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Shipping from China to the USA is complex and expensive, but there are ways to save time and money by choosing the right shipping method, timing shipments, packaging, and organizing documents.

Various shipping services are available, each with its pros and cons. The shipping cost also depends on several factors, including the size and weight of the shipment, the shipping method, and the distance.

Delivery times can also vary depending on the shipping service and the time of year; however, there are a few ways to save time and money when shipping from China to the USA.

Shipping Methods

For small individual items, traditional mail services can be used; however, assuming that you wish to transport a more substantial amount of goods, there are three main shipping methods to consider: air freight, ocean freight, and express freight.

Choosing the proper shipping methods is the most critical factor in saving time and money. Regardless of your chosen method, it is essential to use a shipping service that offers discounts for bulk shipments.

Air Freight

Air freight is a delivery service option for businesses that need to transport goods in a matter of days. Unlike ground or maritime shipping, which can take several weeks, air freight can deliver goods within a few business days, giving it the shortest delivery time.

On average, an express shipment flying on the China-U.S. East Coast route takes 3-5 business days to arrive. Worst-case scenarios rarely exceed two weeks.

An air shipment is also less likely to be delayed by weather conditions. It is often the preferred delivery method for time-sensitive or high-value shipments.

The air freight shipping process begins with the creation of an air waybill. This document lists the shipper, the recipient, and the particulars of the shipment, including its weight and dimensions. The waybill is then used to generate a shipping label, which is affixed to the package. The package is then loaded onto an aircraft and delivered to its destination.

Although it is the fastest method of delivering cargo, the primary downside of air transport is its cost; compared to the other major methods, air transport is the most expensive option for shipping.

On average, air freight from China to the U.S.A. is five times more expensive than trucking and 16 times more expensive than ocean freight. It is also limited when it comes to transporting large and bulky items.

Air freight rates are determined by weight and volume. Carriers charge by dimensional weight or actual weight, depending on which figure is more expensive. In addition to the freight rates, transportation costs are raised due to extra charges.

The final freight charge typically includes the following expenses:

  • Fuel Surcharges
  • Security Surcharges
  • Terminal Handling Charges
  • Airport Transfer Charges
  • Customs Duties and Brokerage Fees
  • Pick-Up and Delivery Costs
  • Cargo Insurance
  • Assessorial Charges


Ocean Freight

Ocean freight is by far the most common international shipping option. Ocean shipping vessels can transport enormous amounts of weight and quantities of goods at a comparatively low price, and virtually all items can be shipped by sea. As a result, around 90% of all shipping is carried out by ocean transport.

Ocean freight is often the best option for businesses that need to ship cargo internationally. Container shipping rates for ocean freight are often significantly lower than air freight rates, and various international shipping options are available.

In addition, most ocean freight carriers offer tracking services so businesses can keep an eye on their shipments as they travel. It is helpful to use a shipping service that provides door-to-door service so that you do not have to worry about picking up your shipment at the airport or port.

Aside from being the cheapest shipping option, CO2 emissions associated with ocean shipping are relatively low compared to other options.

While there are plenty of positive aspects to ocean shipping, there are still a few drawbacks to consider. One of the main negatives of ocean freight is delivery time. Since the delivery speed of a cargo ship is relatively low, the estimated arrival time is typically measured in weeks or months instead of business days. This can be a significant problem for businesses that need to receive inventory quickly.

Additionally, ocean freight is often delayed due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances that often delay ocean freight. As a result, businesses that rely on ocean freight shipments may need to maintain larger inventory levels to avoid disruptions in operations.

Another drawback to ocean freight is that many foreign ports are not equipped to handle large cargo volumes. This can lead to delays in the delivery process and may require businesses to use multiple transportation methods to get their goods delivered on time.

Ocean freight is broken into two transportation types:

  • Full Container Load (FCL Shipping): FCL shipments are orders that are large enough to fill an entire shipping container.
  • Less than Container Load (LCL Shipping): When a cargo load isn’t large enough to fill an entire container, it can be combined with several other shipments to make up space. Due to the extra work needed to consolidate LCL shipping, it is generally slower and more expensive. There is also an increased chance of damage or loss of goods.

In addition to container shipping rates, there are usually several extra costs, such as:

  • Customs Security Surcharges
  • Consolidation Charges (for LCL shipping only)
  • Terminal Handling Charges
  • Customs Brokerage Fees
  • Pick-Up and Delivery Charges
  • Insurance Costs
  • Fuel Surcharges
  • Shortage Charges
  • Routing Charges

Express Freight

Express freight is a category of freight services that involves transporting goods using rapid delivery methods. The main benefit of this kind of freight service is the delivery speed, which is faster than other delivery options.

Express shipping is time-efficient because it is a streamlined service completed entirely by one company. Couriers such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL are express freight carriers.

Express freight is generally used to transport goods at short notice; it is only cost-effective for shipping small items, so air or sea freight should be used for larger products.

A major benefit of using express shipping services is that it reduces the costs related to the storage and inventory of goods because of the short transit time.

While express freight shipping allows for shorter delivery times, the method has some drawbacks. The primary negative of express freight is its high cost compared to other freight services.

In addition, using express freight services may lead to delays in the delivery of goods due to various reasons, such as bad weather conditions.

Additional Ways to Save Time and Money

Here are a few tips, tricks, and recommendations to enhance your cargo shipping experience and make the process as quick and cost-effective as possible.

Choose the Right Logistics Partner

Regarding logistics, there are many factors to consider to ensure that your goods are delivered safely and on time. Choosing the right logistics partner is one of the most challenging decisions for a shipping company.

There are a few key considerations to consider when making your decision. First, you’ll want to ensure that your partner offers real-time shipping rates. This will allow you to get an accurate, real-time estimate of the shipping prices from China.

Ensure that your partner has a good reputation for reliability and customer service. For timely shipments, goods must be finished, packed, loaded, and delivered on time. The company handling these processes on the Chinese end must be capable of performing these tasks effectively.

Although choosing a partner based solely on the logistics costs may save money in the short-term, you risk choosing a company that cannot guarantee the same level of reliability, increasing the risk of delivery delays or cargo damage.

You’ll also want to make sure that they have a robust tracking system in place so that you can track your goods throughout the shipping process.

In most scenarios, working with an experienced freight company or supplier gives you the best chance of having your goods imported on time.

Organize Required Documents to Expedite the Clearance Process

The clearance process for goods shipped from China to the United States can be complex and lengthy and is one of the leading causes of shipping delays from China to the U.S.

The shipper must obtain a foreign ports permit from the Chinese government to export goods from China. Once the goods have been loaded onto the vessel, the shipper must prepare a customs declaration form detailing the shipment’s contents.

The form must be submitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for approval. After Customs has cleared the shipment, it will be released to the consignee for delivery. The entire process can take several weeks, so it is essential to plan accordingly.

You must organize all relevant documents and paperwork to ensure a smooth customs clearance process. Essential documents include the Bill of Lading, ISF (International Security Filing), Certificate of Origins, Commercial Invoice, and a Packing List.

A simple error in paperwork can lead to your goods being held upon arrival, which can cost you a lot of money. Suppliers are responsible for much of the paperwork involved, so choosing the right companies and suppliers is a critical step in the process.

Timing is Crucial

Another way to save money is to ship during the off-peak season when shipping rates are typically lower. Besides saving you money, the timing of your shipment from China to the United States can be critical in ensuring that goods arrive on time and in good condition. There are several factors to consider when choosing a shipping company and schedule, including the time of year, the type of goods being shipped, and the destination.

During peak shipping periods (such as the holiday season), choosing a company with experience handling large shipments is essential. For fragile or valuable items, expedited shipping may be worth paying to ensure they arrive intact and timely.

When shipping to remote areas or locations with limited access, choosing a company that can guarantee delivery is important. By taking the time to research your options and choose a suitable shipping company for your needs, you can ensure that your goods arrive on time and in good condition.

At certain times of the year, importing from China is more expensive. During holiday seasons, there is a shortage of workers, leading to slower and more costly shipping. Pay attention to Chinese holidays and try to time your shipments around them. This can save your business a lot of time and money.


Package Efficiently

Freight package efficiency describes the act of shipping goods via a carrier in the most cost-effective and timely manner possible.

To increase freight package efficiency, businesses need to consider several factors, including the size and weight of the packages being shipped, the distance the packages will travel, and the mode of transportation being used. By streamlining their shipping process and taking advantage of available technology, businesses can save time and money while ensuring that their products arrive at their destination safely and on time.

Reach out to your supplier and inquire whether packaging efficiency can be improved. For ocean freight, cargo space is the most important factor, so optimizing your packaging to save space should be prioritized.

Opt for FCL where Possible

There are many benefits to using full container load (FCL) shipping when transporting goods. First, FCL is a very efficient way to ship large volumes of goods. By consolidating your shipments into a single container, you can eliminate the need for multiple shipments and reduce the overall cost of shipping.

In addition, FCL provides greater security for your goods, as they are less likely to be damaged or lost in transit. FCL also offers more flexibility in routing and scheduling, as you can choose the most direct route to your destination. FCL shipping is also generally more reliable than other modes of transportation.

It is also helpful to consider the size of the container you’re shipping. 40′ containers are generally cheaper than smaller options as long as they are close to capacity.

Use a Freight Forwarder

If you ship goods internationally, you should consider using a freight forwarding company. A freight forwarder is a company that specializes in arranging transportation for shipments.

They will handle all the paperwork and logistics involved in shipping your goods, making the process much simpler. In addition, they can often get discounts from carriers, saving you money.

Most importantly, a freight forwarder can help ensure your shipment arrives safely and on time. They will track your shipment and update you on its progress, so you can relax and know that your goods are in good hands.

A freight forwarder can save you time dealing with paperwork and customs requirements. As your shipping guide, your freight forwarder can use their contacts and knowledge to help you save money by securing the best deals.

There’s No Substitute for Experience

When shipping from China to the USA, there is no substitute for experience. Whether you’re choosing a method of shipping, sourcing a supplier, or deciding on a freight forwarding service, it’s beneficial to work with reliable and experienced people. Although international shipping may be daunting, you can be successful with a measured approach.

If you need further information or assistance from a world-class international shipping company, contact Asiana USA today. Speak to one of our experts by calling (855) 500-1808.

Asiana USA is a leading international shipping company with over 20 years of experience in the industry. We offer a variety of shipping solutions to meet the needs of our clients. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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