Shipping From China to the UK:
Shipping Times, Costs, and More

Shipping cost from China to the UK

Many factors go into the cost of shipping from China to UK, including location, size, and shipping mode: sea FCL, sea LCL, air, or express. This guide will give you pricing estimates for each shipping mode from popular ports in China to popular ports in UK.

But before we dive in, we know the coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. Here’s a quick update:

Is China Still Shipping to the UK?

For shippers from China to the UK, the coronavirus has been profoundly disruptive, causing major delays to both manufacturing and shipping.

Production in China is essentially back to normal, but COVID-19’s impact in the UK is creating a variety of other challenges including declined demand and potential delays at UK ports and warehouses.

Additionally, restrictions on air travel have dramatically reduced air freight capacity, leaving space tight and prices volatile.

For the latest developments visit the Freightos.com updates page

Sea Freight from China to the UK

Ocean/Sea Freight FCL

Container shipping rates from China to the UK: 40’ container

Shipping from Shanghai (CNSHA Port) Shipping from Ningbo
(CNNGB Port)
Shipping from Shenzhen (CNSZX Port)
Shipping to Southampton (GBSOU Port) $1,596 $1,546 $1,834
Shipping to Felixstowe (GBFXT Port) $1,760 $1,617 $1,886
Shipping to London (GBLON Port) $1,903 $1,803 $2,219

The quotes on this table are port-to-port peak season FCL shipping average rates.

Average Price per Month: FCL from China to the UK

Cost to ship from China to the UK

Price data from 2018

 

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Ocean/Sea Freight LCL

Shipping Rates from China to the UK: LCL

Shipping from Shanghai Shipping from Ningbo Shipping from Shenzhen
Shipping to Southampton $616 $632 $694
Shipping to Felixstowe $647 $630 $688
Shipping to London $582 $651 $646

These rates are door-to-door shipping averages for a load of 200 kg/1 cbm

 

Air Freight from China to the UK

Air Freight

Shipping rates from China to the UK: Air Freight

Shipping from Shanghai Shipping from Ningbo Shipping from Shenzhen
Shipping to Southampton $1,141 $1,135 $1,155
Shipping to Felixstowe $1,193 $1,125 $1,125
Shipping to London $1,068 $1,099 $1,055

These rates are door-to-door shipping averages for a load of 200 kg/1 cbm

Air Freight Costs per KG

When you’re shipping air, the price per kg decreases the larger your shipment’s weight:

Chargeable weight 10 kg 100 kg 300 kg
Price per kg $65.47 $14.31 $5.09

 

Want to learn more about how chargeable weight affects the price of your shipment? Check out our free universal chargeable and volumetric weight calculator.

Express Shipping

Shipping Rates from China to the UK: Express

Avg price for door-to-door shipping for a load of 50 kg/0.2 cbm: $884

Shipping freight under 100 kg from China to UK is cheaper– and faster– by express. Around the 100 kg mark, air freight becomes the cheaper option:

China to UK Shipping Time

How long will it take to ship from China to UK? Your shipment’s transit time will be impacted by location, shipment size, and season. Use the following table for timing estimates for each shipping mode from China to UK.

Ocean/Sea, Air, and Express freight time from China to the UK

Port to Port Door to Door
Sea Freight (FCL) 30-35 days 46-50 days
Sea Freight (LCL) 29-41 days 42-58 days
Air Freight 3-8 days 6-16 days
Express* –– 5-4 days

* Express freight is always door to door

How to Ship from China to UK

If you have questions about shipping from China to UK, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will cover:


      1. Freight from China to the UK: How to choose the fastest and cheapest way to ship

      2. Container Shipping Rates from China to the UK

      3. Sea and Air Shipping Rates from China to the UK

      4. When are the cheapest times to ship from China to UK?

      5. What are incoterms and how do they affect freight prices from China to UK?

      6. What customs duties and taxes will I owe when shipping from China to UK?

      7. Do I need insurance to ship from China to UK?

      8. What paperwork do I need to ship from China to UK?

      9. How do I ship from China to an Amazon FBA Warehouse in UK?

      10. Busiest Shipping Ports in China

      11. Busiest UK Shipping Ports


Freight from China to the UK: How to choose the fastest and cheapest way to ship

When you’re shipping from China to the UK, you can choose from one of four modes: FCL sea freight, LCL sea freight, air freight, or express. Here are key factors for each mode:

Container Shipping Rates from China to the UK

FCL, or full container load, means your goods fill an entire container, either 20’ or 40’ long. If you are shipping at a high volume, you’ll save time and money by shipping FCL. Pricing for FCL is done as a flat rate, regardless of whether or not your container is completely full. Learn more about FCL here.

Sea and Air Shipping Rates from China to the UK

LCL Sea Freight from China to the UK

LCL, or less than a container load, means your goods do not fill an entire container, and will be shipped along with other boxes or pallets. Note that when you ship LCL, your goods will need to be consolidated at the origin port and deconsolidated at the destination port. That’s why LCL shipping takes a few days longer than FCL.

Air Freight from China to the UK

Shipping by air is generally faster but more expensive than shipping by sea. For help choosing which mode is right for your shipment, use our air vs. ocean comparison calculator.

Express from China to the UK

When you have a small shipment and need it delivered as quickly as possible, you might consider express.

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When are the cheapest times to ship from China to the UK?

Freight rates, especially FCL sea freight and air freight rates, are affected by seasonal factors. When shipping from China to the UK, remember to take into account peak seasons in both China and UK.

Peak seasons for shipping from China to the UK

Event Effects on Shipping When
Chinese New Year Factories and facilities shut down for several weeks of celebrations, causing price spikes and delays Late January/early February (exact dates follow the lunar calendar)
Golden Week This week-long festival exacerbates holiday season price spikes and delays October 1st and the week following
Dragon Boat Festival Businesses typically close for three days, causing potential delays June (exact dates follow the lunar calendar)
Holiday Shopping Season Prices rise steadily over a period of months as businesses prepare for holiday shopping October-December (air), July-October (sea)

Use these tips to stay on track when shipping during peak season.

To see in-depth research on how pricing fluctuates throughout the year, check out the Freightos Baltic Index.

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What are incoterms and how do they affect freight prices from China to the UK?

When you’re comparing freight quotes, note the level of service the freight forwarder is offering.

For example, if you’re shipping from Shanghai, China to Felixstowe, UK, you’re going to want to ask your supplier about the cost difference between shipping from the supplier’s warehouse in Shanghai– which means using the EXW incoterm– and shipping from the port of Shanghai(CNSHA) – which means using the FOB incoterm.

Prices for FOB are typically lower, but shipping FOB doesn’t mean your total costs will necessarily be lower. You might make up the cost by paying your supplier to bring your goods to port. When comparing prices, take all your costs into account.

Note that some incoterms, including FOB, are used for sea shipping only.

Learn all about incoterms here.

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What customs duties and taxes will I owe when shipping from China to the UK?

When importing from China to UK, you will need to pay Customs Duty and VAT before your goods are released into the country. Customs and VAT can be significant. Researching your costs early can keep you from getting caught by surprise.

UK Duty

Customs duty is calculated based on the HS Code, which is an international system for classifying goods for trade. Different products have different duty percentages, generally ranging from 0-12%, determined by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. You’ll pay this percentage on the total value of the goods.

So let’s say your shipment is worth $10,000, and your product is taxed for duties at 10%. Your duty amount is $1,000.

VAT

VAT is calculated based on the cost of your goods, plus the cost of shipping them, plus duty. The standard VAT rate in Y is 20%.

So for your $10,000 shipment that cost $1,000 to ship, you’ll pay: 20% of (10,000+1,000+1,000) = $2,400.

How the Customs Process Works

When goods arrive at port, customs officials will first check to make sure all your paperwork is in order, and then calculate the amount of duties owed and collect payment. After payment, goods will be released.

To handle customs clearance, you can hire your own broker, or use the brokerage provided by your freight forwarder. If you book on Freightos, you can use our brokerage services as well.

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Do I need insurance to ship from China to the UK?

When calculating your shipping costs, don’t forget to protect yourself in case your goods are damaged or lost. You can do this through your freight forwarder or a third party insurance agent. Insurance costs are typically around 0.3% – 0.5% of your Commercial Invoice Value, which is the amount you paid for the goods.

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What paperwork do I need to ship from China to the UK?

When shipping freight from China to the UK, in addition to standard shipping paperwork such as the Commercial Invoice, you will need an EORI number. Anyone shipping from outside to inside the European Union needs this number in order to clear customs. To apply, click here if you are VAT registered, here if you’re not.

Use our paperwork checklist here to make sure all your paperwork is in order before you ship.

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How do I ship from China to an Amazon FBA Warehouse in UK?

As an Amazon shipper from China to UK, you’ll need to consider issues of timing and storage, as well as choosing the right forwarder. Check out this guide to learn more.

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Shipping ports in China

Your factory, supplier, or freight forwarder will likely advise you which port is best for your export from China, based on location, ease of customs clearance, transit time, port volume, and any relationships or agreements between the factory and the port.

If you’re choosing a port on your own, important factors to consider include location, cost, and transit time. Here are the top ports for exporting from China:

Port Name: Shanghai

Port code: CNSHA

The Port of Shanghai is the busiest port in the world, with a volume of 42 million TEUs in 2018. The port opened for international trade in 1842, but originally dates back to the 6th century.

Port Name: Ningbo

Port code: CNNGB

Growing rapidly in container throughput, the Port of Ningbo shipped more than 26 million TEUs in 2018. It reaches over 600 ports in more than 100 countries.

Port Name: Shenzhen

Port code: CNSZX

The Port of Shenzhen includes multiple port terminals in Shenzhen City, Guangdong, and has seen significant growth due to the area’s renown as a technology hub. Its volume is over 27 million TEUs annually.

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Shipping ports in UK

These are the top ports for importing into UK:

Port Name: Felixstowe

Port code: GBFXT

The Port of Felixstowe is the largest and busiest container port in Britain, handling more than 4 million TEUs per year and reaching over 700 ports worldwide.

Port Name: Southampton

Port code: GBSOU

The Port of Southampton is one of Britain’s busiest deep-water ports, handling many different types of cargo.

Port Name: London

Port code: GBLON

The Port of London’s location is ideal for reaching the largest consumer market in the UK, as well as transport across the country by road, sea, and rail.

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Key Information for Freight Shipping from China to UK

Off-peak season for shipping from China to UK

March-June

Main peak seasons for shipping from China to UK

October-December(air)

July-October (sea)

Late January/early February

Average price for an FCL container from China-UK (peak season): $1,796

Average price for sea LCL (load of 200 kg/1 cbm): $643

Average price for air freight (load of 200 kg/1 cbm): $1,122

Average price for express (load of 50 kg/0.2 cbm): $884

Tips for Keeping Down Costs and Shipping Time from China-UK

      • Book in Advance. Shipping by sea is the cheapest, but also takes the longest. Booking in advance when you can saves you money– and cuts out the stress if delays arise.
      • Ship off-peak. When carriers get busy, both shipping prices and transit times go up. Ship during off-peak seasons whenever you can.
      • Get your documentation in order. Having your documentation in order can make all the difference when it comes to clearing customs quickly.
      • Know your HS Codes. A lot of shippers are surprised by how much customs fees can affect business costs. Do your research so you can budget effectively.
      • Compare quotes from different providers. Quotes can vary, so check out offers from different providers before making a decision.
      • Understand what’s included in your quote. Is your quote port to port or door to door? What service does it include? Know what you’re paying for to avoid getting hit with surprise fees.

FAQ for Shipping from China to UK

How long does it take to ship a container from China to UK?

It depends on which shipping mode you use. Shipping express can take as few as 5-4 days – but express is the most expensive mode, and is not suitable for large shipments. Air freight shipping will take about 6-16 days. Sea freight shipping takes 46-50 days, but is the most affordable if you can wait.

How much to ship a container from China to UK?

The cost of shipping a container from China to the UK, on average, costs $1,796 for one 40’ container during peak season.

What’s the cheapest time of month to book from China to UK?

Carriers can introduce increases to shipping charges, called General Rate Increases (GRIs) at the start of each month. But, toward the middle of the month as they try to fill supply on vessels, they often lower these prices. That means booking during the latter two weeks of the month can often save you money.

What’s the cheapest time of year to ship from China to UK?

Peak seasons for shipping China to UK are October-December and late January. Avoid these times for lower international shipping rates.

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