• Sea Freight & Shipping from China: A Complete Guide

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    Sea freight shipping from China is perceived as a major hassle when importing products. As a professional in procurement, I can state with confidence that sea freight and shipping is not what should keep you up at night.

    There are far more complex issues when importing from China. However, Importers still have reason to be concerned about freight related issues.

    While the process is straightforward, and part of an established and functional international system, the learning curve can be pretty steep.

    Incoterms, FCL, LCL, Bill of Lading. For starters, the terminology can be discouraging just by itself. On top of that, most people in the industry can barely explain, in plain English, how the sea freight process works from A to Z.

    Keep reading, and learn how sea freight works when shipping from China. In this article, we cover everything from shipping costs and insurances, to incoterms, FCL and LCL shipping.



    Shipping Incoterms are international standard codes that decides when and where cargo shall be transferred between the supplier and the importer.

    For example, FOB (Free on Board) only includes transportation from the factory, to the port of destination (i.e., Hong Kong). In addition, FOB also includes all export procedures, which are required to ensure that the cargo can be legally exported.

    However, from the port of destination, you must arrange forwarding to the final destination.

    You can, on the other hand, book DAP (Delivered at Place), which includes shipping from the factory in China, to a specified address overseas. Such as your office or warehouse.

    When you get a quote from a supplier, you must always specify the incoterm you want. The unit price for FOB Hong Kong is, for example, lower than a unit price based on DAP Los Angeles.

    Read this article to learn more about Incoterms

    Shipping to an Amazon FBA Center from China

    Today, many Importers ship their products directly from the factory in China, to an Amazon FBA warehouse. From there, Amazon manage the storage and distribution of the products.

    Amazon is operates according to strict principles, and as a seller, you have now choice but to comply with their rules. This is what you must know about shipping to an Amazon FBA center:

    1. The cargo must be labeled according to Amazon’s cargo labeling rules.

    2. The cargo shall be palletized, for quick unloading upon arrival. Each side of the pallet must be labeled.

    3. The cargo shall be forwarded to the Amazon address, according to DAP or DDP terms.

    Notice that Amazon does not manage any shipping or customs clearance procedures. This is entirely up to you as a seller to take care of.

    However, you can book DAP or DDP shipping from your freight forwarder

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    FCL and LCL Shipping

    Sea freight is not excluding buyers from importing small volumes from China. If you buy by the container load, then FCL (Full Container Load) shipping is the right choice.

    FCL is also the most cost effective freight method available, if counted by cost per volumetric unit and weight unit.

    However, many smaller buyers don’t buy full container loads. Air freight is often a viable solution for importing small volumes. However, some shipments are stuck in the twilight zone between air freight and FCL cost viability.

    The solution spells LCL, or Less (than) Container Load. Basically, LCL is shared container freight. Cargo from multiple buyers is stored in the same container.

    The freight cost per volumetric unit is higher though, as the shipping companies must factor in administrative fees that are fixed on a per consignee basis.

    Read this article to learn more about FCL and LCL shipping

    Freight Insurance

    Insurance is included, by default, when you select the incoterm CIF, standing for Cost Freight (and) Insurance.

    If you order shipping according to DAT (Delivered at Terminal) or DAP (Delivered at Place), you must inform your shipping company that the cargo must be insured.

    Shipping insurance is cheap, and rarely costs more than US$50 to US$100.

    Normally, shipping insurance only covers the value of the cargo, in case of transportation damage. It will not cover lost sales, or product development costs.

    Read this article to learn more about Shipping Insurance

    Shipping and other lead times

    The port to port lead time depends on the distance. Below follows a brief overview:

    • Hong Kong – Los Angeles, USA: 20 days
    • Hong Kong – New York, USA: 32 days
    • Hong Kong – Felixstowe, UK: 29 days
    • Hong Kong – Hamburg, Germany: 30 days
    • Hong Kong – Singapore: 5 days
    • Hong Kong – Sydney: 12 days

    However, keep in mind that it can take a few days, sometimes up to a week,
    before your cargo is loaded in the port of loading in China.

    The same administrative delay applies in the port of destination, which in many cases can be even longer. In extreme cases, you may face delays as long as two to three weeks, in the port of destination.

    Shipping by sea is, in terms of lead times, both slower and more unpredictable than air freight. As such, companies importing from China by sea must do a lot of planning, and have serious margins for delays.

    If you need your goods in time for the Christmas season – place your order in July, not in September.

    At a minimum, you should place your order 4 months before your ‘hard deadline’

    Container Volumes

    In case you decide to import full container loads you have four different container volume options:

    1. FCL 20’’ (Volume: 33.2 cbm)
    2. FCL 40’’ (Volume: 67.7 cbm)
    3. FCL 40’’ HQ (Volume: 76.3 cbm)
    4. FCL 45’’ HQ (Volume: 85.9 cbm)

    The container volume may differ slightly between different shipping companies. The volumes above are valid for Maersk containers. However, the difference is very small (+/- 0.1 cbm).

    There is still one way to save quite a lot of money based on the sea freight cost that’s related to the container volume. That is to place orders based on the units that fit in a specific container size rather than a predetermined quantity.

    This way you can avoid situations where you pay for empty space or have to order one FCL container and one LCL container.

    The latter situation can become rather costly since LCL comes with higher port charges and ‘per shipment administrative fees than FCL shipping.

    Read this article to learn about Container volumes

    Export Packaging

    Your cargo must be sufficiently protected, from the dusty factory floor to a damp warehouse in Shanghai, and finally stacked in a container for up to a month.

    A lot can happen in this time, and you need to be sure that your export packaging is up for the task.

    One might think that the supplier could be trusted to manage this on their own. That is not the case.

    Chinese suppliers have a tendency to use cheap and substandard export packaging materials.

    To ensure that your cargo is protected during transportation, you can use the following checklist:

    • Inner cartons: 5 layers
    • Outer cartons: 5 layers
    • Plastic wrapping: Yes (on Outer carton)
    • Pallets: Yes (ISPM 15 EU Standard)
    • Freight remark: Yes (Printed on outer carton)

    For example, Amazon requires palletized cargo, as unloading one carton at a time is extremely time consuming. This is rarely understood by Chinese factory managers and sales reps, as labour is far cheaper than in the west.

    Be sure to provide your supplier with explicit and clear export packaging specifications. Do not leave anything to their interpretation, and provide graphical examples whenever possible.

    But there’s more to export packaging than protection. There are various export packaging regulations to take into consideration, such as ISPM 15 and Lithium battery restrictions.

    Before shipping from China, you need to confirm which shipping regulations apply in your market, and to your product.

    ‘How can we find the cheapest freight rate from China?’

    This is a question we get all the time. However, freight rates are set based on market prices, that change on a weekly basis. There are no ‘cheap forwarders’ that offer discounted shipping services.

    That said, it’s easy to be tricked by forwarders to claim to offer low cost shipping, which they can only do by quoting based on CIF terms.

    In the end, you will still need to pay the same port charges and transportation fees as if you’d request a DAP or DDP shipment from the start.

    ‘How can we make sure that our shipment is delivered on time?’

    The delivery time is always fixed. At most, the delivery may differ with a day or two. Just as with freight rates, no forwarder can offer faster shipping than others.

    Still, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting your shipment delayed:

    a. Make sure that the declared customs value is correct, and matching your commercial invoice and bill of lading

    b. Order according to FOB terms, and ensure that the supplier prepares all export clearance documents on time

    c. Ask your forwarder to contact your supplier a few days before the goods are ready for shipment, rather than waiting until the last day

    d. Buy a customs bond at least one month before the goods arrive in the port (US)

    e. Apply for an EORI number at least 2 weeks before the goods arrive in the port (EU)

    f. Instruct your supplier to use high quality export packaging (and be specific) to prevent repacking, before shipment

    g. Pay the balance and freight cost on time, so the shipping documents don’t get delayed

    If you’re really running late, you might also want to consider splitting up the shipment in two. One part (say, 20%) is delivered by air, while the rest is shipped by sea. Thus, you can stock up just one week after the production run is completed.

    ‘Should we get a Freight forwarder or let the Supplier manage the freight process?’

    You basically got two options, either the supplier administers the shipping process, or you do it via a freight forwarder.

    Letting the supplier administer (i.e., book the shipment) the shipping process gives you less transparency. You don’t select the shipping company, and you don’t know if the supplier quotes the actual market price.

    In fact, they often do add a few hundred dollars on the shipping fee. Personally, I don’t think that is wrong, as the supplier is then forced to put in the extra hours of booking and overseeing the freight process.

    In fact, when shipping sensitive cargo, such as Li-Ion Batteries, it might even be to your benefit.

    However, in most cases, the buyer is far better off working directly with a reputable freight forwarder.

    Freight forwarders are normally part of international network, but many have their own offices in major Chinese port cities, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.

    A freight forwarder can normally offer a wide range of shipping services, including FCL, LCL and air freight.

    In addition, they provide you with a designated contact person that keeps you informed and answers your questions. That said, most people who work in logistics expect the Importer to under the procedures.

    As such, don’t expect to get free lessons. Read up on the procedures before you engage the forwarder.

    On another note, a new breed of digital freight forwarders have sprung up in the last few years.

    One such company is Flexport.com, a San Francisco based company, that enables importers in the United States and Europe, to book and manage all parts of the shipping process from their computer.

    This is a very big deal for those of us who have spent years dealing with arrogant and unscrupulous freight forwarders. As many of you know, this is an industry that has desperately needed to be disrupted.

    ‘Do we need to pay any taxes in China?’

    No, you don’t need to pay any “export tax” when importing from China.

    However, you will need to pay for transportation to the port of loading in China and the cost for export clearance papers.

    Both of these costs are included if you order shipping according to the following terms: FOB, CIF, DAT and DAP.

    However, export clearance is not included when buying according to EXW (Ex Works) terms.

    ‘What happens after the cargo arrives in the port of destination?’

    You will be notified a few days before the arrival. After the container vessel arrives, the containers are first unloaded. Some may be inspected by the local customs authorities, but most are not.

    Regardless of whether you or the supplier managed the freight, your forwarder or customs broker starts customs clearance procedures.

    This process normally takes 1 to 3 days, depending on the cargo and the applied process,

    Read more about Customs procedures when importing from China

    ‘How can I access the cargo after arrival in the port of destination?’

    You got two options; either you pick it up yourself or you ask your shipping agent to load it on a truck and deliver it to a specific location. It’s not harder than that.

    When the cargo arrives at the Port of Destination you will likely be notified by the port agent. In most cases you can book the transportation directly through the port agent.

    If you are ordering a full container load this is certain to recommend. Upon delivery you can expect to have somewhere between 30 minutes up to an hour to unload the cargo. Beyond that, the freight forwarder normally charges the importer on a per hour basis.

    ‘What happens if the cargo is damaged on arrival’?

    This actually happens a lot more often than most importers assume. This is also the time when that insurance turns out to be a pretty good investment. If your cargo is damaged, I advise you to follow this process:

    1. Take photos and videos of the damages

    2. Estimate the total number of damaged cartons and products

    3. Make a calculation of the total value loss. Keep in mind that this should be supported by
    the value stated on the commercial invoice.

    4. Send the material to your insurance company

    The last point is not always that easy if you let your supplier manage the sea freight and have no clue of which insurance company they selected.

    Therefore I suggest that you ask your supplier for a copy of the sea freight insurance policy before the cargo is shipped. Then you’ll know who to contact in case your cargo would be damaged during the transportation.

    In addition, it does happen that suppliers fails to get the appropriate insurance. If you really want to be sure that your cargo is insured, you need to book it yourself, via your freight forwarder.

    If you have a valid claim it’s usually a rather quick and painless process to go through in order to get your money back.

    However, keep in mind that most sea freight insurance only covers the value of your products, not the shipping costs.

    Shipping Documents

    One could think that we live in a digital era. However, the 19th century is still well and alive in the world of international freight. Keep reading, and learn what every Importer must know about shipping documents.

    a. Bill of Lading

    The main freight document issued by the transportation company that specifies the shipping company, exporting company (seller), consignee (buyer), products, volume and incoterm.

    The Bill of Lading is mandatory when shipping from China and shall be delivered (along with Commercial invoice and the Packing list) to the buyer within 2 weeks from the shipment date.

    b. Commercial Invoice

    A document specifying the order value, types of products and the details of the consignee. This document is used by the forwarder or customs broker for customs clearance and calculation of import duties and other taxes (i.e., Value added tax).

    The Commercial Invoice is mandatory and shall be delivered together with the Bill of lading. Also double check that the declared value is correct.

    c. Packing list

    A document specifying the volume, different types of products and quantity per type of product. The Packing List is mandatory and should be delivered together with the Bill of Lading.

    d. Certificate of Origin / Form A

    A document specifying the origin of the raw material and/or the products. This document may be used to determine the import duty rate (some countries enjoy preferential import duties), but also for statistics and enforcement of embargoes.

    Import Licenses

    Normally, an Import license is not required in the United States, the European Union and other developed markets.

    There are, however, a few exceptions:

    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Certain types of chemicals
    • Live animals and plants
    • Food and agricultural products

    Product Certificates and Other Compliance Documents

    Most products are regulated in the United States and the European Union. Other markets, such as Singapore and Australia, base their product regulations on those developed and implemented by the US and the EU.

    At the time of writing, there is no standardized “product certificate submission system”. Hence, you may not be required to provide any product certificates or other compliance documents to the customs authorities.

    Such checks are normally carried out by other market surveillance authorities..

    However, it’s not black and white. Many countries do carry out spot checks on everything from product samples to containers.

    We even received a report from a German importer, whose Wristwatch sample was confiscated by the German customs authorities, due to the lack of product certification.

    In addition, the US customs can even return cargo, that doesn’t complain with the labeling requirements.

    The trend is pointing in one direction. Enforcement is being stepped up, and it’s only a matter of time before the authorities will streamline and standardize document submission procedures.

    There are even talks in the United States to make CPSIA document submission mandatory in the near future.

    This will mean that Importers will not even be able to get the products into the country, without proof that the products comply with all mandatory safety standards and other regulations.

    Sea Freight Related Costs

    Shipping from China involves a multitude of different fees. The cost is closely related to the selected incoterm. Below I list a number of costs that you should keep in mind when shipping from China:

    • Transportation to Port of Loading (included in FOB)
    • Export clearance (Included in FOB)
    • Sea freight charge (included in CIF)
    • Insurance (Included in CIF)
    • Port fees (Included in DAT)
    • Customs clearance fees
    • Custom duties
    • Other import taxes (i.e., VAT in the European Union)
    • Transportation from the Port of Destination

    Shipping Frauds

    There are two types of shipping related scams. First, you need to look out for scam companies loading containers with junk materials, or any other type of goods than what is ordered by the buyer.

    The only way to prevent such scams is to perform the proper due diligence when selecting a supplier, and verify the cargo before shipment – for example by sending in a quality inspection agent.

    These scams are relatively easy to prevent.

    There’s a more viscous type of shipping scam.

    The Bill of Lading scam.

    The Bill of Lading is mandatory. Without one, you cannot access the cargo. Now, what if somebody decides to hold your cargo ransom, by withholding the Bill of lading?

    That is exactly what is happening, with increased frequency. The shipping company actually ships the cargo to the Port of loading. However, upon arrival, they demand a large sum of money to release the Bill of Lading.

    Meanwhile, the authorities in the Port of destination pressures the Importer to quickly claim the cargo – by charging a daily port fee – which is often set at around $50 per day.

    So, as the port fee bill keeps growing, and the Importer is losing sales everyday – the scammer is waiting for their victim to give in.

    The price is normally high. We have received reports with ransoms between US$12,000 to $40,000.

    And, the port authorities? They can normally do nothing, as this is an age old and slowly evolving system.

    That said, we have received far more reports from Importers in developing countries, as compared to those in developed markets, like the US and Europe.

    There is one really simple way to avoid this situation though: Never try to buy international freight for less than the current market rate.

    What we have found is that all buyers that got scammed this way, got contacted with incredible offers – or found the “freight forwarders” on their own.

    You’ll get what you pay for. Always.

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  • 136 Responses to “Sea Freight & Shipping from China: A Complete Guide

    1. North Ocean at 3:42 pm

      We provide a full range of Sea Freight shipment services including options ranging from smaller consolidated LCL shipments to FCL and project shipping with streamlined.

      See Here :)

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 1:19 am

        That’s great. Do you have any advice to give our readers regarding shipping from China?

      2. ALEX OLIDEN at 8:12 pm

        are you locate in Miami Florida?

      3. don at 8:44 am

        Please quote 48′ HC container Shanghai to Newark New Jersey. Tank is 96″x 96″ x45’is why we need 48″HC

        1. Ivan Malloci at 10:18 am

          Hello Don,

          in order to get a freight quotation, you can get in touch with Freightos: https://www.freightos.com/chinaimportal/

    2. Carib at 6:39 pm

      I had hired a freight forwarder for the shipment of an container.
      I have paid according to the invoice. ($5103)
      Now the container has arrived, but the freight forwarder demands more money ($11.000) before I can get the original B/L.
      The Freight Company (CMA-CMG) will not release the cargo untill I have the original B/L.

      What can I do now?
      Any help?

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:31 pm


        You paid US$5103 for one container? That’s expensive! This sounds very strange. I have a few questions for you:

        1. Have you paid your supplier in full yet?
        2. On what basis is the freight forwarder requesting more money?
        3. Did you purchase according to FOB terms? (if yes, your supplier shall issue the B/L after they’ve received the final payment)

        I’ve never heard of anything like this before. Hopefully we can help you resolve the situation.

        1. Carib at 11:52 am

          Dear Fredrik,

          I have paid my supplier the total ammount.
          I have purchased the vehicle according to FOB terms.
          I had hired a freight forwarder to ship the vehicle in a container to Suriname for me. Now after the total payment for the freight to the freight forwarder, he demands a total of $11.500 to be exact.

          He gives me the following calculation:
          PSS Peak Season Charge : USD2300
          Bunker adjustment factor : USD1700
          Container in balance charge : USD2700
          All total amount : USD11500

          I have received the B/L from the freight forwarder only by e-mail. They did not send the original to me.
          The supplier says, they have nothing to do with the freight.
          The freight forwarder : QINGDAO WANLIN SHIPPING SERVICES CO.,LTD

          An internet search shows that it is a fraud company.

          How can I get my container?

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 6:10 pm


            I also did a search on their company name and this clearly a fraud. I have few more questions for you:

            1. According to which Incoterm did you buy shipping from this company? CIF?

            2. Is there any local port agent specified on the B/L from your supplier? (this is the company that manages the unloading in the Port of Destination). Since the cargo already arrived, there must be someone that keeps the cargo.

            3. Since you ordered FOB, the supplier should issue the B/L. Why don’t they send the original to you? Are you sure they are not working with shipping company?

            I also suggest that you contact your local port authorities. Did this scam company give you ANY reason whatsoever for requesting more money?

            Just wondering, what made you choose this company from the beginning?

            1. Carib at 4:24 am

              Dear Fredrik,

              The shipping was CIF.
              The local port agent is CMA-CMG. They refuse to release my cargo. I also showed them the original payments. But they refuse to release my cargo. They keep telling me that I must sove this problem with my freight forwarder.
              I also have a feeling that the supplier is working togehter with the shipping company.
              The supplier is on the B/L as shipper.
              Do you have an e-mail addr where I can send you the documents?

              They request more money and the reason is that the $5103 was not enough to pay the shipping costs. So an extra $11500 is needed…

              This company was recommended by alibaba.com, but now alibaba can’t help me because the shipping company has left alibaba also.

            2. Fredrik Grönkvist at 5:52 pm

              Yes, you can send the document to info@chinaimportal.com. I’ll take a look, but that’s about all we can do.
              It sounds very strange. If you purchased according to FOB terms, your supplier should send you the B/L directly. If they are not, then I think they are working together with the shipping company.

              It’s an outright fraud and nothing else. The shipping industry don’t work that way. The price that is confirmed before shipment is not changed, unless the importer delays the shipment (which requires a new price).

              Alibaba.com don’t recommend any company. It’s a supplier directory and there are too many suppliers for them to keep track of. I suggest that you read this article on the subject: https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/alibaba-gold-suppliers-a-beginners-guide/

    3. bel marí at 9:35 pm

      My name is Bel Marí, I am writing from Spain.
      My request is a bit awkward, I guess, as I am sure this the first time such situation is presented to you.

      We are family living in Mallorca, in the Mediterranean, we just moved into the island a few months ago.
      We are planning to build a house in a plot we just bought by the sea, in the city of Palma de Mallorca.
      The construction firm that will make our house -a modular prefabricated concrete house- operates in mainland Spain, near Barcelona, where our future house will be entirely built.
      However, the house modules, once finished, will have to be brought by sea to Mallorca island.
      Each module itself is like a container, unpacked, as it is made of concrete, it needs not much protection. Its dimensions are 7m*5,5m*3m. I would have to ask the architects about the weight as I am not very sure. The house will be made out of 8 of these modules.

      The transportation costs are very high, as quoted by a Spanish sea freight company. We’ve been told that many Chinese sea freight companies bring their ships to Spain full of many goods, as China is a leading export country, but send their ships back to China not so full because there isn’t much to import from EU to China.

      I’d would like to know whether that is correct and if so, if we could arrange transportation from Barcelona’s port to Palma de Mallorca’s port ( approx. 90NM) on one of your ships that would then continue on their journey to China.

      Please let me know whether this is feasible and at which cost.

      I would give further details on weight and exact dimensions of the cargo if you answer positively.

      Thank you very much in advance.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 9:59 am

        While it’s possible that the vessels unload on the Spanish mainland and then move on to Mallorca (great place btw, been there a few times), I don’t think that will have any effect on the price. Shipping costs are set by market prices, and the shipping companies are not keen to make exceptions.

        Besides, most shipping companies are not Chinese. I’m quite sure European firms such as Maersk and MSC ships the majority of the cargo between China and Europe.

    4. Brett Lewis at 3:30 am

      Hi Frederick,

      I’ve been checking online to see the advice people give regarding China shipping. Yours is the best I’ve found so far. You’ve made it very clear and delivered it in a very friendly manner. We have published a similar content, but after looking at yours I think we better make it a bit friendlier. I’ll be most happy if you can provide feedback of it.

      I hope you don’t mind if I use some of the insights you’ve shared in this post. I believe the freight forwarding industry would very much appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:14 am

        Hello Brett,

        Thank you! Our aim here is to provide practical and actionable advice. I will send you an email with a few question.

        1. Brett Lewis at 1:04 am

          Sure. It’s great to exchange thoughts with someone in the industry. :)

    5. Boris at 3:59 pm

      Frederik, can you tell me the difference between freight forwarder and freight company? Oddly, I considered both to be the same but now it appears to me that forwarder is just a middleman?

      I see that customs clearance is not included in any incoterm specifying at least DAT?

      When shipping by air, it is same Bill of Landing or now it’s Airway Bill?

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 8:48 pm

        Hello Boris,

        First of all, “freight company” can mean many things. It’s a very general term that may refer to the shipping company that actually own the vessels (e.g. Maersk, MSC and China Shipping), or a freight forwarder (e.g. DSV). However, a freight forwarder is a service company that manage local transportation, administration, unloading and storage.

        That is right. Customs clearance is not included in any Incoterm because it would not make sense. That said, you can purchase customs clearance as a service from most freight forwarder, but also hand in the documents (or do it online, which is possible in many countries now). Thus, including customs clearance would require a new set of Incoterms.

        Yes, Airway bill would be the proper term in that case.

      2. Worldwide Freight Shipping at 8:40 am

        Dear Boris,

        Freight forwarders handle the shipping part. Customs brokers do the customs. They are two separate functions, but you might have companies which offer both.

        Hope it is clear for you!

    6. Peter at 10:07 am

      Hi sir, thank you so much for your article. i have being looking for such a comprehensive explanation of shipping by sea. i am new to shipping and i am unclear about something. i have a shipping agent for my country in china. i have read about them online and they do have good reveiws. I opened an account with them and they have given me a Chinese address to that my supplier can send my goods to them. Now, the problem i have is that how do i make the supplier send the goods to the address so that they can handle my shipping? when trying to place an order, in the shipping method, no option to send to a shipping agent and in this case, which shipping terms should i choose. please explain how i should go about that. thank you.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 6:50 pm

        Hello Peter,

        Are you buying the items from a website or directly from a manufacturer?

        1. Peter at 9:53 pm

          hello sir,

          thank you for your quick response. i am buying from a seller from alibaba.
          the issue that i dont know how to make the seller send the item to the shipping agent when making the order. there are only options for DHL and other shipping companies.

          thank you.

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:56 am

            Hello Peter,

            I see, you are purchasing the items through Alibaba.com and not directly from the supplier. Well, I am not familiar with Alibaba’s payment and shipping system, but if you want to use your own shipping company, you need to purchase the products as FOB (Free on Board) to the port of loading. I think you need to pay the supplier directly in that case.

            1. Boris at 12:31 pm

              Hi Fredrik

              Is buying from Alibaba not same as buying from supplier that trades on Alibaba? What do you mean by their payment and shipping system? Judging by what you say, this sounds like Alibaba are suppliers by themselves.

    7. Vivek Pandey at 3:44 pm


      I have booked FOB shipment with my Chinese supplier and shipping freight through Alibaba the Easy Shipping Company. They provided me the most competitive freight of US$ 1200 / 20 ft HD container and I paid the amount on seeing the BL on mail.

      Now Easy Shipping is not sending me the original BL for the reason the the Chinese local supplier has not paid the Local Chines Charges ($ 872) and thus the BL is not getting released to me.

      I am not clear whether the Easy Shipping company is reasonable in demanding the local charges from Chinese supplier and the deal where I was not involved they are holding my original BL even after I paid the complete sea freight.

      Please support.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 5:41 pm

        Hello Vivek,

        What is your supplier saying? How much is the freight forwarder demanding? This could indeed be a freight scam. We are receiving reports on a regular basis and we covered it as late as last week.

        You find the article here: https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/shipping-scams-china-protect-business/

        Things that seem too good to be true usually are. As of today, we have not heard of a single case being resolved. For the future, only work with verified and legit freight forwarders, not the one offering, what seems to be, the lowest price.

    8. sharda at 7:33 pm

      Dear Sir, I recently made a shipment from china to Jamaica. My B\L said that the port of discharge is colon free zone, place of delivery is kingston. My shipment has now arrived in Jamaica with an additional charge of 486 dollars by an agent which I had no arrangement with as collect.
      The logistics company was paid in china and the freight is prepaid. I cant understand why I am being charged by an agent in china through my Jamaican logistics company for a service which should not be applicable as my shipment was a transhipment.
      The agent has not responded to my inquiry and consequently I cannot collect my goods without the money being paid. Please advise, I can send my Bill of Lading via email for your perusal.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 8:30 pm

        Hello Sharda,

        Which Incoterm was specified on the Proforma Invoice, issued by the supplier?

        1. sharda at 9:12 pm

          Total EXW price : xxxx
          CIF kingston: xxxx

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:18 am

            Hello Sharda,

            Notice that CIF is not including costs that arise in the Port of Destination, thus it is expected that you are charged for port fees, and local taxes (if any). What I don’t get is why the cargo ended up in Panama if you ordered CIF Kingston?

            1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 11:34 am

              Hello Sharda,

              Yes, that is a very good question. The place of discharge should be Kingston, not Panama. I think your supplier declared incorrect information to the freight forwarder.

            2. sharda at 10:24 am

              That is my major concern now.Why are these charges being generated in Panama if my destination is kingston

            3. sharda at 10:25 am

              No explanation provided

      2. sharda at 7:35 pm

        In the previous post I said china, I meant panama which is the place of discharge

        1. sharda at 9:10 pm

          Recently received an update from the agent in panama stating that they were advised to collect the following charges by their agent in origin although I have paid the supplier to ship and the bl stated CIF prepaid.
          BUNKER ADJUSTMENT FACTOR: USD 100.00 / SET x 1 USD (100.00)
          CISF: USD 55.00 / R/T x 3.690 USD (202.95)

    9. Tren Long at 10:28 am

      How difficult is it to pick up your own shipment in port? I am ordering a LCL from China and I would like to get it shipped to LA. Is it feasible to just go in and pick up the load (it would be easily loaded and unloaded)? How daunting of a task is that for a first time sea shipper?
      Great blog

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 1:00 pm

        Hello Tran,

        In general, it is possible to pick up cargo in a warehouse operated by the assigned Freight Forwarder / Customs Broker.

      2. Boris at 2:01 pm

        Hey Tren, read this about how unloading of LCL shipments is done (at least in UK):

    10. M. Floyd at 12:01 am

      I’m a first time importer.
      I ordered 2 pallets of printed books, valued at $3,500 from CHINA to NY PORT
      on CIF terms. My shipping charges from the printer were $450.

      I am picking up the shipment myself. (no trucking to my door)

      The forwarder has billed me additionally $704 as follows:
      Customs Entry $145
      Document Transfer Fee $65
      Destination/Due Carrier’s Charge $65
      Courier/Messenger $20
      ISF Bond Fee $65
      Chassis Usage $4.
      In/Out Warehouse Handling $339.90
      TOTAL: $704

      Do these charges look legit?
      The In/Out Warehouse Handling for $339 really seems like a lot.

      The forwarder claimed they don’t know what those fees are, so I asked my supplier to break down that fee and they listed the following:

      Warehouse charges
      Loading fee:
      USD 0.0502/LBS (MIN USD 97.10) OR USD 22.34/PLT(Pallet / Skid / Crate / Case cargo) (MIN USD 223.40)
      Dad: USD 33.00
      Doc. Fee: USD 23.50
      CFS inbond filing fee: USD 20.00
      Equipment surcharge : USD 3.25/CBM (MIN USD 10.00)
      Terminal Fuel: USD 2/CBM (MIN USD 10.00)
      Insurance Fee: USD 20

      If this is what it costs fine, but I feel like either my supplier or the forwarder are padding the bill here and I don’t want to get taken advantage of or spend more then I need to.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 7:44 pm


        It’s impossible to say if its legit only based on the price. There are plenty of scams going on in the shipping industry, as explained in this article: https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/shipping-scams-china-protect-business/

        I suggest you purchase accoding to FOB terms and instead work with a US based freight forwarder. Send me an email and I’ll give you a suggestion.

        1. Boris at 7:35 am

          Often on your blog Fredrik I see people incurring questionable charges when it comes to using supplier’s freight forwarders which usually come under CIF incoterm, that us to the port of destination. What I don’t understand is why they don’t get their quotes for charges after port of destination because I noticed this is when surprises tend happen. Why not get quote from supplier’s freight forwarder, quote from few freight forwarders of destination country first to see their charges for CIF and FOB incoterms before making informed decision? What if China based supplier and freight forwarder try to hide their affiliation and collude to make profit from unsuspecting buyer, especially if it’s small time importer?

          To know if prices are true to their nature that above commenter specified, I think one needs to be long-time sea freight importer who knows market prices as well as all the terms freight forwarders charge for.

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 6:34 pm

            Hello Boris,

            I think it’s very rare that freight forwarders in other countries collaborate with Chinese suppliers and shipping companies, in order to squeeze the importer. Instead, I think that the main cause of this issue is simply that too many importers are not even aware of the meaning, sometimes even the existence, of Incoterms. They assume that the CIF freight cost is all there is to take into consideration, which is very wrong.

    11. Boris at 7:45 pm

      Since you are outside of US Fredrik, I wanted to bring up issues that many non-US importers have to deal with when shipping small orders via air courier through billing accounts of suppliers to avail of their discounted rates.

      I often read that because suppliers do not provide DDP and because most service providers in US don’t act as importer of record when it comes to paying customs duties on their behalf, importers end up stuck unable to pay customs duties. In this scenario they are considered 3rd party to pay customs duties but can’t do that due to unable to open billing account in US for that freight company supplier used to ship with.

      Did you ever have this issue?

    12. Sudhir at 9:05 am

      Hi Fredrik,

      Need your help. I m planning to import a HD 20″ feet container from china for first time. I require a process flow to source the goods to india. Can u help me on this ??

      Awaiting for your reply,


    13. Anjali at 12:57 pm

      I purchase some 60 pcs LED TV from China. And i asked them to send it to Cochin port, India but they send it to Chennai port. They informed me From chennai they arrange the truck to send the goods to cochin port , now it’s more than 1 month till now the goods not yet reach cochin port.
      Now they are telling if we want the goods we need to pay for truck & they will sen it to cochin port.
      Now what to do ? what action i can take against to supplier.

      1. Oskars at 10:57 am

        I had a similar situation, but with shoes, and at the end I just quit talking to them, because, just like in your situation, they wanted more money for some deliveries, which they didn’t tell me at the beginning.

    14. Stoyan Ialamov at 9:19 am

      Dear Sir,
      We intend to load two Jack up barges to a heavy lift vessel at the port of Qingdao. The barges have to be transported from the HHMC jetty, they are currently at, to the loading side within the port limits. We have been given the following prices for the port services and clearance charges:
      1. loading area permission: we will apply with MSA n have a safey meeting for approval.: Rmb 250000
      2. clearance out for cargo
      A:port struct fee: rmb40000
      B:tally fee: rmb100000(base rate: cargo cbm x 0.83,if loading in holiday, 100% surcharge)
      3. tug boats assitance during loading operation:
      A: 8 tugs for towing two QMS n assistant to load dry vsl within one day for finishing all the work: rmb 2650000
      B: CCS towing certificate fm terminal to inner anchorage:rmb60000
      C: 4 pilots for instructing towing: rmb80000(if in holiday, 50% surcharge)
      4. agency fee: rmb 100000

      Would you please be so kind as to advise whether the above costs have been excessively inflated.

      Kind Regards
      Stoyan Ialamov
      Vessel Manager
      Zakher Marine International
      Mob: +971506589804

    15. Doug at 12:38 am

      Hi Fredrik thank you for the blog.

      I’m looking to import some printed plastic tubes from China to northeast USA. The tubes are 600$ FOB and the company told me 100$ to port. The box is about 1 cu meter and 60 kgs.

      I talked to an American freight forwarding company and they gave me a quote of 735$ not even counting duties, and I have to go pick it up at port.

      I am I doing something wrong here. How can a single box from China cost all total close to 1000$ to ship? Should I be trying to use fed ex or UPS from China? I can’t risk this much money on something that might not pay off. Please help.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:10 am

        Hi Doug,

        This is simply because your Chinese supplier quotes you a CIF price, which excludes all local charges in the Port of Destination, while the American freight forwarder is quoting a DAT price, which includes freight to the US, but also the local charges. For natural reasons, the price is therefore different.

        Get a DAT quote from your Chinese supplier, and you’ll see that the price is most likely almost identical to the figure you got from the US company. There’s no way to bargain on freight when shipping small volumes, and the cost depends entirely on weight and volume, not the order value.

        1. Doug at 12:57 pm

          thank you, I just didn’t realize it was that expensive. I know other businesses that order smaller packages from China and the shipping is very cheap.

          Is UPS or a courier service going to be in the same 900$ range?

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 6:12 pm

            Hi Doug,

            It depends entirely on the weight and volume. If the order value is too low, and the items to heavy / large, it’s likely not viable. Buying $600 worth of products from China is rarely viable, compared to buying the same products domestically.

        2. Johny at 2:56 pm

          I don’t understand prices, I remember when I was moving from The US to China I shipped my stuff and it was 100 Kg and 1 cubic meter and they brought it to my house and I paid in total 100 USD from Washington DC to Beijing. Why is more expensive shipping from China to the US?

    16. Doug at 12:41 am

      Just to clarify the shipping from China to Boston is 100$ + 735$, so 835+ for a single box worth 600$

    17. Ritta at 8:50 pm

      Hello Fredrik,

      Thank you for this important information you are sharing with us.

      I have purchased some building material from a supplier in china FOB terms and we managed to sell it to our Client. Now the client is going to do the custom clearance and I need the documentation to show only my shipping invoice with my selling price not the factory.
      I am going to send the shipping documentation to the forwarder agent in china. However how can I make sure that the factory invoice will not be exposed to the client?

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 9:31 am

        Hi Ritta,

        Yes, then you must provide them with an invoice, and obtain a Commercial Invoice based on the price paid to you, by the importer. If you are acting as a trader, then you are the seller, and the customs value is thus based on the value charged by your company – not the manufacturers.

        1. Ritta at 5:19 pm

          Thank you Fredrik,

          Do you recommend any Forwarder in Shanghai

    18. Carlo at 4:36 am


      I’m ordering furniture from China to Miami for 20 ft container they asked me 4.398 us dollarfor the shipping…I think is expensive or not?Please let me know before i order…

      Thank you

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 1:34 pm

        Hello Carlo,

        That depends on the Incoterm. Are local port charges (in Miami) included? Send me the quotation by email to info@chinaimportal.com and we’ll have a look at it.

    19. Solomon at 8:29 pm

      Is it possible to do sea freight for something around 20Kg to South Africa

    20. Bill at 6:30 am

      Hi, If I go to China and buy a container than fill it up with my personal shopping , i’ll have to pay tax on the imports but I have to pay tax on the container as well, if it’s one that I bought there/

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 3:20 pm

        Hello Bill,

        That depends on whether the customs value is based on the FOB price, or the CIF price. Different countries base their customs value on different incoterms.

    21. Frank at 5:38 pm

      Do I need special documents for exporting wood furniture form China to North America?

    22. franco at 11:01 pm

      Scare tactics… I am sure the above holds water in most cases… but look at the source of the website… these guys want you to see the horror stories… to scare you into doing business with them?? this is on the scummy side of doing business!

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 4:20 am

        Hello Franco,

        Which part are you referring to? Yes, we do bring up ‘negative topics’, but then again, this blog is about risk management in international trade. I also know that we can back this up – partly based on our experience, but also on experiences of other importers. For your information, we are not a shipping company, so we have no direct interest, other than to inform our readers. But sure, we are not a charity, and the primary purpose of this blog is to drive visitors to our website.

    23. Billy Miller at 3:26 pm

      Hello I want to thank you for the wealth of information you have provided. This 1 article has more information then all other sites that i have looked at combined.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 5:36 am

        Hello Billy,

        Thank you! Subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll get our articles delivered to your inbox every Monday.

    24. Mike at 6:03 pm

      Fredrik greetings, extremely informative posts…question my company is an upstart fitness company and we recently have purchased steel parts from Chinese supplier in the amount of $12,200. The weight and dimensions of the materials were N.W/G.W:11.5/12.5KGS, Carton Size:69.5*26*12CM. On our ISF form I see there are two separate Chinese companies listed as Container Stuffing and Consolidator . We paid our supplier $950 for shipping freight FOB. When the shipment arrived to our port in NJ, we incurred $1791 of total cost, including $656 Collect Charges-Shipco and $621 Custom duty. This seems exorbitant, is it reasonable? And how can we reduce our costs in the future. We have a Customs Broker, no forwarder

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 9:39 am

        Hi Mike,

        Such small volumes are rarely viable to ship by either sea or air. The only way to reduce the freight cost is by purchasing full container loads.

    25. Arjun at 12:39 pm

      Dear sir
      we are freight forwarder from india and we booked one air import from chiana to india ,one of agent freight forwarder in china we told to do shipment and he picked the cargo from shipper place and kept in warehouse and asked for air feright cahrges and we also remitted same and now we ask to fly the cargo he say shpt was cancel by airline so again you have to pay totla airfreight then only it will airlifted , also not giving exact status of shipment , is it possible to sor this matter out and want our cargo to be airlift from chian soon..
      pls advise how to cliam or proceed

    26. Andy at 6:34 pm

      Can you tell me the difference between FOB and CIF shipping. Which one is cheaper for the buyer?
      I am buying 1/2 ton of aluminum from China from Alibaba.com website from verified companyings who have trade insurance. I would like to have only one invoice payment to the seller, and have them handle all of the shipping costs and arangements. With FOB, does the buyer need to do any of shipping arangements or pay any additional fees or costs to the shipping company? Also, I live in the Sacramento, CA area within the united states and I would like to know if the West Sacramento Port has a higher shipping cost than Stocton, CA Port or Oakland port?

      Thank you!


      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 4:05 am

        Hello Andy,

        FOB is cheaper than CIF, as the former only includes forwarding until the port of loading (e.g. Shanghai), while the latter includes forwarding to the port of destination (e.g. LA). However, ultimately you will end up paying freight costs in full regardless. As for your question, you should request a DAP (Delivered at Place) invoice. However, I don’t think it includes customs brokerage fees, duties and other local charges / taxes.

        Read more here:

        1. Andy at 7:44 pm

          Thank you for the info. Do you know about what a typical unloading “Handling” fee would cost once the container arives at the port of destination? I will have a less than full container and so I read that I will also recieve a less than full container fee. Is $10 USD/(cubic meter) a reasonable assumption for cost of less than full container fee?

    27. andres at 11:54 pm

      Hi fredrik,

      im in cebu philippines. I experienced before having shipment from china cif, prepaid. The goods arrived in cebu port. but i was charged by shipping agent with p15,000.00 a cost higher than sea freight. I paid since i have no idea of the procedure.

      But I realized, perhaps i was wrong. I think my only at port of destination is terminal handling fee for the government consist of arrastre and stevedoring…and transportation cost.
      I should not pay the shipping agent as i dont have a contract with him..it is the shipping agent who is paying him per transaction.

      I think the customs brokers is in collusion with the shipping agent.

      pls comment on my case. thanks,


      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 2:46 pm

        Hi Andres,

        Local charges are never included in the CIF price, and yes, many times the local charges are several times the cost of the freight itself. Order DAP in the future, to avoid such situations.

        1. Boris C. at 8:31 pm

          I thought DAP always involved air courier shipping which is past airport and up to the door. Is it not? Is it pertinent to sea shipping too? Or maybe you meant DAT?

          1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 10:24 am

            DAP also applies when shipping by sea

            1. Boris C. at 11:24 am

              And it can be up to the point of customs but not after since duties are not included in contract in scenario with sea shipping?

    28. Taha at 8:08 pm

      Hi Fredrick,

      Im from spain, and my company made me responsible for an environmental project in the UK. I have to import 2 containers from China, one is 40-foot and the other is 20-foot. Those 2 containers will have inside of them special building materials that the company is developing to make a container house out of them. Long story short, they will be practically empty.
      How much would it cost to bring them from Shanghai to the UK? Will this fact that they are almost empty affect the price of transportation?


    29. Brian at 4:06 pm

      Not sure if this topic is still active but I’ll ask anyway. To start out I know nothing about shipping or importing. We purchased some items form a company based in China. We’ve paid for the order in full including shipping from China to Los Angeles. They tell us that the items are ready to ship but they need the Consignee info and Notify Party info. Is that us? The LA to KY shipper? Who? Thanks.

    30. David at 9:05 am

      Hi Fredrick,

      I am currently ordering from a manufacturer in mainland. I live in the US and my parents live in Hong Kong, where I will be for the next 5 weeks. Before finalizing the shipping of my product, I wanted to do some research to make sure I knew what the risks were and what to watch out for. It would mean a lot, as you are experienced in this department, what would be the best way and cheapest way (and safest way) for me to get my shipment to the US. Should I ship here to hong Kong and then ship it myself? They have given me a FOB shipping price but I want to make sure I don’t get scammed as well. Should I get a Freight agent / forwarder? In other words, now that my item is manufactured, what should be my next step to havve it delivered successfully to the US.


    31. Stuart at 6:04 pm

      Our company is looking at ordering and sourcing products form China Building Industry Items) Prices are very cheap, as we all know, BUT this quickly melts away with customs, taxes, shipping and ? So we have been using DHL, FedX and UPS, also China Post. The beauty of China Post no fee’s vat IVA Customs, you just get it, if you live long enough and it is not damaged.

      But we pay through the nose for DHL and the others except China Post. We now need to order MUCH larger and heavier items, companies are quoting prices to cheap to belive, to our local port, which is in Mexico, BUT the quotes are “CIF”, until I found and studied your site, I thought we were fine, so I almost order this very large crate, 2.5 meters high at the 200 USD CIF quote, to our port. AN ABSOLUTE STEAL, (This is Bulk Freight) OK so now I know with this we must pay all fees our end, this being Mexico, the only way things work is with bribes, corruption, corruption, corruption is the rule, and customs, taxes, duty can be ZERO one day to a house payment the next, depending on the needs of the official at that hour ! So I do not want to enter that world, from what you say “DAT” sounds like the way to go, BUT I can NOT get them to quote this way, only “CIF” this raises my suspicions as to “THE REAL COSTS” to get the product. Maybe the supplier wants to hide the true cost, which takes away any price advantage ? OR ? Or maybe they can quote this way. ALSO some suppliers for the same product say “we can not ship that port you say” (Chinglish) others say yes and quote it ! ADVICE HERE PLEASE !

    32. Michael at 10:07 am

      I am looking to ship two of my products from China to USA but am rather confused and want to make sure that I am 100% protected every step of the way. Can you please help me with this.

      Both product’s CBM are 57.25 (56 + 1.25)

      Product 1 = 56m3 = L 70 W 62.5 H 62.5
      Product 2 = 1.25m3 = L20 W 35 H 35

      Can you please tell me what the easiest way to ship, costs and what company I can use to do all the shipping.

      Please and thank you!

    33. wade koenig at 3:27 pm

      I ordered a small food trailer from china. Came in a large crate.My shipping agent emailed me this info saying I will be responsible for the costs of inspection. X rays and intensive inspection. First I need to know why my shipment was flagged and if I’m responsible for costs and why….please help asap. Thank you. Please email

    34. Lesley at 1:31 am

      Thank you for the great info. Quick question…
      I am setting up my first shipment by sea. It sounds pretty straight forward as my supplier in China says he is arranging everything right to my US mailbox in WA.. But is there anything I should be asking him??
      So you do not need pay any other fees for the shipment”
      i know I need an ISF form before it ships, are there other costs or paperwork I should be aware of??
      Thank for the great info, Lesley

    35. youcef at 6:52 pm

      HI Fredrik,
      I have a question about international sellers that want to sell for FBA (amazon)
      I live in Dubai but want to ship to FBA from supplier in china, I know that is risky without inspection, you can’t trust 100% a supplier to have a perfect production, so do you recommend to ship fisrt to UAE then inspect it here my self then ship to USA? and if so, what is the best way to avoid paying double fees for shipment , is there a way for that?

    36. KMM at 5:26 pm

      I move several standard 40″ containers a month consisting of the same product from China to US. I have come across SeaRates.com, which appears to be a “DIY” booking / shipping company. Does this type of service exist legitimately? I am quite skeptical of this particular organization and appear to be a scam considering they only ask for a credit card to sign up for $299, their US customer service contact number does not work and their one single on line help chat rep could not explain why it doesn’t work or provide another number,…. But this type of service being offered is very appealing to me, I would definitely try to move one on my own if it allowed a big enough savings and was a reputable company. I appreciate your time in advance with any comments on this.

    37. Subchak at 5:55 am

      I am negotiating price on some wrought iron decorative panels with 400kg in totral weight and 1cbm vol. I am asking the manufacturer in China to quote me a door to door delivery to my address using sea freight. Is there some things I should ask them to clarify? would the quoted price be reliable and without any further problem? I will go through Alibaba Trade assurance site to make the payment.


    38. Irsh at 4:29 am

      Hello Fredrik,
      I noticed you haven’t posted anything since May 2015. I do not know if this post is still valid but I will still go ahead and ask my question. I am planning to buy articles from retailers in China and export them to my country. It might seem strange but I am already in China and this way I can check the quality and the prices are still competitive. I will be having only receipts from the sellers and quite a lot of them. My question is, will this be a problem to obtain the B/L and C/I and will there be any problems for shipping and custom clearance using this method of buying?
      Thank you.
      P.S: Your site is really great.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 7:25 am

        Hi Irsh,

        No, we publish weekly without interruption. However, we may not have posted in this category for a while.

        What you need is to obtain export clearance documents… and I cannot go into the specifics of that. You need to find a reliable freight forwarder.

    39. Olia at 1:41 pm

      I have also a question about CIF LCL shipments and would like ask about regulationg documents about it. Recently we face situation when supplier provides small cargos on CIF LCL conditions for small delivery charge. But upon arrival they bill amount for local charges which often is very enourmous especialy if you have real number to compare with.

      How those local fees could be regulated?

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 3:37 am

        Hi Olia,

        This is a typical problem. Local charges are high, so I suggest you request a DAP quotation next time. That way you will get a full quotation from start.

    40. Anna at 7:27 pm


      I am a small business, first time buyer from China.
      Ordering 100 products, each weighs about 500g.
      The Chinese manufacturer quoted $500 for sea freight shipping.
      Is it about right? Find it very expensive. Shipping per product cost as much the product itself. I would really appreciate your help.
      Thank you

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 3:33 am

        Hi Anna,

        Shipping companies don’t consider the value of the cargo. Freight charges are entirely calculated on the weight and volume of the cargo.

    41. Pamela at 1:27 am

      Hello Fredrik,

      I’m attempting to purchase some items from a company in China. Is there anyway to determine if it is a legitimate company? My second question is if it is a legitimate cmpany, how do I find a consignee, port of destination and final destination?

      Any assistance is appreciated.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 4:27 am

        Hi Pamela,

        Yes, there are many methods to assess suppliers. I suggest you read these articles:


        The consignee is the importer, and the port of destination is selected by the same.

    42. Mitch at 12:52 am

      Hi Fredrick!

      Thank you so much for all the insightful information on this blog. I’ve done a lot of reading and your site is one of the bests by far.

      I am (or will be soon) a first time importer and entrepreneur, in general. I’ve designed a glass meal container and will be having the glass containers, lids, and some accessories manufactured in China by 3 different companies. I will be importing the containers FOB from Qingdao to Long Beach and then to a warehouse in San Diego before sending pallets to Amazon FBA.

      The supplier for the containers gave me the HS code (22.5%) and the supplier usually ships them with their own lids. My first question is, does that HS code apply to both parts of the item or will I be charged a separate duty on the lids, as well? What about the accessories, if they are packaged with the product?

      Secondly, I have read that if the value is under $2500 (increased from $2000) then it does no customs duties are required. Is this true? And if so, since my cost for the glass containers (5000pcs) will be just $2200, my lids from another supplier will be around $2500, and the accessories (wooden spoon/fork) from yet another supplier will be less than $1000, would it be smarter to ship them all separately from each manufacture and then package and assemble them in the US? Will this save me the expense and frustration of all the customs requirements on orders more than $2500? Or is the shipping cost added to the value at customs which would put me over the $2500 anyway?

      I hope that made sense…

      Thanks again for all your hard work!

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 3:21 am

        Hi Match,

        1. Normally, you pay a duty rate according to the HS code that applies to the “final product”, not individual components. However, these are only general guidelines. There may be different procedures for products like this one. Without a classification from the customs authorities, I can only speculate.

        2. No, that will still result in the shipping costs exceeding the costs you may save. LCL freight is expensive, as the costs are counted per shipment, not only volume.

    43. Luis at 12:36 am

      Hello Fredrik, Thank you so much for your information, i currently have a question, i am in the tires industry and have been exporting tires from China to the USA, currently, i am thinking in changing a supplier but the only sell FOB in Qingdao China, this means i would have to do the transportation myself all the way to Las Vegas NV. The savings of changing from the provider i a currently with would save $7000 per container, so we could spend up to $6000 in the transportation of it. But how can i start since i will go to china to review the product, yet i don’t have any idea how to use a transportation company that could ship the product all the way to Las Vegas, they all would ship it to LA. Please advice, i appreciate your help, just want to make sure this would be a good move for my company, and after doing some research your website was the best informed. Good Job and Thank you

      1. ChinaImportal at 5:41 am

        Hi Luis,

        You need to find a US based freight forwarder with an agent in Qingdao. That should not be hard. Flexport.com could be one option.

        Once you have that, you simply instruct the freight forwarder to arrange transportation according to DAP (Delivered at Place) terms, directly to Las Vegas.

    44. Ed at 11:52 pm

      Hi Fredrik,

      Thanks for this fantastic post. It is easily the most comprehensive guide to sea shipping around. I’m looking at my first foray into importing and would appreciate your insights.

      I’m importing on FOB terms from Shenzhen to the States and specifically to Amazon for FBA. So I just want to be sure I have this right – my supplier takes responsibility for getting my goods on board the vessel in Shenzhen and sends the Bill of Lading to my freight forwarder who is based in the States.

      I heard there is something I need to notify US customs of 72 hours before the vessel leaves China. Can you confirm what that is, and typically, does a freight forwarder / customs broker arrange that?

      What are the compulsory shipping marks that need to go on the master cartons and container? I am planning to import a 20′ container.

      What information do I need to send to the supplier to ensure that they provide accurate information with the shipment, i.e. for Commercial Invoice, Packing List etc? I have a broad understanding of this (I’m aware of it) but unsure of the specifics.

      Is there anything else I need to request off the supplier or ensure they do before the vessel leaves China?

      Thanks so much for your advice.


      1. Ed at 8:16 pm

        Couple more things… I’m based in the UK but have a US mailing address through USAMail1 and also a foreign EIN… does this mean I can act as the Importer of Record and Ultimate Consignee? Thank you.

      2. ChinaImportal at 5:18 am

        Hello Ed!

        Glad to hear that. We just replied you by email.

        For the rest of you who read this, I suggest you check out our new Buyer’s Guide: Shipping, Taxes & Customs

        You can all find it here: https://www.chinaimportal.com

        (or here, if you want the EU version: https://www.chinaimportal.com/

    45. Tosin at 4:16 pm

      Please I need someone to help me with the following questions;
      How do I get freight rates for vessels that load petroleum products (Jet A1, aviation fuel to be precise) of a minimum of 10,000 MT.
      I know the cost but insurance and freight is a challenge. I need the product from FOB Rotterdam to West Africa.
      Is there a table online where one can check these rates?

      1. ChinaImportal at 4:48 am

        Hi Tosin,

        No, I don’t think any online freight table like that exists. The prices change on a weekly basis.

        You need to contact a forwarder and get a quote.

    46. ilyass byström at 10:23 pm



      i bought a ice cream machine from a retailers in china, and i was expecting to get it delivered in morocco by 10 of august, however now the retailer says the next ship is not leaving until next sunday 24th july and it will take around 1 month or more.
      now i am looking for another air shipping method by plane to ship it from china to morocco.

      the machine is 170 kg and 177*67*102 cm.

      could someone give me any advice or info about companies i can ship it with from china to morocco and prices please if you can.

      thank you sooo much in advance.

    47. hihi at 3:59 pm

      Hi, i am charge 4100 for LCL, goods is 12 cubic meteres ,1000kg. This is all inclusive including documenting etc.
      It ships from Shen Zhen China to my door steps in Michigan. Is the price fair? Or am i being scam?

      1. ChinaImportal at 8:28 am

        Impossible to say without having recent pricing data for the same route.

    48. Alex Lavie at 5:23 pm

      Hi, I need to quote an LCL sea freight cargo from China to Miami , but to be inbound (in transit) as The final destination will be another country.
      I am doing this because there are more options for delivery dates from China to Miami, than to my country. Once in Miami, the options from there to my country will be also better. I have a forwarder that will be able to deliver it to me. So what do you suggest I should do, do you recommend a special company? I do not wat to pay local taxes in USA as the final destination for the goods I am bringing is different.

    49. Natascha Neus at 8:35 pm

      Dear Sir,
      We have imported 2 mini combine harvesters from China. The CIF price was U$ 5400 till Paramaribo Suriname. The shipment went through Panama.
      Now the clearence officer of the shipping company that received the goods in Suriname gives us the following list of costs (except the import duties)
      COLLECT FEE USD 10.86
      VAT PAYABLE USD 14.88
      Totals: USD 754.58

      We have questions about the Panama agent fee. These were first presented to us as freight costs. When we indicated that the goods are CIF the local shipping agent told us that they will look into this. Now the costs are Panama Agent Fee. Can you help me to understand what is going on?

      Kind regards,
      Natascha Neus

      1. ChinaImportal at 9:26 am

        Hi Natascha,

        This looks like typical port fees. CIF doesn’t include those. Hence, CIF might look very cheap… but in reality it is not, as you will need to pay additional charges in the port of arrival.

    50. Nana at 11:40 am

      I am doing a research about exporting LED Tvs from China to Australia and the transport process of the products. I would like to ask a few questions regarding the transport process.
      1. What type of transport do you reckon from the manufacturer all the way to door-to-door service and why?
      2. The port in China to export the tv?
      3. Type of packaging used
      4. Duration for the transport process to arrive in Australia
      Hope anyone of you could help by answering these questions. What other information you reckon I should find? Cheers.

    51. Joe at 3:01 pm


      This is my first time importing a 20ft. Container from China to the US and am looking to find a reliable freight forwarding agent. Also what costs am I looking at price range so I know I am getting a fair deal? The total on the shipment is around USD$14,000.00.


      1. ChinaImportal at 2:04 am

        Hi Joe,

        We can send you some suggestions.

        Do you mean that the total cargo value is $14,000?

    52. Thomas at 8:15 pm


      Quick question. If the freight forwarder gets a hold of the commercial invoice, wouldn’t that automatically give our sensitive information that is vital to my company? Freight forwarders will know my landed cost, is it not? Do people just go with it because that’s what the system requires?


      1. ChinaImportal at 2:50 am

        Hi Thomas,

        Given that the landed cost is part of the customs value, which must be communicated to the customs authorities (or else they cannot tax you), the answer is yes.

    53. KK at 8:46 pm

      Hi, it’s my first time of importing material from china to USA, and because of the dimensions the air freight is costly, so I have decided to do the ocean freight, but I cannot take any freight forwarders for door to door service, as we bought this product with trade assurance, and supplier has to use its own documents to do custom clearance at china, and my supplier is giving me only door to port service. No I am looking for custom clearing agent, but not sure what to look for! Can you please help me!

    54. Matthew at 10:25 pm


      I’m a first time importer working with a company to manufacture and package my product from Shanghai, FOB Shanghai port. The supplier has stated shipping plus clearance to California at $2,500. Is this an average price?

      I will have to handle all taxes and facilitating product after landing at California port. As a first time importer do you recommend working directly with a customs broker/freight forwarder that can handle the complete process?

      Lastly I am really hoping to finalize a cost per unit. Is there a reliable way or online tool to calculate all associated cost to get an accurate assumption for COGS.

      Product Information:
      Unwoven material
      Dimensions: 36(Lcm) x 26(Wcm) x 25(LHcm)
      Units: 1,100 cartons (20GP container)

      Thank you,

      1. ChinaImportal at 2:54 am

        Hi Matthew,

        Did you get a CIF, DAT or DAP quote?

        I think you should find a freight forwarder instead.

    55. Shil at 2:59 am

      All of these questions and posts are very helpful. Thank you. My question was around local import taxes in the US for products purchased and shipped from China. This is the first time we are buying a processing machine from Qingdao, and it will come to the US via ocean freighter. At what point during the import process will I be expected to pay taxes on my purchase? Any information on this would be very helpful.

      1. ChinaImportal at 2:58 am

        Hi Shill,

        You will only pay taxes once the cargo arrives in the US.

    56. Herman P. Ochoa at 9:01 am

      Are wires, batteries and diesel fuel tank of a wood chipper not allowed for shipment in China to Philippines based on shipping restrictions?

    57. Brandi Riviera at 7:06 am

      Thanks for the guidance!

    58. John M at 5:58 pm

      Hello, i have a small business in the uk, transport containers, but i work as a subcontractor, doesnt pay that well, and i was wondering if you have any ideea how can i find the jobs directly by myself, i cannot find anything online, and the big companys have a closed system and of course i cannot access. Thank you

    59. curt haigler at 4:52 am


      Wow, so many horror stories makes one reconsider attempting a start-up of a brand, I know it can be done, I have friends that do it but that doesn’t guarantee a scam won’t happen to me. So my questions are these:
      1. I only deal with suppliers with a gold level of 3 yrs, how much does that really mean in terms of getting scammed by them versus say one that is only 1 yr or one that is 6 yrs? I would like to think that the longer they have been a gold supplier the less your chances of things going badly but this is china we’re talking about.
      2. As a first time importer/buyer what is a good starting amount money wise for product and shipping costs?
      3. Can you recommend a good freight forwarder?

      Thank you for your service in this blog…..


      1. ChinaImportal at 9:11 am

        Hello Curt,

        1. It means nothing more than that the company is a paying member. You need to look at registered capital, product compliance, quality management systems and factory audit reports when selecting a supplier.

        2. Depends entirely on the product, but I’d say anywhere from $5000 to $20,000

        3. We offer that as part of our Starter Package: https://www.chinaimportal.com/all-categories/

    60. Bryan at 8:45 pm

      Great article but I’m still a little unsure of a few things:
      1. Insurance, will their forwarder provide or do I need to secure on my own?
      2. What to do once the products arrive…how do I arrange delivery to my location from the destination port?
      3. Is it typical to pay in full before shipment leaves? They want a 30% deposit before manufacturing, and the remainder paid after ready to ship (photographs provided). This will be around 40K which is a little scary with no history with this company. Are there any other steps we can take for protection?

      1. ChinaImportal at 4:26 pm

        Hello Bryan,

        1. You must book insurance via the forwarder

        2. If you book according to DAP terms, you can order delivery to a specific address from the start

        3. Yes, normally you will pay the 70% balance after production, but also after quality control and lab testing.

    61. Robert at 11:07 pm

      Hello all,

      I needed some help on sea freight . I am not purchasing any commercial items. My family and I will be migrating to another country, therefore, we are looking into sea freight shipment to send our households items and lots of books. Ive been looking around, some charge expensive and some charge very cheap. One of the company stated

      ” The above costs are up to arrival at the port / depot only. They do not include ANY charges which may be incurred in Brunei such as (but not only) terminal handling, documentation, customs clearance, examination, quarantine or inspection fees, customs duties, taxes or storage costs.”

      What does this mean? They quoted me with 100kgs weight for £375 only, collection at the port destination. Do this mean , there is chargers incurred to me when the shipment arrives Brunei? If so, how much extra would it be roughly?

      Greatly appreciate any advice. Thank you in advance.

    62. Najma Qureshi at 8:39 am

      Thanks you so much for sharing the above information. China is developing as business hub. Opportunities in freight forwarding are also growing. Sea freight shipping is a good mode of transportation but there are certain challenges. Major challenges freight forwarders are facing in customs rules and country specific policies.

    63. george ticehurst at 11:30 pm

      Excellent information needed this information as I was planning on importing pc cooling fans to the UK.

    64. Willerd Sánchez at 11:54 pm

      Very good article.

      I usually use the services of a company called King Ocean (www.kingocean.com), so far they have shown excellent work, but I need to bring goods from China to America, do you have that service? How could I contact you?

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 7:40 pm

        Hi Willerd,

        You can request a quote for China – US shipping here: https://www.freightos.com/chinaimportal/

    65. Willerd Sánchez at 9:33 am

      Excellent article, it serves as a basis for making the next decisions in my import business.

      I usually use the services of a company called King ocean (www.kingocean.com), but they do not reach China and I want to evaluate the possibility of importing from there because the costs in raw material and production are much lower.

      Will you have that information?

    66. Independent Freight Solutions Ltd at 5:13 pm

      Thanks a lot for sharing this shipping guide. It’s really helpful. You have a really nice blog.

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