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The different methods of transportation between China and Switzerland 

In this chapter, we have discussed and elaborated on the different transportation options between China and Switzerland. Sea, air, rail, we can help you choose the most convenient and affordable way for your expedition. 

Sea freight from China to Switzerland

Shipping from China to Switzerland

China is the second-biggest economy in the world and one of the most important trading partners of Switzerland.  In 2019, Swiss manufactured exports to China amounted to 29.5 billion Swiss francs, whereas Swiss imports from China totalled 14.4 billion Swiss francs.

The main exports from Switzerland to China are machinery and equipment, watches and pharmaceuticals, while the main imports from China to Switzerland are machinery, textiles, watch components and chemicals. 

Switzerland is a country landlocked because it has no access to the sea in the middle of Europe. However, there are two primary methods of delivering goods from China by sea and air freight.

  • From the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Genoa, or Marseille/Fos, via ships, and then onwards through the EU by rail or truck, to locations in Switzerland.
  • Through direct shipments from China to the port of Switzerland along the Rhine River. These containers are placed on a number of barges which travel up the river to the entry point of Switzerland and especially to the city of Basel.


The Port of Switzerland

Located on the Rhine, the Port of Basel, also called the "Port of Switzerland", is a major logistics center for the whole country. It is composed of three ports in the two Cantons of Basel :  The ports of Birsfelden, Basel-Kleinhüningen and Muttenz. The harbor in Basel-Kleinhüningen is the biggest of these.


Over 10% of all Swiss imports entering the Rhine from around the world via ports such as Amsterdam, Antwerp and Rotterdam are treated in Birsfelden, Muttenz and Basel. As the port complex also includes a warehouse for the storage of petrochemicals, the Rhine ports have become a recognised hub of national significance for the Swiss economy.

The major terminals

  • 4 intermodal container terminals
  • 385,000 m3 of grain silos
  • 80,000 m3 of the warehouse for various bulk goods
  • Tanks for 1,250,000 m3 for liquid products
  • 60 cranes with lifting capacities from 5 to 300 tonnes

Transport time between China and Switzerland ports

It is extremely difficult to predict the exact transit times from the ports in China to Switzerland

Switzerland is not surrounded by any sea or ocean, which means that transport time varies greatly according to the destination port in Europe, the Swiss city being served, and the type of transport used in between. Generally, 30-40 days are required. The average transit times (in days) for the largest ports in China and Europe are listed below:

Ningbo Zhuhai Hongkong Xiamen Tianjin Shenzhen
Fuzhou Zhongshan Shanghai Foshan Qingdao Guangzhou


What container can I choose for shipment between Switzerland and China?

The following 3 different types of standard-size containers are available for the transport

  • 20 ft container with a volume of 33 m3 (about 10 pallets)
  • 40 ft container with a volume of 67 m3 (about 20 pallets)
  • 40 ft HQ container with a volume of 76 m3 (about 24 pallets)

For pallets of 120 x 100 cm (max height 230 cm)

Special transport 

Reefer container

Reefer containers, popularly known as reefers, offer temperature-controlled transport, allowing your product, including meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy products, as well as pharmaceuticals and chemicals, to be transported across the world's oceans at a controlled temperature so that they arrive in excellent condition.


A Ro-Ro is a vessel used to transport, apart from other things, vehicles, which are loaded by one or several ramps. Also known as Ro-Ro, from the English roll-on/roll-off, RORO is the cheapest and easiest way to ship vehicles.

The vehicles are taken directly to the RORO ship and secured on the vehicle decks. They are stowed securely inside the ship, watertight and windproof.

Bulk (Vrac)

Bulk goods consist of products transported directly into the ship's hold or into installations provided for this purpose. In this case, a distinction is being made between bulk commodities and bulk commodities. Solid bulk products : (such as non-ferrous minerals, ferrous and coal) Bulk fluids: (oil and petroleum products). Bulk goods are transported by bulk carriers, ships specialized for each type of cargo: coal carriers, ore carriers, etc.


OOG (Out of Gauge) shipments are a special type of cargo. Because of, for example, their unusual size or weight, certain goods cannot be loaded in conventional containers. These kinds of cargoes are normally filled onto a flatbed or trailer for carriage.

DocShipper Advice: As an international freight forwarder, we are able to handle different logistics operations such as sea freight. If you have an upcoming shipment and would like to rely on us and benefit from our experience in the sector, contact our experts via our form or directly by phone, you will receive a free quote within 24 hours.



Air freight from China to Switzerland

Airfreight from China to Switzerland

If your cargo has to be shipped fast, air freight is a better method compared to rail freight or sea freight. This way of doing things is also safer in terms of damage risk to the merchandise.

Switzerland now has 7 international airports. They are all located in all parts of the country, so selecting the best airport for your goods can save you a lot of time on ground movements.

Main airports in Switzerland

The 3 most frequented airports for freight aircraft directly to China are Basek, Zurich, and Geneva.

Zurich Airport - ZRH

Zurich Airport is frequently called Kloten Airport, not surprisingly it is also the busiest airport in Switzerland in terms of traffic for passengers and merchandise. The airport is located in the north of the city, about 13 km away, and is ideally placed for quick access to the city centre and the industrial area. It is the main hub for various Swiss airlines (Swiss global air lines, Swiss International Air Lines and Belair). 

Airport  Genève - GNV

Geneva airport is the second-busiest airport in the country, about 5Km from the city center. It is perfect for supplying your goods to the cities in the west of Switzerland.

Airport Bâle – BSL

EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg is not only the airport of Basel but of several cities including Mulhouse and Freiburg. It is located in France, 3.5 km from the Swiss border, allowing it to transport goods to France, Switzerland and Germany. Its specialty is to welcome important air cargoes.

Conventional or express air freight

Conventional air freight is suitable if your goods are around 1 to 2 m3, which is what standard airlines such as Air China, Emirates, Lufthanasa or Swiss Air usually do.

Airfreight Express is designed to send small volumes quickly. The companies offering these services also provide door-to-door solutions. The price will be higher, but you will benefit from an efficient method and a very fast delivery. 

Companies offering this type of service include DHL, UPS, FedEx and TNT.

How much does it cost to transport cargo by air from China to Switzerland?

The main advantage of air freight is its speed, often used for small and light cargoes in a very short time. 

However, it is the most expensive method, which is why this type of freight is less interesting for large volumes in some cases. 

With this freight, you can know approximately how much it will cost you, we will see how to calculate air freight costs.

IATA basic fare

Air freight rates are based on a sliding scale of weight. The minimum price for air freight is €600. 

  • Price per kilo: €6
  • Between 1000 and 2500 kg : 5€/kg
  • Between 2500 and 3500 kg: 4€/kg
  • More than 3500 kg : 3€/kg

Attention: The weight taken into account is the volumetric weight and not the gross weight of your goods

What is volumetric weight?

A law of equivalence is used by air carriers to respect the volumetric weight. The higher of the volumetric weight and the gross weight of the goods will be used. The following rules should be noted:

  • Classic air freight: 1 m³ = 167 Kgs
  • Express air freight: 1 m³ = 200 kgs

We transport your cargo by air to various cities in Switzerland, including Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lucerne, etc. We work with leading companies in the transport chain between China and Switzerland. We can therefore transport your products from any major Chinese city, such as Shanghai, Xiamen, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, or Hong Kong.

DocShipper Advice: If you need to ship products by air from China to Switzerland, our experts are there to take care of all the logistic operations so that you can give time to develop your business. If you are interested in this service, contact our experts via our form or directly by phone, you will receive a free quote within 24 hours.



Rail freight from China to Switzerland

Rail transport from China to Switzerland

Rail transport offers the advantage of speeding up maritime transportation and is cheaper than air transport.

A new alternative is proposed to reach China and Europe since 2011, this "new Silk Road" proposes a solution by rail freight for groupage cargo (LCL) or full containers (FCL)

To date, there is no direct route between China and Switzerland. At the moment, trains from China to Switzerland pass through German stations (Nuremberg, Hamburg and Duisburg). A direct solution between the two countries would be beneficial, as China is Switzerland's second-biggest trading partner, after the EU. 


How long does it take to travel by train from China?

There are various possibilities for those wishing to transport their products by rail to Switzerland by rail. First, from China to Germany via the Trans-Eurasia, as, as illustrated below:

Chongqing, China → Duisburg, Germany (15Days)

Zhengzhou, China → Hamburg, Germany (15 days)

Changsha, China → Duisburg, Germany (18 days)

Haerbin, China → Hamburg, Germany (14 days)

Lanzhou, China → Hamburg, Germany (15 days)

Changchun, China → Hamburg, Germany (15 days)

Wuhan, China → Hamburg, Germany (16 days)

Wulumuqi, China → Duisburg, Germany (10 days)

Chengdu, China → Nuremberg, Germany (13 days)

Once the goods have arrived in Germany, there are two ways of transiting them to Switzerland:

  • By another railway operated by the Swiss Federal Railways (SFB): Duisburg, Germany → Basel, Switzerland (1 day)
  • By road: Germany → Switzerland (time and distance depending on the delivery location).

In addition to a link via Germany to Poland and Kazakhstan, rail transport also provides access via Wolfurt and further to Budapest to Eastern Switzerland. Despite the geographical advantages of this route for the Swiss market, delivery times are still less competitive than via Germany.


Door-to-door delivery between China and Switzerland

The service, Door-to-door delivery, is the most common and convenient way to send your goods. The consumer is relieved of all the formalities involved in shipping. We take care of the whole process, from the beginning, from the recruitment and collection of all your goods, through the port/airport/rail terminal, and on to customs clearance and delivery at the destination. Door-to-door is above all a very practical and fast formula.

By combining our experience with the know-how of our staff in China and Switzerland, we can guarantee you quality service from A to Z. You will not have to do anything, and you may be relieved of some of your troubles.

This method saves you time and money!

Customs clearance of goods imported from China to Switzerland

In this section, you will find the conditions and standards that must be met before you can import goods from China into Switzerland. You will find an overview and a directory to help you understand the general conditions for importing goods from China to Switzerland, as well as links to the main regulations in force in the country.

Switzerland, as we know, is in the middle of the EU, but not part of it. Therefore, if you decide to transit your goods by sea or rail from China, they must necessarily pass through EU countries. The regulation of transit in Europe is well regulated.

Currently, the Common Transit Regulation is applied in all EU countries for road, rail and air transport. The standard regime, known as NCTS (New Computerised Transit System), is carried out in an electronic format.

The tracking form is a genuine customs certificate. It is issued when the transit procedure is initiated and must be printed by you and accompany the shipment. The document also indicates whether the goods are in free circulation in the EU (T2 goods or Union goods) or in other assets (T1 goods).

Customs duties in Switzerland. How to calculate them?

In order to find out what rate of duty is applied to your products, this information is available online free of charge. You can choose the date, country of origin, place of delivery and all related data to obtain the tax amount. We will guide you through the search process below.

Like most countries, Switzerland applies the harmonised tariff system (HS) for exported and imported goods. Each commodity is assigned a HS code that represents a specific product. This code is used to determine the customs status of the product in each country where it is imported.

hs code ananas

Calculating the customs duties with the HS Code

When you have the HS code for your item, it will be advantageous to determine the exact rate of duty for importing your goods from China to Switzerland.

Go to the Swiss customs website.

On the first page, by clicking on "enter", you will arrive on a page that looks like this


You must specify the country of origin of your item, as well as the HS code of the item. In the following example, we have chosen pineapple.

Once you have filled in all the details, you can click on "search" next to your HS code.

Tares Swiss Choix

Make sure it matches your item and press the little icon on the left of HS code.

The following page gives you more information:

Tares Swiss Rate-Taux


Does Docshipper charge customs duties?

Docshipper will not charge any commission on customs fees. Administrative documents, such as customs declarations, are sent to you after customs clearance. This will enable you to check that we do not charge any commission.

In addition, Docshipper collects the costs of customs clearance. Our experts will take care of the administrative file so that you can declare it to the customs authorities. The government will collect the taxes and duties.

Procedure and customs contact


DocShipper Advice: As you can see, Docshipper is far from being just an international forwarder. In fact, we take care of many other logistics operations such as customs clearance, or even packing and insurance! For more information, contact our experts via our form or directly by phone, you will receive a free quote within 24 hours.


procedure douanes

Bill of Lading

The purpose of the bill of lading is to guarantee the designated goods have been supplied by the exporter, in other words, it represents a certificate of transport. 

The goods listed on this official document are covered by the terms of the freight company's contracts with the shipper.

This document contains the prices of the products and the coordinates of the places of transport of the goods.

The bill of lading, as an official document, has legal value. All the data required to proceed with the shipment of the goods is contained in this document.

For air transport, this document is called "Air Waybill".

Packing List

A form completed by the shipper that details the shipment including weight (gross and net), dimensions, contents, numbering of each package in the shipment and any identifying information features such as serial numbers. It also allows for the identification of damage or shortages, as the customer only pays taxes for what they have actually received.

Original Invoice

In China as well as in Switzerland, you have to attach the original invoice to get your goods through customs. Make sure there is no distinction between the original document and the checklist!

Certificate of Origin

Justifying the place of origin of your shipments, the certificate of origin is an essential element in world trade. It allows you to declare the country of origin of the goods.

It indicates the country of manufacture of the products, which should not be confused with the origin of the goods. This part is very important to allow importers and exporters to benefit from advantageous rates of customs duties, which are very advantageous for certain goods.

Import licences and permits

For certain items such as agricultural products, plants and others, a permit is required to bring them into Switzerland. Below is a summary of what you need:

Agricultural Products

Plant products

  • Or an import authorization issued by the Food and Veterinary Office (OSAV) for protected species.
  • A phytosanitary passport issued by the FOAG is mandatory for plants.
  • Moreover, some protected plant species are prohibited or only approved by the CITES convention.

Other special regulations in Switzerland

The "Swiss portal of technical rules" offers a presentation of the different products requiring specific conditions, including the following:

Industrial products

Thus, imported ships are required to comply with the regulations of the Ordinance on the circulation of ships in Switzerland.

Cosmetics, jewelry, wood and children’s items

Thus, hair dyes containing components hazardous to health are subject to the Ordinance on Household Goods and Foodstuffs.

Are there any agreements between China and Switzerland?

Yes! The "Switzerland-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA)"

Initially, this arrangement was concluded between Switzerland and China in 2013, it entered into force shortly after. It consists of an agreement that sets the terms of the cooperative relationship between these two countries, with the aim of reducing trade restrictions such as import limitations and customs fees.

It is essential that every Swiss importer is aware of the benefits of this agreement.

We have outlined the key points of this arrangement for you:

Switzerland has lowered the tariffs for most products. As a Swiss importer, you can confirm whether the products you are interested in are on the list or, more importantly, what is not on the list. The Details of the decrease in the list of products are presented in the Annex I of the Agreement.

In order to obtain a reduced tariff, companies wishing to import from China to Switzerland are required to present a certificate of origin. For more details, you can consult Annexes II and III of the agreement.

Other logistics services

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service emballage

assurance transport

services sourcing

services 3PL

services de demenagement

DocShipper info: Do you like our article today? For your business interest, you may like the following useful articles :

DocShipper Advise : We help you with the entire sourcing process so don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

  • Having trouble finding the appropriate product? Enjoy our sourcing services, we directly find the right suppliers for you!
  • You don't trust your supplier? Ask our experts to do quality control to guarantee the condition of your goods!
  • Do you need help with the logistics? Our international freight department supports you with door to door services!
  • You don't want to handle distribution? Our 3PL department will handle the storage, order fulfillment, and last-mile delivery!


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