How to Ship Products When Import from China: Complete Guide

Being a sourcing agent who helps source products from China, we usually ship our large customers’ cargoes in full containers. For many other small customers who are satisfied with the price we quote, as they do not have much experience in importing from China, they always get confused about different shipping methods.

Some of them consider shipping by express in the beginning, but the cost is much higher than they expect even with small quantities. Some just want to ship 2 CBM cargo by sea freight because it is the cheapest way, but only find the whole import & export process is complicated and expensive in the end.

If you are doing a small business and usually import much less than 20GP container load products one time, or you just start your business in importing from China, this article can give you some useful suggestions about shipping, by analyzing different kinds of situations you may run into.

1. International Express -Fast and Most Convenient Way

For shipping less than 200Kg common products, there’s almost no better choice than sending by international express. If you can’t afford the express fee, maybe you can buy more products and ship together by sea freight, or you have to give up and buy from local suppliers.

International Express (FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc.) is suitable for high-value products or products which need to be delivered to certain places very soon, such as fashion products including jewelry, clothing, or electronics.

There is one important thing you should keep in mind when using international express: they calculate the bulky cargo by dimension weight (length*width*height/5000). If you ship 200 mugs to Canada by DHL, the weight is 200g/mug, but the dimensional weight is 300g/mug, then DHL will charge by 300g/mug. So that means products with big space will cost a lot express fee.

international express-FedEx

However, large purchasers sometimes prefer international express to air freight because it usually has a cargo promotion price which is much cheaper if you have large cargo that is over 1,000 Kg. The price is not much different from air freight but is more convenient than the latter.

For instance, Chinese Amazon suppliers often use FedEx when they ship to Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), 1,000 Kg of goods only takes around $2.8/Kg to the US. And can arrive in 5-6 days.

2. China Post Mail Package -Most Economical Way for 20-200Kg Cargo

When your cargo is 20-200Kg, China Post Mail by sea will be another choice, which is around 1/3 the price of international express, especially for remote regions like African countries where other express companies charge high freight.

Another good thing is that it calculates all goods only by weight, never by dimension weight, which means good for lightweight products.

But it has a 20Kg limitation for each package, so you have to separate your cargo into several cartons. And it normally takes around 2 months on shipping, so only when you really care about the shipping rate, you will choose it.

For example, Australian customers buy kid toys from us every 2 months. Every shipment will be 5-6 cartons, around 100 Kg, 0.5 CBM. This volume is too less for sea freight shipping (the LCL), and if shipped by express, the freight cost will be calculated by dimension weight which is 2-3 times higher than by China Post.

3. Air Freight -Fast and Suitable for More than 500Kg Cargo

Airfreight has its own advantages,  cheaper and faster than express. But your cargo should better be more than 500Kg, or international express will be better. And their dimensional weight is calculated as length*width*height/6000, less than international express.

There are some points you should note, this shipping way is airport to airport,  which means suppliers have to send the cargo to the airport and manage the custom export process. When cargo arrives at the airport of your place, you have to pick up them at the airport and do the custom import process. If the closest international airport is quite far away from your place, then the domestic forwarding cost will be also a lot of money.

Note: Hazardous Articles of Air Transportation

All airlines have strict rules about shipping hazardous articles cargo, including products that are easy to burn or explode, or chemical products that are toxic. Balancing scooter is one among them because of lithium batteries. So it’s not possible to ship this cargo via international express, air freight, or China Post Air Package. The only choice is sea shipping.

4. Less than Container Load Sea ShippingLCL

LCL sea shipping is the most economical way among all shipping methods when your cargo is more than 2-3 CBM. If even less than that, we would recommend you to choose China Post or others. Because every sea shipping has fixed fees for the export process in China, around $100-$150, and also fixed import fees when cargo arrives in port. So shipping only 2 CBM will cost a lot of money.

Sea freight is port to port, so don’t forget to count in the forwarding cost from the port to your warehouse. If your place is far away from the seaport or there’s even no seaport in your country, you’d better find a local shipping company to inquire how to ship from China. Because they know the shipping to your place better than Chinese suppliers or forwarders.

There is one special situation: if your cargo is around 15-20 CBM, it’s cheaper and faster to use a 20GP container rather than LCL.

Tips: If there is still some empty space left in your container, you can buy some low-value goods or bulky cargo and ship them together. Because these products can be considered as free shipping. Toys importers usually will buy Pit Balls to fill the free space of containers.

There existing few forwarders who specialized in LCL in certain countries, and you can get a very cheap price from them. And they will help you handle the customs process first, then you pick up cargo in their warehouse. However, finding them is a little difficult.

One forwarder we worked with specialized in the African lines. They can even accept as less as 0.1 CBM cargos. For example, they charge $280/CBM to Nairobi, so 0.1 CBM only costs $28. You just need to pick up your cargo in their warehouse located in Nairobi, so it’s super economic and convenient.

If you know some of this kind of company, please tell us by email: [email protected]

Less container load sea shipping way

A forwarder who offers LCL service

5. Full Container Load Sea Shipping

It’s well-known that full container load sea shipping is the cheapest shipping way, which is frequently used by our large customers as well. The following are the basic capacities of three common containers:

  • 20GP 5 ton         26CBM
  • 40GP 22 ton       54CBM
  • 40HQ 22 ton       68CBM

This shipping way will be introduced in detail in future articles.

6. Full Container Railway Shipping -Yixin’ou Railway Shipping Line

Yixin’ou Railway Line was opened in Nov. 2014, which connects China and many countries in Europe. This line starts at Yiwu City, China, via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, and France, and finally, arrived in Madrid, Spain. But it only accepts full container load shipping currently.

yixin'ou railway line

                                        Yixin’ou line’s route

Before it was opened, the goods traded between China and Europe needed at least 1 month in shipping, but right now it only needs 15-20 days by railway. However, its freight fee is around 3-4 times higher than which of sea shipping, but still, is much cheaper than air freight (around 8-10 times higher than that of sea shipping).

Yixin’ou line is really a better choice for European businessmen exporting wine and olive oil to China. Because it’s more stable during the journey so that the products can be sold after placing a very short time when arriving in China.

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