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International shipping is equally complicated and expensive, particularly when it comes to long-distance freight. When importing from China to the USA, it’s important to focus on shipping companies and methods to reduce freight costs and times.

In addition to the distance related costs and the complicated nature of shipping products from China, you must consider the difficulties of dealing with a Chinese supplier as well as customs requirements from the CBP (Customs and Border Protection).

While complicated, China to United States trade routes are extremely important. There are effective ways to save time and money, ensuring a more cost-effective shipping process. The first step is to establish what method of shipping to choose to transport your goods.

Shipping Methods

For small individual items, regular 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 right shipping methods is the most important factor in time and monetary savings.

Air Freight

Air freight is the fastest way to import goods from China. It is used frequently by importers who are coordinating time-sensitive international shipments. Typically, ocean freight shipments take between 20 and 30 days to travel across continents from China to the US. Air freight is safe, reliable, and takes hours to reach its destination.

The major downside of air transport is that it is expensive. It is typically 5 times more expensive than trucking and 16 times more expensive than ocean freight. It is also limited when 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, shipping 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 brokerage fees
  • Pick-up and delivery costs
  • Cargo insurance
  • Accessorial charges

Ocean Freight

Ocean freight is by far the most common type of international shipping method. Around 90% of all shipping is carried out by ocean transport. If you’re transporting high volumes of goods, this should be your go-to option.

Ocean shipping vessels are capable of transporting enormous weight and quantities of goods. It is perhaps the most cost-effective mode of transport from China to the USA, and the CO2 emissions are relatively low compared to other options. There are generally fewer restrictions for ocean freight when compared to air transport.

Although there aren’t many drawbacks associated with ocean freight, the few that exist are considerable. First and foremost, it takes a long time. Airplanes are approximately 30 times faster than shipping vessels. Port congestion, customs issues, and weather can also significantly slow the process. Due to the heavy-duty nature of ocean freight, your goods are more likely to be damaged than with other transport methods.

Ocean freight is broken into two transportation types:

  • Full Container Load (FCL): these are shipment orders that are large enough to fill an entire shipping container.
  • Less than Container Load (LCL): when cargo loads aren’t large enough to fill an entire container, they 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.

Ocean freight is measured in cubic feet and charged by volume. Virtually all items can be shipped via ocean freight.

In addition to the ocean freight shipping rates, there are usually a number of extra costs, such as:

  • Customs security surcharges
  • Consolidation charges (for LCL only)
  • Terminal handling charges
  • Customs brokerage fees
  • Pick-up and delivery charges
  • Insurance costs
  • Fuel surcharges
  • Storage charges
  • Routing charges

Express Freight

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.

The main reason it is so time-efficient is that it is a streamlined service, completed entirely by one company. Couriers such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL are regarded as express freight carriers.

Additional Ways to Save Time and Money

Choose the Right Logistic Partner

Countless resources claim to be logistics experts or experienced international trade professionals, but this isn’t always the case.

It’s important to choose experienced companies with proven track records. 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.

In most scenarios, working with experienced companies and suppliers gives you the best possible chance of having your goods imported in a timely manner.

Organize all Relevant Documents

The clearance process is often the leading cause of delays in shipping from China to the USA. To ensure a smooth customs clearance process, you must organize all relevant documents and paperwork.

Essential documents include the Bill of Lading, ISF (International Security Filing), Certificate of Origins, Commercial Invoice, and a Packing List.

A basic error in paperwork can lead to your goods being held upon arrival. This 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

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 time your shipments around them. This can save your business a lot of time and money.

Package Efficiently

Although much of product packaging is handled by suppliers, it can be highly beneficial to intervene in the process. Efficient packaging can save you money on materials, create more space for cargo, and help protect your items from being damaged.

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

Shipping a full load has several benefits. It is cheaper, faster, and less likely to cause damage to your goods. Where possible, your company should opt for FCL over LCL shipping.

It is also useful 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

Unless you’re an international shipping expert, hiring a freight forwarding service is advisable. A freight forwarder is a qualified and experienced person who helps you find efficient and effective solutions for transporting your goods from China to the USA.

A freight forwarder can save you an incredible amount of time dealing with paperwork and customs requirements. As your shipping guide, your freight forward can use their contacts and knowledge to help you save money by securing the best deals and can find alternate shipping routes in the cases of inclement weather.

There’s No Substitute For Experience

When shipping from China to the USA, there is no substitute for experience. Whether you’re choosing a transportation method, 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.

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