Shipping from China to the USA: 9 Ways to Save Time and Money

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Max Lock

This article is written by Max Lock, CEO of Fleet

No one has said that international shipping is easy. In fact, figuring out how to ship goods from China to the US in the most economical way possible can be pretty complex. When it comes to the China-US trade route, a small business can often improve their shipping methods in order to save time and money.

Vetting a freight forwarder, in order to find one with combination of experience you’re looking for, and adjusting several things, such as container size or packaging, can work wonders.

Tips To Save Time

Losing valuable time due to shipping delays is a common problem that can plague small business owners. Inconvenienced customers will be calling and asking about their orders, meanwhile the delayed products will be sitting overseas or even at port just miles away. It can be a frustrating situation for everyone. But there are definitely ways to curb this type of problem.

Because most small businesses cannot regularly visit their suppliers, it can be hard to curb delays on that side of the ocean. However, a few simple things can help improve your shipping times.

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Avoiding Time Delays In China

1. Be Aware of Chinese Holidays

It is likely to be difficult to actually find companies that will meet your needs as the Chinese holidays approach. Many factories are closed, and workers such as the people who manufacture products and the people who transport goods will be at home. Port congestion also coincides with these holidays, as businesses race to get their goods out of the country before it closes up shop for the holidays.

This can cause a shipment to be delayed leaving or arriving at a port. If you want to make sure your goods are made and shipped according to your timeline, plan ahead with your supplier and order long before the holidays.

2. Choose Experienced Companies To Work With

Another common problem that can cause a delay from the supplier is not returning the packed container to the vessel on time.

Every container is issued with a deadline by which it must be on the ship and ready to go – that means the products must be finished, packed, loaded and at the origin port at a certain time. Working with an experienced supplier or freight forwarder will ensure that your goods leave when they should.

Avoiding Time Delays Upon Arrival

Once your goods arrive in the US, you would think the hard part was over. However, there’s another point in the shipping process that could cost you time as well as money: arrival.

1. Complete Clearance Paperwork Correctly

Nothing eats up your money like a time delay. And what causes time delays most often is a shipment being stopped during the clearance process. In order to guarantee your shipment makes it through customs without a hitch, it’s vital to fill out the paperwork correctly.

A simple data entry error, or worse a purposeful error used by suppliers to make extra money, could create a frustrating delay. The supplying factory will be responsible for the paperwork, so it is your job to choose that supplier wisely.

Vet them to make sure they know how the export process works, and have plenty of experience working with exports that are bound for the US.

This means they’ve probably filled out paperwork for similar shipments hundreds of times. If the factory you need to use is not one that falls in this category, choose a freight forwarder who knows about the type of product you’re shipping and will be able to assess the paperwork and find problems before they cause a delay.

2. Have Your Documents Ready

It’s vital to have an ISF (International Security Filing) on file for any ocean cargo being shipped to the States. Most shippers file the ISF before the goods are even loaded onto the ship in the country of origin, and will file the ISF even if they don’t yet have all the information to fill it out.

You can always go back and change it up to 24 hours before the goods’ arrival.

If your goods reach the US port of arrival with an incorrect or late ISF, you could be penalized up to $5000.

In order to get your goods through customs once they are in the US, a shipper will need to file an Entry or Immediate Delivery Form and pay all fees associated with the shipment.

Other documents that must be on hand in order to get a shipment through customs are: Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origins, Commercial Invoice, and a Packing List. Errors in paperwork are common causes of delay at the US port of arrival.

Tips To Save Money

There is no doubt about it, shipping costs can totally eat into your bottom line. Running a small business means finding a way to keep products at a price point where customers will pay and the company can still turn a profit.

Running into unexpected expenses, such as a higher cost of shipping, can make this hard. There are many shipping-related areas for small businesses to investigate in order to save money.

Here are a few key things to consider before you ship goods from China to the US:

1. Time Your Shipment Well

Timing is everything when it comes to shipping goods out of China.

As certain holidays approach, the cost of shipping will steadily rise due to shortage of workers in factories and on the road.

During official holidays, factories will be closed. As a rule, shipping costs increase in the following periods: throughout September up until early October when the Golden

Week starts, the month leading to Chinese New Year – which can be in January or February every year – depending on the lunar year calendar, and several weeks before Labor Day (Labor Day in China and some other Asian countries is May 1st).

Also remember, if you leave yourself plenty of time to ship cargo by sea instead of air freight you’ll be saving money because air shipment is always the more expensive choice.

2. Consider Your Packaging

While many companies let their supplier do all the packaging for them, becoming involved in the packaging process could be a money-saving move. Inquire how the items will be packed for shipping, and ask whether or not there are any ways to improve the efficiency.

When it comes to shipping via ocean, the weight doesn’t matter (as long as its within regulation) just the amount of room the cargo takes. Space is money, so packing items in a way that saves space is a great idea.

3. Ship Full Container Loads (FCL)

When possible, ship a full container load. A FCL is a more cost effective way to ship ocean cargo. Goods shipped in a less than full load (LCL) will end up costing more per item.

Shipping a full load comes with other benefits as well, such as not having to deal with possible damage from items in the container, and not having to share the container with another vendor whose items may or may not cause your shipment to be delayed.

LCL containers are packed at a warehouse, with workers putting several shipments together into one container: if another shipper’s items are not there on time it can cause a delay.

4. Ship 40’ rather than 20’

When possible, ship your FCL in a 40’ container instead of the 20’ container. Why? Generally, shipping in the bigger choice will bring your cost per item down. However, if you cannot fill the 40’ load in time, it can end up costing less to use the smaller option instead of waiting to fill the larger container.

5. Find A Hybrid Shipping Solution

If air freight is too costly but ocean freight will not deliver your shipment in time, work with a freight forwarder who can offer an intermodal option that combines both air and ocean freight with some other form of ground transportation.

Experienced freight forwarders can often work with their contacts to find a way to make this happen. This hybrid solution will deliver the goods in the right time frame and also keep your shipment on budget.

About Fleet

Every day, goods are moving across the globe, and the China-US trade route is the most popular of all the trade routes in the world. Using experienced freight forwarders, such as the companies you can find on Fleet, will make shipping goods from China to the US a much smoother process.

You can use Fleet to get quotes for your shipment, vet potential freight forwarders, organize all the documents that will help speed your shipment through customs, and even book and pay for your shipment.

It is not uncommon that Fleet’s customers find an option that best fit their need, whether it is to save shipping cost or to make it on time for the holiday sales.

With Fleet, dedicated customer service for our shippers is a point of pride – we’re always here to help.

About Max Lock

Max, CEO of Fleet, has intensive experience in international shipping, logistics and running online businesses. Max has founded several businesses prior to Fleet  – which which he wants to make international shipping easier for other small & medium-sized business owners.

Fleet is an online marketplace for international logistics. On Fleet, small & medium sized businesses can request and get quotes from multiple forwarders, check reviews about freight forwarders shared by other shippers, and most importantly they can book & pay for the freight forwarders online. There are thousands of businesses and hundreds of freight forwarders on the Fleet platform.

  • Free Webinar

    We can help you manufacture products in China, Vietnam & India?

    • 1. Product design and material selection
    • 2. Finding suppliers in Asia
    • 3. Product samples and payments
    • 4. Quality control, lab testing & shipping


  • 8 Responses to “Shipping from China to the USA: 9 Ways to Save Time and Money

    1. zhd at 6:29 pm

      hello thank for this wonderfull articl, i have a question please, if i want to ship for exemple one product from china to usa.

    2. Pervaiz at 4:52 pm

      We are looking for B2C (Final mile delivery from China warehouse) to our customers in USA, UK and Europe.
      which carrier option is the best.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 7:17 pm

        Hi Pervaiz,

        I suggest you check out

    3. Ship from China to USA at 3:41 am

      Shipping from China to the USA are known to take necessary transit time; anywhere from 30 to 40 days. But if you go with china freight forwarders then it has reduced delay time and depending on your cargo type and it’s weight, if you need more fast to deliver then you can go for premium services. The whole time needed to process your cargo from China to the United States can be shortened if you take our reasonable freight services. This is a good option if you cannot wait for 30 days to see your goods.

    4. Jeff at 6:28 pm

      Shipping 40HQ or 45HQ container from China to LA to be crossloaded for delivery to warehouse in St Louis. Looking for recommendations and advice.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 1:02 pm

        Hi Jeff,

        I suggest you checkout or

    5. Michael Delao at 5:26 pm

      do you recommend a forwarder? I need packages shipped from China to the USA

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 8:23 am

        Hi Michael,

        I suggest you use

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