Shipping from China to UK

Shipping from China to the UK is a common and important trade route that involves various modes of transportation, such as ocean, air, rail, and road. The cost and time of shipping depend on many factors, such as the type and size of the cargo, the origin and destination ports, the service type, the customs clearance, and the season.

What is your best choice depending on the cost, time, and type of goods you want to ship? We have compiled information that will help you to know about both ways and select the best suited for your freight. Let’s get into it!

1. Sea Freight

Shipping your goods via ocean is the most commonly used and economical way. It is the best-suited method if you are transporting weight of more than 500kgs. You have the flexibility to choose the size (20FT or 40FT) of the container. Also, you can choose between the LCL and FCL containers according to your goods amounts.

Transport companies help to arrange vehicles to load the goods from the factory warehouse. These containers are then transported to the port and are ready to load on board. Sea cargos follow a specific schedule to eliminate the risk of delays. Here is the list of departure ports in China and arrival ports in the UK:

Chinese Seaports

  • Guangzhou
  • Shenzhen
  • Xiamen
  • Shanghai
  • Qingdao
  • Dalian
  • Tianjin

Seaports in the UK

  • Southampton
  • Sheerness
  • Eminem
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle
  • Grangemouth

a)  LCL (Less than a Container Load)

LCL is the most appropriate situation when you don’t have enough goods that can fill the entire container. Therefore your goods are consolidated with other pallets and boxes in the same container. These containers take more time than FCL because they are loaded at the origin port and de-consolidated at their destination port.

b)  FCL (Full Container Load)

If you have a well-established business and want to ship a large number of goods, FCL is the most economical solution. It enjoys fast shipping, better security, and the best rates. No matter your goods fill the whole container or not, you need to pay a flat price for the container (20ft or 40ft). Furthermore, these containers are better for heavy and voluminous objects.

2. Air Freight

Air freight is the recommended method to choose if the weight of your goods is less than 300kg. It is a faster and better mode of transportation. However, it costs you more than the ocean freight. The cost depends on the size and weight of the goods. Luckily, air freight is cost-friendly for smaller cargo.

Furthermore, air freights are suitable for goods that need more safety and security, like fragile and delicate objects. The main airports in China that transport air freights worldwide are at below. These airports connect directly to Heathrow Airport and many others throughout the UK. Direct flights save time and ensure quicker deliveries.

  • Shanghai airport
  • Shenzhen airport
  • Xiamen airport
  • Beijing airport

Other Chinese airports that offer direct flights to the UK are:

  • Guangzhou airport
  • Chengdu airport
  • Shenzhen airport
  • Nanjing airport
  • Xiamen airport
  • Qingdao airport
  • Tianjin airport
  • Dalian airport

3. Express / Courier Services

Another way of shipment from China to the UK is through courier services. Several renowned shipping companies facilitate you with door-to-door delivery services, like:

  • DHL
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • TNT
  • EMS

These services ensure the delivery of your goods as soon as possible. Usually, you can receive your parcel within 3 – 5 working days, 5-8 working days, and 8-12 working days. But just for smaller goods.

4. China to the UK Railway Freight Service

You can also transfer your goods by the train. The China-Europe Freight train is an important channel between China and Europe. As an effective carrier for reciprocal interconnection between China and countries along the "Belt and Road" Initiative, the China-Europe freight train not only realizes direct land transport between China and Europe but also improves the transport timeliness of goods export.

At present, there are three main routes of China-Europe freight trains running in the west, middle, and east. After leaving the railway ports at Alashankou in Xinjiang Province, Erenhot in Inner Mongolia, and Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia, many routes continue to Europe through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland.

However, the train doesn’t go directly to London. It has to pass through four countries:

  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Poland
  • The Czech Republic

After passing through the terminal stations of these countries the goods are then transferred, to several cities in the UK, by road. Local trucks are used for this purpose, or if it is a container, trailers are used.

Railway freight is faster than sea and cheaper than air freight.

There is another railway freight service that connects 8 Chinese railway stations to the UK’s Felixstowe and Immingham ports.

5. Factors to Consider While Choosing a Shipping Method

After knowing the three standards and most commonly used methods of shipping from China to the UK, let’s compare them. This comparison will help you to choose the best method in specific situations.

a. Time

When it comes to time, let’s see how long the three services take to deliver your goods in the UK. However, the LCL takes more delivery time than an FCL.
Sea freight takes almost 25-35 days to deliver your goods to your doorstep. It can be because of several reasons:

  • Bad weather conditions
  • Custom delays
  • Port congestion
  • The slow movement of ocean liners

Air freight can reach the destination within 3-11 days. It takes more time than air express services because it has to pass through a complicated procedure.

Air express freight is the fastest way to deliver goods. It takes almost 3-5 working days, and 5-8 working days to get your parcel to your doorstep. For a quicker service (in case of emergency) you can ask for premium services. However, premium express services cost you a lot more.

b. Cost

Cost is another important factor when choosing the way of shipping. The faster the service, the costlier it will be. If you are new to the business, we recommend consulting a freight forwarding company to eliminate the risk of scams or heavy bills.

If we put it in simple words:

  • Sea freight is cheaper for weights over 500kg.
  • Air freight is suitable for weights between 200 and 500kg.
  • Air express service is recommended for weights below 100kg.
  • However, you have to ask what is best when your goods weigh somewhere between 100 and 200kg.

c. Amount, Size, and Type of Goods

The number and size of goods are as vital as their weight. Let’s elaborate:

If you need to ship a large number of goods, or heavy machinery that occupies ample space, you can choose sea freight for cost savings. But if you are very hurry, you can choose an airline service for a fast delivery time. Never choose express service for large and heavy goods. 

Similarly, if you need to transport fragile products, or goods that need special care and security, air freight is the recommended option (not to forget below 500kg).

Air express freights (cargo services) are ideal for a small number of goods (below 100kg). This service is ideal in emergency conditions and fragile products.

d. Your Location

This factor is considerable if the weight of your cargo lies somewhere between the two boundaries. For example, if the weight of your cargo is 490kg, you have the choice to pick between air and sea freight.

In such a situation, you must see which port is nearer to your location. If the seaport is far, you need to arrange transport to pick up the consignment and take it to your warehouse. It may apply extra transportation charges. Therefore, a nearer airport is cheaper, in such conditions, than a far-off seaport.

Similarly, if the air express service delivers your goods to your doorstep, it is a better option than going to the airport if the cargo weighs between 150 and 300kg.

e. Shipping Regulations

Many rules and regulations have to be followed when shipping from China to the UK. These regulations define the products that are unsafe for shipping. These are:

  • National regulations
  • International rules
  • Carrier organization regulations

You cannot ship any product you want. There are more strict rules for air freight than sea freight. For example, you cannot ship:

  • Gases
  • Flammable objects
  • Toxic or corrosive items
  • Magnetic substances
  • Oxidizers and biochemical products
  • Things that put public health at risk

5. Conclusion

To sum it up, all these methods of shipping from China to the UK are reliable and commonly used. However, depending on your goods, you must select the best-suited option.

For this, it is recommended to contact a professional and well-established freight forwarder. Freight forwarding companies provide you with the most economical and appropriate solution.

There are several barriers like documentation, Incoterms, and customs clearance, which (only) a professional freight forwarder can handle.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top