to the port and begin the freighting process.
When using LCL Sea Freight from China, US buyers will need to use a China freight forwarder to leverage this option, as they will be able to efficiently arrange multiple shipments into a single container in a very short period of time.
LCL has the benefits of allowing smaller sized shipments that otherwise would not be able to be shipped via sea to take advantage of the low-cost options of sea freight. The disadvantages however, are that LCL is always going to cost more per cubic meter than FCL, and is not direct as FCL.
A China full container load shipment is one that uses an entire container, and the cargo is not shared with other shippers. FCL does not require that a container is filled to capacity, but rather, designates that the container space is not shared between multiple shipments. When the volume of a cargo load is around 15 cubic meters, or more, FCL can be considered, and the cost can be compared to the costs of an LCL shipment.
Because FCL shipments only contain a single consignee’s cargo, there is greater flexibility as to how the products are loaded into the container. In most instances, when buyers are purchasing products from Chinese suppliers, the container will be trucked to the supplier’s warehouse and the cargo will be loaded onsite.
In the event a buyer wishes to consolidate multiple products, they have the option to have all the products shipped to a centralized warehouse and then load the goods into the container, or they could request that a single supplier collect all cargo and load the container at their warehouse.
FCL can also be shipped directly to a buyer’s warehouse, once it arrives in the United States, or shipped to a warehouse first, before it is deconsolidated.
When using FCL Sea Freight from China, it’s best to work with a China Freight Forwarder who has experience moving freight from Chinese factories to the United States. Specialized forwarding companies, like Guided Imports, can provide the following benefits:
Various container size options exist when shipping goods to China. A standard ISO container is typically:
When shipping goods to the US from China via sea freight, the total cost of a shipment is referred to as the “landed costs” and will depend on origin, destination, and container size. Current COVID-19 rates: a 40 foot container to the East Coast won’t cost more than $3,900 and to the West Coast, no more than $3,300.
As we have mentioned previously, sea freight rates are changing frequently, so the above rates are the highest we would expect someone to pay given the current climate in the pandemic.
Landed costs typically include:
The party responsible for covering these costs will depend upon the type of contract agreed upon by the buyer and seller, whether that’s a FOB, CIF, EXW, DAP, DDP, or some other kind of Incoterm agreement. When requesting a quotation from a logistics provider, it is always beneficial to define the Incoterm agreed by the buyer and the seller, in order for an accurate quotation to be provided.
14 of the 50 largest ports in the world are located inside of Mainland, China, and another 2 are economically tied to China in one way or another. This means that 15 of the largest ports in the world are shipping cargo from China to all over the world. Below, we have created a list with each of these major shipping ports in China.
The United States has approximately 360 ocean and inland waterway ports. Finding the right port for cargo to be shipped from China requires identifying which of the larger ports are closest to the final destination. Mileage on water is oftentimes much cheaper than mileage on a road, so it is always beneficial to consider multiple ports and calculate the all included cost from each.
Any experienced freight forwarding company should be able to create this assessment for you, however, it is always helpful to have your own understanding of the top US seaports.
Container shipments from China can take between 12 and 33 days, depending on where in China your goods depart from and where they are being shipped to in the US. Containers shipped to the West Coast take 12-25 days, and 24-41 days to the East Coast. To get the most accurate assessment, get a quote from a China Freight Forwarder.
China to US Container Shipping Timetable:
Los Angeles, CA
Long Beach, CA
New York & New Jersey, NY, NJ
WARNING: Coronavirus has caused reduced air freight capacity, leading to volatile pricing. Make sure to get a quote.
In short, China sea freight is the preferred shipping mode when:
When choosing the best shipping method for your shipment from China to the US, other considerations should include:
The advantages of using China sea freight include the ability to ship a large volume that is more cost-effective than air freight and air express. Sea freight offers maximum customizability with options to ship, store, route, and fulfill cargo of any size, to any destination. China sea freight is inexpensive and optimized to move cargo to anywhere, from anywhere.
There is a reason virtually every business that imports products from China into the United States does so via sea freight. It is the same reason why there are an estimated 360 waterway ports in the US. Sea freight is a cost-effective and simple solution when moving cargo across large distances.
When working with a freight forwarder, importing from China via sea freight is incredibly easy, it is punctual, and is low risk.
The disadvantages of using sea freight mainly revolve around the time it takes. In general, shipping cargo by sea to the US takes 20+ days, meaning, if cargo is urgent, sea freight is less than ideal. Other disadvantages included the added steps involved, as multiple carriers must work together to fulfill a shipment from A to Z.
In most instances, a freight forwarding company will handle all aspects of a sea freight shipment on behalf of the shipper. While forwarders can offer seamless services so the customer does not need to worry about their shipment, the process is always going to be more complex than air express, which is the most streamlined logistics service available.
Other disadvantages to sea freight are the risks of shipping cargo via sea. Because a shipment requires multiple carriers to handle the freight, there are increased chances of loss, damage, and theft of cargo. While these instances are rare, they do happen. This is why shippers are encouraged to obtain China freight insurance whenever shipping by sea. Because cargo is shipped at a larger volume, there are not as many streamlined customs clearance processes available when importing into the United States. All sea shipments must be formally cleared because their value is almost always greater than $2,500, which is the cutoff between an informal and formal clearance.
There is always a risk that cargo can catch the attention of US Customs agents, which can lead to customs examinations as well as warehousing whose fees are the responsibility of the consignee. Even when products imported into the United States are compliant with all rules and regulations, these examinations are always a risk that needs to be taken into account.
Anytime products are commercially shipped from China, a license is required for the cargo to leave the country. Chinese suppliers are responsible for applying for these export licenses, anytime they wish to trade internationally. When Chinese suppliers don’t have an export permit, buyers can work with a China Freight Forwarder to help arrange proper export.
An Export License is a permit granted to businesses, by China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, which allows them to export permitted products from China. Any company wishing to act as the exporter in China must have a proper permit, allowing them to do so. Without this permit, Chinese customs won’t allow the cargo to exit the country.
The entity exporting products from China largely depends on the Incoterms agreed to at the point of sale. If the Incoterms are EXW, then the buyer is responsible for exporting the cargo and must obtain an export license, or work with a freight forwarder capable of acting as the exporter. All other Incoterms, the supplier must cover all export costs.
An Export License can only be obtained by a company incorporated in China. Buyers should be aware of this when choosing their Incoterms, as it would be impossible for them to obtain an Export License unless they already had a company in China.
There are times when buyers wish to purchase from Chinese suppliers that don’t have the necessary documentation to export. In this event, either the supplier or the buyer must rely on an agent or their freight forwarder to assist with the export documentation.
Buyers should be careful when working with suppliers and confirm if they have the necessary permits to export products. While it is not impossible to export products without the supplier holding the export permit, it is important buyers are aware of this before placing an order.
If a supplier does not have an Export License and does not wish to procure one, then their only choice is to sell their products under EXW terms, or Ex-Works Incoterms. Any other Incoterm, such as FOB, DDP, or CIF, the supplier would be required to arrange the export, and ensure the products had the necessary permits to leave the country.
Up until the 1990s, it was not easy for Chinese businesses to obtain Export Licenses. With China becoming much more business-friendly over the years, it is now easier than ever for suppliers to obtain Export Licenses for most products. Some suppliers still only focus on domestic sales and lack of interest in applying for the correct licenses to export products.
Domestic Chinese sales are a huge market, and because of this, a lot of businesses only focus on selling within their borders. For example, some factories have chosen to only work with domestic trading companies, which allows them to rely on other companies to handle their sales and exporting efforts. Other factories have a primary focus in the domestic market and have never seen the need to obtain an export license.
Some companies may decide to separate their entities, where one entity acts as the exporting division, and the other acting as the manufacturer. This means, at times, if you request an Export License from a supplier, and they present you with an Export License from another company, the reason could be as simple as them relying on another company to act as the exporter. This process is not uncommon, and should not be alarming if you come across it.
While most consumer product Export Licenses are easy to obtain, China routinely places restrictions on products they consider to be sensitive. A good example of this is before May of 2020, it was relatively easy for any company to obtain an export license for face mask respirators. With the influx of Export License applications, and the international community calling on China to put a stop to the low quality and counterfeit facemasks, China required additional steps in order for businesses to obtain these types of export licenses.
Today, the processing time to obtain an Export License in China for personal protective equipment is a complex and tedious process.
While not all products are easy to obtain an Export License, in general, if a product is a consumer product, is not a raw material, chemical, medicine, or used in the medical industry, the process is not very difficult.
When a factory does not have an export license, an agent can assist by acting as the exporter, for a small fee. This fee is dependent on the agent or logistics company, and the type of product.
While it is common for businesses sourcing products to try to find incredible deals from factories, it is usually not advisable to work with factories lacking an Export License. Because it indicates the supplier’s inability to navigate the compliance and bureaucratic necessities any business trading internationally must do. For most experienced procurement offices, a supplier lacking an Export License is a telltale sign that they are incapable of ensuring any level of product compliance or technical requirement, as an Export License is an entry-level document any company in China can get.
In theory, finding a company only selling within Mainland China may turn out to be cheaper, however, there is significant risk associated with it. If you are contemplating using a supplier that does not have an export license, there should be a very compelling reason, and it should be a product that you have a strong compliance and safety testing understanding in.
The easiest way to confirm a supplier has a valid export license is to request a copy. Once you have received a copy, you can confirm it is accurate and up to date via visiting China’s Customs website, and using the business license number found on the Export License to search their database.
We have provided a quick guide below if you would like to do this. Bear in mind, all of the documents and websites are in Chinese, so you will either need to use a translation plugin within your internet browser or find someone who speaks Chinese to help.
When in doubt, feel free to reach out to us via our request for a quote form, and share the details of your supplier, and we will be happy to check if their export license is valid.
Upon requesting an Export License, your supplier should share a document with you that looks the image below.
Towards the top of the page, just below the title of the document, you will see the companies business license number. It is an 18 digit number, usually ending in a letter.
With this number, you may search for the supplier on China’s customs Credit check platform. The link to this search database is: http://credit.customs.gov.cn/
You should see a search bar on the page, and a captcha verification field just below it. In the larger search bar, enter the full business license as found on the Export License.
Then type in the captcha and click the search button.
The search results should populate with your supplier’s name. Click on the supplier name to review their credit report.
Within this report, and can learn which Customs office they are registered with, what their current export permit standing is, among other helpful information that you can use to confirm your supplier has all the necessary information to export the products you intend to purchase.
Below is a screenshot of a report that has been translated, using a browser plugin application. Please note, only the field titles are translated, which means, you would need to copy the answers and translate them on a translation website.
Anytime you are importing products with a value greater than $2,500 into the US, a customs broker is advised. Every shipment entering into the US requires a formal entry and specific documents presented to US customs, in order to fulfill the necessary imports fees and taxes. A Customs Broker assists with this process and ensures cargo enters the country correctly.
When products are valued at less than $2,500, the U.S Customs Border Protection (CBP) will usually allow the importer to bring the goods in informally. This means the products would not need to go through the standard formalities of an import.
The only time it is advisable to not use a Customs Broker is if you or someone in your company is a customs broker. Formal entry of products into the United States is a tedious process and requires a complex understanding of federal and local regulations.
When in doubt, always work with a US Customs Broker.
Additionally, an Import License may be required if you are shipping:
Freight insurance provides protection for your goods above and beyond that which your manufacturer or carrier may provide. When shipping, carriers and suppliers rarely offer full protection against all loss if a catastrophic incident occurs. Freight insurance makes up for that by offering policies customers can purchase to obtain further protection.
Anytime you are shipping via air or sea, freight insurance is always an advisable investment. While carriers are legally liable for damages that happen under their watch, their insurance providers will typically deny the majority of claims made on behalf of their customers (you). This means that while most shipments are already insured, they are rarely insured up to the total value as stated on the commercial invoice.
Furthermore, the carrier’s insurance will not cover damage that may occur during transport to the destination point, during loading or off-loading, at US Customs, or during transport to your final destination.
Anytime you are shipping products internationally, there are a lot of carriers and hands touching your products. This allows for a significant number of opportunities for something to go wrong, at virtually every stage of the shipping process. Accidents do happen, and when accidents lead to financial loss, the only way for a shipper to have confidence in their shipment is to purchase an insurance policy.
Unfortunately there is no standardized rate. It will depend on the goods you are shipping, their value, the routes used, and the coverage you purchase. That being said, freight insurance is typically pennies on the dollar, if not less, relative to the value of your cargo.
Freight insurance provides great peace of mind to anyone shipping from China and is an incredibly straightforward process whenever looking at your shipment or shipments.
You can quickly obtain a freight insurance quote here.
At Guided Imports, we’ve been shipping products for our customers for the last decade. We understand that when customers come to us, they’re already stressed and annoyed with the miscommunication and issues they receive from factories.
This is why we do everything within our power to provide assurance that, once we take control of their cargo, the headache of working with difficult suppliers is over.
We ship products from China to anywhere in the world. We don’t pretend to have offices worldwide, and we don’t ship everything and anything from anywhere. Our primary focus is shipping cargo from China and is the best solution for any business purchasing from Chinese suppliers.
When you work with us, you can expect clear communication, well-executed logistics planning, no hidden fees, and a partner that will work tirelessly to ensure your cargo leaves when it is scheduled to leave and arrives on time.
The best decision you can make is to have us as your logistics partner in China, and trust that we will accomplish whatever is necessary to provide you with the peace of mind for all products leaving the country.
Tell us about your next shipment, regardless of how far into the future it is, so we can begin planning the logistics process for you.
Once you submit the details of your shipment to us, we will review your details and begin identifying all possible routes and modes of transport your products can take. Then we begin analyzing all scenarios in order to determine the one we feel is the most ideal for your defined requirements.
Once we have a shipping plan, we share the details with you via email and offer our time to go over the plan or make adjustments as needed. Once all of your questions are answered, and you are satisfied with the shipping plan, we can begin communicating with your supplier and informing them we are your logistics partner in China. At that point, you can sit back and relax, knowing that Guided Imports is managing your shipment.