Sea freight from China: price, delay and process

LCL (Less than Container Load)

LCL means « Less Container Load ». If a shipper does not have enough commodities to book a full container (what we call FCL), he has to work on an agreement with a consolidator to reserve a spot on the cargo. This type of shipment is called LCL which technically means that you are sharing a container with others. The consolidator organizes a complete container (FCL) with a principal transporter and consolidates the parcels of other shippers.  This process implies that the shipping company which reserves a complete container accepts the merchandise of different clients and group them all in one container that he has booked as an FCL (Full Container Load). The shipping company (as DocShipper) sorts the merchandise in the order of destination or by points of trans-shipments, intended to different recipients in different ports.

Once the merchandise reaches their destination, the freight forwarder dispatches them to each final destination separately while collecting the necessary costs, where appropriate.


FCL (Full Container)

FCL means « Full Container Load ». If a client has enough volume to transport, he will book one container which is something we call an FCL (Full Container Load). This container will be filled with its products. Note that the shipper is not obliged to fill the container totally; the decision to occupy or leave empty any space is solely made at the convenience of the client.

DocShipper Alert : DocShipper is an international freight forwarder that organizes the transportation of your goods from the supplier's warehouse to the final destination. Relax, because we take care of everything: from packing, to organizing the transport, to customs clearance and administrative procedures, regardless of the shipping method (air, sea, road, rail).

Contact us to receive a free estimate in less than 24 hours. You have a question ? Call our consultants for free.

capacity container 20 40 feet


Sea freight from China – Estimated transit times

How much time is needed to send a container from China?

Ningbo / Shanghai Hong Kong Guangzhou Tianjin
Sydney 18 days 15 days 16 days 20 days
Singapore 7 days 5 days 5 days 10 days
Dubai 20 days 18 days 19 days 25 days
Rotterdam 35 days 32 days 33 days 35 days
Antwerp 40 days 36 days 35 days 40 days
Fos/Mer 35 days 32 days 33 days 35 days
Los Angeles 20 days 20 days 24 days 20 days
New York 35 days 32 days 31 days 35 days
Barcelona 35 days 34 days 34 days 35 days

Nature of your product(s) 

Some products are more complex than others to handle: some are fragile, others are dangerous… It is, therefore, necessary to institute measures in order to comply with international rules to anticipate the slightest problem from the start to the end.

Address of origin and destination

Essential point to allow our department to quote: the spot of departure and arrival. This allows us to calculate the collection and delivery costs between the terminals.

Packing needs

Some products will require specific packaging in order to ensure their transport in a safe way. Sometimes it will even be mandatory to respect a certain type of packaging so that the goods can be chartered in a completely legal manner (for example the palletization in LCL).

How to get the cheapest sea freight services?

We have made a list of the 7 points that we consider the most important if you want to make a shipment by sea freight:

  1. Have a good understanding of your business
  2. Know the market and prices
  3. Use the correct shipping method (LCL vs FCL)
  4. Audit your quotes
  5. Plan effectively
  6. Optimize the packaging of your cargo
  7. Don't skip any point


DocShipper sea freight department - Our scope of work

  • Products sensitive to temperature variations
  • Dangerous products
  • Bulky goods
  • Perishable goods
  • Personal effects

Sea freight insurance - The DocShipper care plan

Why should you subscribe to a freight insurance?

International logistics is not a simple procedure. The succession of actors and manipulations throughout the expedition involves a part of the risk. This risk is innately: technical error, human error, or simply "mother nature". Either way, there's a risk you can't deny, so it's best to protect yourself in the event of theft, breakage or loss.


How much is a sea freight insurance?

Insurance costs vary depending on the estimated risk. Consequently, several factors will be established, particularly: the route, the handling involved, the packaging, and the nature of the product.

Declared value - The happy medium

As mentioned, the insurance will be based on the declared value of your goods. Coverage in the event of a dispute will also depend on the declared value. It is therefore important to highly consider this value (the customs duties will apply will also be based on the declared value).

Why should you work with a local freight forwarder like DocShipper China?

What could be more convenient for a client to deal directly with a local freight forwarder? DocShipper China has understood that proximity to the customer is an asset above all, a priceless trust.

Advantages and disadvantages of sea freight

DocShipper Alert : Are you planning to ship goods from China by sea? Whether it's a groupage shipment or a full container, DocShipper takes care of all the procedures with the various players in the logistics chain.

A single point of contact, dedicated service, peace of mind, expertise... DocShipper makes importing and exporting more pleasant.

Contact us to receive a free estimate in less than 24 hours.

You have a question ? Call our consultants for free.



How to ship a container: The step-by-step procedure

Step 1: Pick up the goods from your supplier to the warehouse

We contact your supplier in order to plan the pick up of the goods but also to anticipate any potential need, in particular in terms of packaging or loading of goods.

Step 2: Transport the goods from the warehouse to the port of origin

After approval of the documents by our export department, the goods are transferred to the port of departure.

Step 3: Presentation of documents to pass “export customs”

In order to legally export goods, it is mandatory to go through export customs and to declare the nature of the products (especially with the "packing list").

Step 4: The cargo is chartered from the port of departure to the port of arrival

Once the goods have been loaded onto the boat, it goes for the port of arrival. A few weeks later, the boat moored at the destination port. The goods are soon released!

Step 5: Customs clearance with local authorities

Once the goods have arrived, you will be subject to local customs duties. Our customs declarant will get in touch with the local authorities to organize the release of the goods (following taxes payment). The documents will be provided to the customs authorities to establish the amount of the taxes. We will thus make the link, thanks to a mandated “customs declarant”, between the authorities and you.

Following the payment of customs duties, the goods will be released for delivery.

Step 6: Trucking from the port of arrival to your warehouse

To finish the shipment, we will use our truck network to deliver the goods directly to the desired address. If necessary, we will also manage the unloading of goods once arrived (this last point should be clarified with your dedicated expert).

Incoterms in international sea freight


EXW (Ex Work)

If you buy under the incoterm EXW, this means that the entire supply chain will be under your responsibility: from the supplier's factory to the final destination. It will then be your role to manage all of the steps or to hire an agent like DocShipper China who provides door-to-door services.

FOB (Free on Board Shipping)

When buying under FOB, the supplier is responsible for delivering the goods to the port of departure with what is known in the logistics jargon as "delivery FOB". This means that the cargo has already been approved for export by local customs and is already loaded on the ship.

CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) ou C&F (Cost and Freight)

Next one, CIF or CFR. It is the same as FOB incoterms, except that freight (sea or air) is included in the service. Note that the difference between CIF and CFR is the insurance that is included in the CIF.

DAT (Delivery At Terminal)

This incoterm makes it possible to buy goods and have them delivered directly to the destination terminal (at the port of Miami for example). It is then possible for you to go directly to collect the goods in a public area of the port. Note that the DAT incoterm includes all local costs, namely unloading the container, unbundling costs (if any), and customs clearance.

DAP (Delivery At Place)

Finally, the last incoterm is the DAP, it corresponds to a "door to door" solution which means that the goods are delivered directly to the desired final address: your warehouse, your office, or your home.

Documents required when sending products from China by sea freight

Bill of lading (BOL)


Document issued by a carrier or its agent to the sender as a contract for the carriage of goods. It is also a receipt for goods accepted for transport and must be presented for receipt at the destination.

The contract contains, among other things, (1) the names of the shipper and the consignee, (2) the names of the ports of departure and destination, (3) the name of the shipping line, (4) the dates of departure and 'arrival, (5) detailed list of goods transported with the number of packages and the type of packaging, (6) marks and numbers on the packages, (7) weight and / or volume of the cargo, (8) tariff and amount of freight.


Commercial invoice

The document requested by the local authorities to define the exact value of the cargo and thus determine the future tax duties. A commercial invoice must indicate several points including:

  • Seller and buyer details
  • Date and conditions of sale
  • Cargo packaging
  • Products description
  • Unit and total value
  • Insurance, shipping or other charges
  • Terms and conditions


Packing list 

It is an essential document for international freight (whether by sea, air or rail). Like a commercial invoice, the packing list lists all of the cargo information.

Certificat of origine (C/O)

A certificate of origin (often simplified in C / O) is a document used in international logistics. Whether in paper or electronic form, the exporter fills it in with the approval of a state body that certifies the conformity of the information. Chinese suppliers sometimes tend to call this document a "Form A".


Insurance certificate

An insurance certificate is the proof of contract between you and the organization that covers your cargo. This document justifies the price of the insurance and the conditions of the contract.

Sea freight Vs. Air freight – The comparison

Shipping by airplane or by ship?

  1. Cost

Sea freight is - by far - the cheapest method of shipping above a certain volume. In general, it is preferable to go through an expedition by sea when your volume is greater than 2m3 (sometimes 1.5m3). For all lower volumes, it will be preferable to opt for a solution by air.

Naturally, it is very easy to send an entire container by sea freight. It is also the preferred method of transport for large manufacturers, despite a fairly long transit time, the savings are significant.

  1. Delay

In terms of delay, sea freight is by far the slowest method of transport. As an example, the delays between China and United Kingdom would be:

  • 5 to 7 days by air freight
  • 40 to 45 days by sea freight
  1. Flexibility

Unlike air or rail freight, transport by boat is extremely flexible and those on 2 points: the volume of your cargo and the nature of the products.

Indeed, there are no restrictions on the volume of your cargo, whether you are shipping a 20-meter boat or a 2m3 parcel, sea freight is the solution. Besides the volume, the nature of the products is important! For example, it is impossible to send lithium batteries or liquids by air.

DocShipper Alert : DocShipper assists small and medium-sized businesses and individuals in importing or exporting, by arranging all the steps in international transport, including customs clearance. If you are looking for assistance from A to Z, request a quote. We look forward to learn more about your needs!


Which ports are used for international sea freight from/to China?

With so many products made in China, it is not surprising that Chinese seaports are among the busiest in the world. We will present the 8 shipping ports in China that handle the most shipping containers.

Incredibly, 8 of the 17 busiest ports in the world are in China, and if you include Hong Kong and Taiwan, that number jumps to 10!

Others Chinese ports

In addition to the 8 busiest ports in mainland China, there are 2 other Chinese ports that handle a very large amount of goods.

They are located respectively in Hong Kong and in the city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan:

How to get and understand a sea freight quote?

What does DocShipper China need to know to quote your project?


Incoterm is a concept that no longer holds any secrets for all experienced importers/exporters. Among other things, this term defines the responsibilities between the buyer and the supplier regarding all logistics processes. We will come back later in this page to detail more this important notion.

Volume in m3 and weight in Kg

Volume and weight, probably the 2 most important factors that will obviously influence your logistics quote. So this is not a detail to overlook.


DocShipper China | Procurement - Quality control - Logistics


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