Your Best China Freight Forwarder

A Comprehensive Guide to International Shipping from China

Sep 13, 2023
Table of Contents

International shipping from China is a crucial component of the global economy. As the world’s manufacturing hub and a major exporter of goods, China plays a pivotal role in connecting businesses and consumers around the world.

To understand international shipping from China, one must first recognize its significance in the global marketplace. China’s vast manufacturing capabilities, competitive pricing, and diverse product range have made it a go-to source for businesses worldwide. Whether you’re a small e-commerce store or a multinational corporation, chances are you’ve dealt with international shipping from China in some capacity.

Transportation Modes of International Shipping

International shipping from China offers various transportation modes, each catering to different needs and budgets. Explore the differences between sea freight, air freight, and rail freight, and when to choose one over the other. Consider factors like cost, transit time, and the type of goods being shipped.

Sea Freight from China

Sea freight is the backbone of international shipping from China, handling the majority of goods transported globally. It involves the transportation of cargo in standardized containers aboard cargo vessels.


  • Cost-effective for large and heavy shipments.
  • Ideal for goods that are not time-sensitive.
  • Environmentally efficient in terms of emissions per ton-kilometer.


  • Longer transit times compared to air freight.
  • Susceptible to weather-related delays.
  • Complex logistics planning for container optimization.

Air Freight from China

Air freight offers the fastest transit times for international shipping from China, making it suitable for time-sensitive and high-value cargo. It involves transporting goods in aircraft.


  • Rapid delivery, crucial for perishable goods and urgent shipments.
  • Secure handling, reducing the risk of damage or theft.
  • Global reach with extensive airport networks.


  • Higher shipping costs compared to sea freight.
  • Limited capacity for oversized or heavy cargo.
  • Stringent regulations for transporting dangerous goods.

Rail Freight from China

Rail freight has gained prominence for international shipping from China, especially for land-based transportation within Eurasia. It involves moving cargo in containers via rail networks.


  • Faster transit times than sea freight and more cost-effective than air freight.
  • Well-suited for goods traveling across long distances, particularly within the Eurasian continent.
  • Lower carbon emissions compared to air freight.


  • Limited rail network coverage in certain regions.
  • Potential for multiple transshipments at border crossings.
  • Cargo compatibility with rail transport must be ensured.

Road Freight from China

Road freight, commonly referred to as trucking, is primarily used for international shipping from China to neighboring countries or regions. It involves transporting cargo on trucks.


  • Flexibility and accessibility to remote areas.
  • Ideal for relatively small shipments and just-in-time deliveries.
  • Efficient door-to-door service.


  • Limited distance for international shipments compared to other modes.
  • Vulnerable to traffic congestion, border delays, and road conditions.
  • Costs can vary depending on fuel prices and tolls.

Considering Freight Forwarding Services

Freight forwarders play a crucial role in simplifying the complex process of international shipping from China. Dive into what freight forwarders do, how they coordinate shipments, and why their expertise is invaluable for businesses seeking to navigate global logistics.

Expertise and Experience

Selecting a freight forwarding company with a strong track record in handling shipments to and from China is essential. Experienced freight forwarders have a deep understanding of the local logistics landscape, customs regulations, and international shipping practices. This expertise can help streamline your supply chain and ensure the smooth movement of goods.

Regulatory Compliance

Navigating the complex customs and import/export regulations in China can be challenging. Freight forwarders with a thorough knowledge of these regulations can help you avoid costly delays and ensure that your shipments comply with all legal requirements. They can also assist with documentation, tariffs, and duties.

Carrier Network

A reliable freight forwarder have a well-established network of carriers and partners in China. This network enables them to offer various transportation options, including air freight, sea freight, rail, and road transport. Depending on your cargo’s size, weight, destination and urgency, your forwarder should be able to recommend the most cost-effective and efficient mode of transportation.

Cargo Handling and Packaging

Proper handling and packaging of goods are critical to prevent damage during transit. A reputable freight forwarder will have the expertise to advise on suitable packaging methods and materials to ensure the safe transportation of your products.

Tracking and Visibility

Modern technology has revolutionized the logistics industry, providing real-time tracking and visibility into the status of your shipments. Choose a freight forwarding company that offers advanced tracking solutions, allowing you to monitor your cargo’s progress from origin to destination.


Cargo insurance is crucial to protect your goods in case of accidents, theft, or damage during transit. A reliable freight forwarder should offer comprehensive insurance options or guide you in obtaining the necessary coverage for your shipments.

Cost Transparency

Obtain detailed quotes and pricing information from prospective freight forwarders. Look for a company that offers transparent pricing with no hidden fees. It’s essential to understand the total cost of your shipment, including customs duties and taxes.

Communication and Customer Service

Effective communication is vital in the logistics industry. Choose a freight forwarder that provides excellent customer service and maintains open lines of communication throughout the shipping process. They should be responsive to your inquiries and provide timely updates on your shipments’ status.

Flexibility and Scalability

Your logistics needs may change over time, so consider a freight forwarder that can adapt to your evolving requirements. Whether you’re shipping small quantities or large volumes, your chosen provider should have the flexibility and scalability to accommodate your business growth.

Customs and Regulations

Crossing international borders involves complying with a myriad of customs and import regulations. Discuss the importance of accurate documentation, tariffs, and import duties. Offer guidance on how to ensure smooth customs clearance to prevent delays and additional costs.

Accurate Documentation

Accurate and complete documentation is the foundation of successful international shipping. Proper documentation ensures that your goods can be identified, tracked, and assessed by customs authorities. Key documents include:

  • Commercial Invoice: This document provides a detailed description of the goods, their value, and other essential information. It is used for customs valuation and assessing import duties and taxes.
  • Packing List: A packing list itemizes the contents of each package or container, specifying the quantity, weight, dimensions, and type of goods. It helps customs officers verify the shipment’s contents.
  • Bill of Lading (B/L): For sea freight, the bill of lading serves as both a receipt and a title document. It confirms that the carrier has received the goods and will deliver them to the consignee.
  • Airway Bill (AWB): Similar to a bill of lading but used for air freight, the airway bill is a transport document that outlines the terms and conditions of the contract between the shipper and the airline.
  • Certificate of Origin: This document certifies the origin of the goods and may be required to determine eligibility for preferential trade agreements or tariff reductions.
  • Customs Declarations: Accurate customs declarations provide detailed information about the goods being imported, including their classification, value, and origin.

Ensuring that all these documents are complete and accurate is crucial, as errors or omissions can lead to customs delays and additional costs.

Tariffs and Import Duties

Tariffs and import duties are taxes imposed by the importing country on imported goods. They are a significant source of government revenue and are used to protect domestic industries, control the flow of certain goods, and maintain trade balances. Consider:

  • Harmonized System (HS) Code: Each product is classified under a specific HS code that determines its tariff rate. Accurately classifying your goods is essential, as the wrong classification can lead to overpaying or underpaying duties.
  • Tariff Rates: Research the tariff rates for your products in the destination country. Some countries have free trade agreements or preferential trade arrangements that may lower or eliminate duties for certain goods.
  • Import Duty Calculation: Import duties are typically calculated based on the customs value of the goods, which includes the cost of the goods, shipping, and insurance. Customs authorities will often use the information from your commercial invoice to calculate these costs.
  • Exemptions and Exclusions: Investigate if your goods qualify for any exemptions or exclusions from import duties. Some countries offer exemptions for specific types of products or low-value shipments.

Ensuring Smooth Customs Clearance

To prevent customs delays and additional costs, follow these steps:

  • Work with a Customs Broker: Customs brokers are experts in customs regulations and can help ensure that your documentation is complete and accurate. They can also facilitate communication with customs authorities.
  • Stay Informed: Regularly check for updates and changes in customs regulations in both China and the destination country. Stay aware of any trade disputes or sanctions that may impact your shipment.
  • Plan Ahead: Allow sufficient time for customs clearance in your shipping timeline. Delays can occur due to factors beyond your control, so planning for contingencies is essential.
  • Use Technology: Utilize digital tools and software to streamline customs documentation and tracking. Many logistics providers offer online platforms for managing shipments.

Accurate documentation, understanding tariffs, and import duties are crucial when shipping internationally from China. Complying with customs and regulations ensures that your goods reach their destination smoothly and on time, minimizing the risk of delays and additional costs. Collaborating with experienced customs brokers and staying informed about the evolving regulatory landscape are key strategies for successful international shipping.

Are you ready to send goods from China?

ABL-LOGISTICS offer international air freight, international sea freight (FCL & LCL), oversized cargo transportation, door-to-door delivery, or delivery to Amazon warehouses.

Contact Us
How can I help you?