Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight From China to the US
Express Shipping from China to the US
Using an international courier, also known as express freight is generally more reliable and quicker, whether it’s UPS, FedEx or DHL.But watch out, some couriers will charge an astronomical amount if you are not a registered customer.
[2021 May update] Unfortunately it is not an option of today due to extremely high cost driven by COVID-19, unless lead time at 3-5 days is compulsory.
Air Freight Costs and Rates from China to the US
Cost for standard air freightis normally about $1-2 per kilo less than Express Shipping. Very light shipments for their size might be charged on dimensional weight, rather than actual weight.
[2021 May update] Unfortunately it is not an option of today due to extremely high cost driven by COVID-19, unless lead time at 8-10 days is compulsory.
For larger shipments sizes–more than 200 kgs – and origin/destination pairs, LCL (less than container load) ocean freight costs might be cheaper than air freight costs – make sure you check it out!
Sea Freight Costs and Rates from China to the US
Once a shipment weighs more than around 200 kgs, sea freight becomes the cheapest option. Ocean freight offers tremendous economies of scale (some ships can carry 20,000 twenty-foot containers).
Some freight forwarders offer a premium service, often called expedited freight, which is a little more expensive than normal ocean freight. Like air freight, ocean freight rates vary widely between forwarders, and over time.
How Can Air Freight Be Cheaper Than Sea Freight?
Each shipping mode has its own combination of base and variable costs. Modes with a lower base cost are cheaper for smaller shipments while modes with lower variable weight costs are the cheaper options for larger shipments, even if they start out with a high base cost.
Check with your account manager at AEB Logistics to see how this plays out for freight shipping costs from China to the US.
How Long Does it Take to Ship From China?
Rules of thumbs for lead times (in regular conditions) are 3-5 days for air express freight, 8-10 days for air freight, and 30-40 days for ocean freight.
These estimates can be affected by a wide range of circumstances, so it’s worth checking with your logistics provider.
Express Shipping Options
When shipping from China by international courier, allow 3-5 days. That includes either picking the parcel up at the Chinese supplier’s door unless the supplier has dropped it off at their depot. If it’s really urgent, there are more expensive premium services which may even be delivered overnight.
Standard air freight between China and the US generally takes around 8-10 days. It’s not that planes are slower; it comes down to the fact that air freight processes that are much complicated than for express freight.
Ocean Freight from China to the US
At around 30-40 days for a door to door shipment from China to the USA, ocean freight has the longest lead time. That’s because ships move a lot slower than planes.
Beyond additional preparation required, ocean liners have also started to move slower to save fuel (and money). For instance, US Customs requires importers using a single entry bond, and going by ocean freight, to also take out an ISF bond.
On top of that, port congestion, customs delays, and bad weather conditions affects ocean freight much harder than they do for air freight.
Ocean freight also has a premium service. Depending on shipment requirements, expedited freight might be able to really cut down the transit time. In some instances, it might even being competitive with air freight lead times.
Expedited freight works by streamlining ocean freight processes and by only tying in with the faster ocean services and premium trucking services. That makes expedited freight a great new option when shipping from China.