When ordering samples, air freight/air express is reasonable
When it comes to shipping by sea, the first thing to consider is whether you really prefer shipping by air or express delivery by air. We have discussed some of the major differences between air freight and air express delivery in our article here. But the general rule of thumb is that for shipments under 200kg or so, it’s almost always cheaper and more convenient to ship via some form of air freight as opposed to sea freight. Air freight generally ranges from US$5/kg to US$10/kg, but does not have the same fixed costs as ocean shipping.

How much does international shipping cost?
For any shipment over 200kg or so, sea freight is usually your cheapest option. The basic cost of sea freight is higher, but the scale is large. For example, the final cost of shipping a 20kg box via sea freight may be $300, but for 200kg you will pay $310, 2000kg, $390 etc. For air freight, there is little expansion. A 20kg box will cost you $100 and a 40lb box will cost you $200.

There are two types of sea freight: full container loads (FCL, 20′ and 40′ containers) and less than container loads (LCL). Additionally, containers come in three basic sizes: 20′, 40′, 40’hq (40′ high cube).

LCL shipping simply means that you put one or more pallets into a container along with other company’s goods. Full container means you get a full container. Simple right? Any freight forwarder can arrange a full container shipment or LCL shipment for you. For a 20ft container to North America (always cheaper from the west coast) the cost ranges from $2000 to $4000 for a full container and the LCL is very close to how much of the container you are using up (if you are occupying it) at 25% of a 40ft container , you will pay around 25% of the cost of a 40-foot container. See the image above for a sample ocean freight quote for October 2018.

Shipping by sea is available to most major ports. Vancouver (Canada), Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the prominent ones on the west coast. Living in a landlocked part of the world like Denver? No problem – you can still ship a container there, but your container will just be put on a train and dashed into your city, although inland delivery is slightly more expensive (though still very reasonable).

When should you use Full Container Loading (FCL) vs. Less Than Container Loading (LCL)?
When should you use LCL shipping? When should you use FCL shipping? The obvious answer seems to be that when you have enough items to fill an entire cabinet, you can opt for full container shipping. From a financial perspective, a full container of 75% or more is generally cheaper than shipping LCL (in other words, the surcharge for LCL is about 25%). However, there are two other important considerations. First, the shipping time of LCL is 1-2 weeks longer than that of FCL. That’s because the freight forwarder has to pack your items and unpack your items with others. Secondly, due to this extra handling, LCL shipments are more susceptible to loss and damage (albeit very rare). If time and care are important to you, even a half-empty cabinet can be shipped.

Ocean shipping has high fixed costs and many surcharges
With ocean shipping, there are a lot of unexpected costs when the goods arrive in your country. When you receive an invoice from your freight forwarder, you may be shocked at how many fees there are outside of the actual ocean shipment. Here are some of the sample fees you can pay:

Dockage fee: USD 50-100
Freight forwarding management fee: US$75-200
Security fee: USD 50-100 (usually for full container loads)
Customs clearance fee: $100-$200 (plus applicable duties/taxes)
Final trucking from bonded warehouse to your door: $200+ (unless you pick up the shipment yourself)

The last two costs, customs clearance fees and final trucking, you can technically and do yourself. In fact, no one has done this themselves.

These are only the costs once your goods arrive in your country. They do not include the cost of shipping from within China (which varies greatly depending on your Incoterms) or the actual cost of shipping itself.

Ocean shipping is different from other modes of transportation
Most of us are used to shipping items via USPS, FedEx, and other small package carriers. Ocean shipping may look very different from these types of services at first, but when you think about it more deeply, you’ll find that they are actually very similar. If you ship via USPS, you know you have to drop off your items at the post office. Same goes for ocean shipping: someone has to drop it off at the post office! Beyond that, in this case, the port is the post office. If you imagine the United States for a second, you know that Kansas is far from the ocean. So to ship some pallets to the Port of New York, you need to ship the goods to New York. The same is true if you order from a supplier in Chengdu (Central China) to Shanghai Port. Thankfully, you don’t actually need to arrange for some random Chinese truck driver to pick up your shipment. Most freight forwarders will be happy to arrange pickup from your supplier’s factory. But it will cost more money. That’s why it’s important to call them Incoterms. For example, if you and your supplier agree to the shipping terms of Shanghai FOB, this means that your supplier will pay for the cost of shipping your goods to the port of Shanghai. If you agree to EXW Chengdu, you will pay the fee (see my warning on EXW). Shipping goods hundreds or thousands of miles by truck is not cheap, no matter what country you are in, so always be aware of this!

Once your goods arrive at the port, they are placed on a container and the next time you hear about them should be when they arrive in your country.

Shipping by sea (and air) requires the use of a freight forwarder
So how do you actually book ocean freight? You need something called a freight forwarder (actually this also applies to air freight). A freight forwarder is essentially a broker who purchases container space on shipping containers. You cannot book this space directly on the ship – you need a freight forwarder, and Jixin Logistics Co., Ltd. is one of the best in China.

Freight forwarding is highly competitive and there are thousands of freight forwarders. There are two very popular freight forwarding brokers (essentially, they are brokers’ brokers) called FlexPort and Freightos. You can get a quote for almost any shipment. However, the easiest way to ship your goods is to have your overseas manufacturer arrange shipping for you.

How long does sea shipping take?
SeaRates.com is my favorite website for evaluating shipping times, and getting shipping estimates. Generally speaking, shipping times from China to various ports are short:

18 days from Shanghai to New York: 35 days from Shanghai to London
These times vary widely based on route and other factors, but are good approximations. They also don’t take into account container loading and unloading times, which can easily add many days (sometimes weeks) to these shipping times.

When you ship from China to your country
When your shipment is about to arrive in your city, your freight forwarder will call or email you to let you know how much you owe them (more on that later), the ETA, and where to pick it up.

Keeping with the USPS example, you know that if you are not home when the postman attempts to deliver your package, you will have to find it at the post office. The same goes for ocean shipping, except they won’t try to deliver your package to your home. You always have to pick it up from the port or a nearby warehouse.

If you order a full container, you will almost certainly have your container picked out at the port. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the Port of Vancouver.

If you order LCL shipping, then remember that you only have a small amount of space with everyone else. Your goods are probably in the back of that container, so they need to get them to you somehow. Time at the port is very expensive so they will move your container to a nearby warehouse (nearby may mean 30 miles away) and unload the container, in other words they will take your goods out and make them in the warehouse For easier and cheaper pickup. In the image below, you can see cargo moving out of the Port of Vancouver (where the containers are unloaded), to a nearby city (Richmond), and then to a warehouse.

Continuing with our post office example, you know that the post office will not hold your package forever. Eventually, they will just return it to the sender. The same goes for ocean shipping. You usually have five days of free storage. After them, they will start charging you for storage (for a container it’s around $100 per day, and for LCL shipping it’s around $50 per day, depending on the size of the LCL shipment).

Chances are you don’t actually want to pick up the goods from the port yourself. In this case, let your freight forwarder know the final address to which you would like the goods to be delivered (ideally before the order is actually dispatched) and they will be happy to arrange the overland shipment to the final destination. Note that overland shipping even for short distances is usually almost as much as shipping thousands of miles by sea (I recently spent $2000 on a 20′ container to ship from Shanghai to Los Angeles, then $1100 to ship the 30 miles from Los Angeles to San Moreno) .

Your shipment is being held for ransom at this point
So your goods arrive in your home country (great – you know the ship didn’t sink!) but, in a sense, they are now being held for ransom. Three parties need to be paid, and the warehouse or port will not let you pick up the goods before paying these three parties. These three parties are:

your supplier
Your freight forwarder or shipping agent
Pay your suppliers
At this point, you should have paid your supplier. However, your goods are like cars: you need to own them in order to have ownership. The original bill of lading is essentially title to the goods. Your supplier will mail you 2 or 3 copies of such items (no copies allowed – must be originals) and you must send one of these original lists to your local country freight company (usually in a port city), but not always). Your supplier can also Telex to you, which basically means they call the company and say “please send the goods to Dan’s XYZ company” and waive the need for OBL. You may wish to have your shipment released by telex from your supplier rather than sending you an original bill of lading.

Pay freight forwarder fees
The freight forwarder will also ask you to pay a small fee at this time, which includes ocean freight and various other surcharges. When you pay the freight forwarder, confirm with them the location of the goods in the warehouse if you shipped LCL and picked up the goods yourself. Also, ask them for something called a cargo control number. This is basically the unique ID of your package. Without it, the warehouse won’t be able to find your items. When the freight forwarder initially contacts you to tell you that the goods are about to arrive, they should forward a document to you telling you the final location of the goods and the cargo control number. I will not give you an example here. You can contact our business Staff will answer your questions.

Pay customs fees
The last thing you need to pay is customs. This is actually not entirely true: you may not actually have to pay customs fees (if your shipment has 0% duty), but you will have to clear customs.

Clearance is a complex topic. Basically, countries require that all goods entering the country be recorded. Most items, especially those from China, have a certain percentage of duties/duties, usually in the 1-15% range, although many items actually have 0% duties/duties. No matter how much tax you owe, you must fill out a customs declaration form. A customs broker can handle all of this for you for about $150-200 + applicable duties. There are thousands of customs brokers and your freight forwarder may also be a registered customs broker.

Once you clear customs, the local customs authorities will notify the warehouse holding your goods and be like “Dave Bryant has cleared customs – you can send these goods to him”.

You’ve paid the ransom – you can pick up your cargo!
Once you’ve paid three ransoms, you can finally get the goods. You simply go to the warehouse (in the case of LCL shipments) or the port where the goods are located (for containers) and take them out.

If you are picking up an LCL shipment, the warehouse may charge you $25-$50 for docking fees, which is usually payable in cash only, so bring cash just in case. Remember, your goods may be on pallets. This is the best arrangement if you have a vehicle, such as a pickup truck, on which you can simply load the pallet. On the other hand, if you have a small car, you can disassemble the pallets for a while and fill your car with boxes.

If you have any questions about cross-border transportation of goods, please feel free to contact us at any time:
Company Name: Shenzhen J sun Logistics Co., Ltd
Contacts: Grace