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Shipping from China to UK – Air and Sea freight

Shipping from China to UK is really popular these days because of changes in the people’s needs. Having a global communication with other countries develop the business markets of different continents and that is the reason why today Europeans buy their necessities in Asia and get them in their desired destination.


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Sea Freight

When time is not a factor and costs are your primary concern, try Topshippings sea freight services. Our company offers consolidated and full containers shipments.

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Air Freight

The fastest shipping services are available from Topshipping. Our air freight options include standard, economy, and expedited.

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Cargo Insurance

All carriers must carry a minimum amount of insurance. This is vital to provide you peace of mind. Topshipping gives full coverage for all consignments.

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Choosing the best mode of transportation for your company will help you to save money.

Stress-free shipping

We have a professional team for providing you precise cargo and logical solutions in your budget.

Cargo Consolidation

Collecting goods from different suppliers in China and consolidating them into one single shipment, in order to save your time and costs, is our responsibility.

Considering UK as one of the great destinations for selling a variety of products changes it to a valuable market around the world. As it is surrounded by water, ports in the UK are important. Shipping from China to UK has a long background which was mostly related to sea freight but these days by building international airports, air freight is also popular. Depending on the size and type of the products, the most suitable method is selected for shipping. If your goods are huge and you need to pay less, sea freight is the best option while air freight can be helpful for small goods with higher payments.

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Complete Guide to Shipping from China to UK

In order to shipping from China to UK, some points should be considered regarding to the size and weight of the goods. LCL (Less than a Container Load) is useful when the goods are smaller than 15 cubic meters. FCL (Full Container Load) is the best option when the products are larger than 15 cubic meters. Generally, the type of the selected container is based on the size, delivery, manipulation times and weight. There are some steps which should be followed in this case:

  • Check if you need a license to ship goods
  • Use a commodity code to sort your goods for tax
  • Check if VAT (Value Added Tax) registration is needed
  • Get an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number

P1: Shipping from China to UK Cost

Shipping from China to UK Cost

Importers from the UK prefer to ship by the sea because they can transfer regular and huge shipments with less money. Whenever time span is more important than the money paid, air freight can be a better solution. Because of numerous seaports and airports in China and the UK, there is not an exact price for shipping from China to UK. So it is difficult to give detailed information regarding to the costs based on the size and weight of goods; and the source and destination locations.

Don't miss this guide: Shipping from China to Europe

Sea Freight Cost

Size and weight of goods which determine FCL or LCL are two important factors in estimating costs of sea freight from China to UK. Also, the location of port is important in final costs. Sometimes freight forwarder from China to UK is a vital thing for continuing the process. There is some information about the least and most expensive shipping modes based on the location and type of shipment:

  • LCL shipping from Shanghai port to London port: $582
  • LCL shipping from Shenzhen port to Southampton port: $694
  • FCL shipping from Ningbo port to Southampton port: $1546
  • FCL shipping from Shenzhen port to London port: $2219

Generally, these prices are not fixed and can be changed according to time, size, location and some other factors.

Factors Influencing Sea Freight Costs

Apart from size of goods, shipment mode and port locations, there are some other factors that affect the costs in shipping from China to UK:

  • GRI (General Rate Increase): this rate is added annually to sea freight costs because of shipping lines decisions to refresh low market movement as a result of seasonal cycle to have a stable more.
  • High season shipment: from July to December is usually defined as the high season when the demands are high and the prices are changed.
  • EBS (Emergency Banker Surcharge): it is related to increase in fuel cost which has no control over it.
  • Trucking shortage: when this problem occurs; the sea freight costs will be increased and in order to avoid it, being planned in advance is very important.
  • Extra sea freight costs: some charges such as demurrage and detention and fees from customs inspection may be added to the total costs.

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Air Freight Cost

When time is considered as an important factor in shipping from China to UK, air freight can be the best option. If your products are larger, the price of shipment will be decreased:

  • Goods with 10 kg weight: $ 65.47
  • Goods with 100 kg weight: $ 14.31
  • Goods with 300 kg weight: $ 5.09

Considering different airports in China and UK for a load of 200 kg/1cbm in air freight from China to UK, the most and least expensive shipping rates are as the following:

  • Shipping from Shenzhen airport to London airport: $1055
  • Shipping from Shanghai airport to Felixstowe airport: $1193

Factors Influencing Air Freight Costs

Some issues are important in price calculations of air freight from China to UK. The most popular ones are as the following:

  • Manpower: when the size of goods is a lot, more people are needed to move the goods so the costs will be higher.
  • Containers: the type of containers used to protect the materials affect the price. It means if the containers are strong to conserve the goods, they cost you more.
  • Speed of shipping: if you need to transport your goods rapidly, more money should be paid.

Express Cost

If your goods are lower than 100 kg, the cheapest and fastest method of shipping from China to UK is the express option. By this service, the average cost of door-to-door shipping for a load of 50 kg/0.2cbm is about $884 [3]. Express service is the most suitable way for transferring goods under 20 kg and 0.5cbm because it will be higher for larger goods.

P2: Shipping from China to UK Time

Shipping from China to UK Time

Time of shipping from China to UK is not fixed because of differences in budget. There are some direct flights from China to UK every day but it will be expensive. The time of transport does not include the process of pickup, delivery, customs clearance and etc. Generally, a 6 to 9 day of transit including export and import processes. It usually takes about 13 to 14 hours to transit goods from Chinese airports to the UK.

Sea Freight Time

When the goods are transported by the sea, it will take longer in comparison to other ways of transport. It is about 38 days to transfer goods from Guangzhou, an important port in China, to the UK through the sea. This way costs you less but needs more time to be delivered.

Air Freight Time

When the goods are smaller, they need to be delivered soon and the cost is not important, air freight is the best option.

Express Time

The express method is fast and usually takes two or three days, then the customs clearance is automatically issued.

P3: UK Import Rules and Regulations

UK Import Rules and Regulations

There are some special rules to import goods from a non-EU country to the UK depending on the type of goods with or without freight forwarder from China to UK. Some of the important ones are listed below:

  • Import duty: it should be paid on goods moved into the UK from non-EU countries with EORI number and commodity code
  • VAT: this charge should be paid in the UK currency so it is important to know the value of goods in this currency. This cost remains at the 20% rate (including some exceptions)
  • Invoice payments: the invoice should contain of date of issue, reference, supplier and importer’s names to show the reality of invoice.
  • International payments: the cash at the paying should be changed to this currency because another currency is considered.

Business Number and Custom Fees

After registering a business in China, especially for shipping from China to UK, a 15 digit business number is given which has the following order:

  • First 6 digits (registering authority): code of registered authority to specify the location of authority
  • Next 8 digits (sequencing number): to show domestic companies (start with 0, 1, 2, 3), foreign-invested companies (start with 4, 5) and individual business companies (start with 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Final digit (check digit): to avoid mistyping of the digits and recognizing incorrect numbers

By passing this step, some costs should be paid regarding to taxes and custom fees in order to transfer goods from China to UK considering the rules in both countries.

Taxes and Duties in UK

Considering freight forwarder from China to UK, there is not a common Free Trade Agreement between China and UK so this process is long in UK because it needs a lot of paperwork to get normal tariffs. These costs can be varied according to the type of goods.  Following the points mentioned below regarding to taxes and duties can be helpful.

  • VAT tariffs based on:
  • The standard rate VAT: at a value of 20%
  • The reduced rate VAT: at a value of 5%
  • The zero rate VAT
  • Custom value is estimated based on the CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) price; including, product price, tooling costs, shipping and logistics costs, product development costs, insurance [8].
Think about this example to clarify these costs:

Consider a pack of umbrellas cost £1500 with £7000 for shipping and insurance. As the value of this pack is more than £135, a special import duty rate should be paid. In order to do this; check the commodity code for umbrellas, then use import duty rate for that code which is 4.5%. Tax will be estimated based on the cost of goods and shipping; so: £15000+£7000=£22000. Then we have: £22000 * 45% = £990. Therefore, £22990 should be paid for goods, shipping and import duty. In addition, VAT should be considered when the goods are from a country outside the European Union.

P4: Sea Freight from China to UK

Sea Freight from China to UK

One of the importer’s worries while shipping from China to UK is to deliver goods without any harm and damage because of the long distance; so a good freight forwarder can help in this way. The first thing needed to be clarified is the type of container used for sea freight from China to UK . Based on the size and weight of goods, LCL or FCL should be selected. The cost of this shipment depends on the time and method of delivery, too. For example, for 40’ containers, it usually costs about $1222 to transfer goods from Shanghai to Vancouver. While for carrying a 200 kg package, you need to pay about $679 - $700 for the same route. It is often about 29 to 33 days to ship goods from China to UK; but some other factors such as season and type of delivery sometimes increase this time span.

Main Seaports in China

There are a lot of ports in China which are important but five busiest ones are listed below:

  • Port of Shanghai: one of the busiest ports in the world handling a large number of containers annually which has a huge deep-water port on an island connected to the Mainland by a bridge.
  • Port of Shenzhen: a name for a set of ports located in Shenzhen City, Guangdong which is famous for its technology and industry
  • Port of Ningbo: located 350km south of Shanghai which is famous for cargo shipment
  • Port of Qingdao: located in Shandong Province with its powerful role in China’s economy
  • Port of Guangzhou: located 150km northwest of Hong Kong which is the main port in the Pearl River Delta Region

Main Seaports in UK

Small businesses or those with wholesale markets are the fans of sea freight because it costs them less. There are five main cargo seaports in the UK:

  • Port of Felixstowe: located in Suffolk which is suitable for LCL shipment from Asia. It manages shipments to and from 365 ports around the globe.
  • Port of Southampton: being a home seller in south of England to import FCL or a supplier in Asia to export LCL, this port helps you save your time and money.
  • Port of Tilbury: located in Essex; and a good place to import goods from the USA, Australia, and the Middle East.
  • Port of Grangemouth: located in Edinburgh, near motorway and railway networks. The number of exports is more than that of imports.
  • London Gateway Port: located in London; and famous for its largest logistics park in Europe

P5: Air Freight from China to UK

Air Freight from China to UK

When shipping goods is considered from China to UK, time and cost are two important points. Transportation cost is calculated per KG; so weight and volume are necessary, too. Some other factors such as exact destination, shipping density, the freight class, air shipping model, fuel payment, negotiation and tariff rates, and freight insurance affect the final price. Generally, the smaller the size and weight of goods, the less money you should pay. It usually takes about 6 to 13 days for air freight from China to UK which depends on the season, too.

In this shipping process; firstly, the materials should be gathered from different suppliers and be packed. Secondly, the goods should be transferred to the truck section in order to be moved to the airport. Thirdly, necessary documents of goods, payments and times should be prepared. Fourthly, the goods will fly and arrive at the destination airport to be sorted in the warehouse.

Main Airports in China

Airports are considered as important places in shipping from China to UK. Some busy cargo airports of China are:

  • Shanghai Airport: a famous and busy airport around the world which handles a large number of cargos every day.
  • Beijing Airport: located near Shunyi District and it is popular for transferring goods and passengers
  • Guangzhou Airport: a new airport with a lot of airlines
  • Shenzhen Airport: located near Shenzhen and Guangdong which is accessible by rail, road and sea.
  • Chengdu Airport: located 10 miles Chengdu, a city in west of China

Main Airports in UK

As the UK is an island city and air freight from China to UK is considered, a lot of people and goods are moved there so it has large and popular airports; such as:

  • London – Heathrow Airport: it is considered as the fourth biggest airport in Europe handling a large capacity of goods annually.
  • East Midland Airport: it is a destination of most cargos arriving to the UK with a freighter friendly airport management.
  • Manchester Airport: it connects freight forwarders to a global network with transferring more than 117000 tons of air cargo annually.
  • Edinburgh Airport: it is located in the Ingliston area and is the busiest airport in Scotland.
  • Birmingham Airport: it is located 13 km of southeast of Birmingham using different terminals to receive and send different cargos around the world.


A lot of questions are arisen when considering goods shipping from China to UK such as the estimated time and cost. The best way of shipment and its process which needs enough knowledge and experience to help importers select the best options to save his or her time and money depending on the type and size of goods.

How Long Does It Take to Ship from China to UK?

As the postal links between China and UK are active, it is not a difficult activity to send parcels from China. It normally takes about 3 to 5 days and totally it does not take longer than 9 days. If you consider sea fright for shipment, it takes about 35 to 41 days to deliver goods from China to UK. When the cargo is sent by plane, this time is about 13 to 14 hours but this time is apart from pickup, delivery and customs clearance and considering these points, it is about 6 to 9 days.

What Is the Fastest Shipping to UK?

Express services are the fastest shipping method which is highly needed for little parcels which are lighter than 10 kg and smaller than 0.2cbm but if the goods are somehow larger and heavier, there are some solutions to transfer them by express service which usually takes 3 to 4 days.

What Is the Cheapest Shipping to UK?

There are different prices regarding to the size of the goods and the shipment method. Sea freight from China to UK usually costs from $1500 to $2200 for FCL and it is from $580 to $700 for LCL. This shipment cost is from $1000 to $1200 for air freight and goods with 200 kg/1cbm. Finally, for a 50 kg/0.2cbm load with express service, this cost is about $880.

Is It Better by Sea or Air?

By comparing air and sea freights, advantages and disadvantages of each one should be considered and the best method can be selected after that.

  • Advantages of air freight
  • The best option when the shipment cost is less than 15-20% of the value of goods
  • A faster, safer and more reliable way
  • Disadvantages of air freight
  • The most expensive shipment service
  • Having stricter rules for shipping dangerous materials
  • Advantages of sea freight
  • Providing more capacity and value for the goods
  • Having a better carbon footprint
  • Disadvantages of sea freight
  • A slower method
  • The possibility of having more delays due to different reasons
How Can I Track the Shipment?

By the advent of technology, all of the freight forwarders and the companies have an online tracking system which can help the importer to track the status of his or her goods with provided tracking codes in related websites or applications to be sure of the exact time of delivery and the shipment process.

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