Shipping Costs from China to UK: 2021 Ultimate Guide
April 27th, 2021
Are you Confused about shipping costs from China to UK?
Do you know how much it would cost to ship goods and other factors to consider when shipping?
The Covid 19 impacted the shipment that caused significant delays to both the manufacturing business and shipping business.
Even though some manufacturing companies are back to normal operations, there are still potential delays at UK ports and warehouses. These delays can cost your business millions of dollars each month.
It is essential to learn how to calculate the right shipping cost, what kind of duties and taxes are required, what shipping documents need to be prepared. Any issues in any of these steps can result in a big loss.
This blog includes the most essential shipping information, which will guide you on the following:
Chapter 1: Things you need to prepare before importing from China to UK
1. Check the products are allowed in UK and if you need a license or not
By this time, you may have decided on the product you want to import. It’s time to make an important decision and check whether the goods are allowed to import from China into UK.
While there are some goods, you can freely import without a license, but there are some cases where you may be required to get a license in importing goods to UK.
There are three types of restrictions that you need to understand—inspections, bans, and quotas. Products that come under the category of the inspection will need to have all the certifications required for Inspection and have to go under a detailed inspection process.
Products that are banned cannot be shipped in any condition. You need to pass the inspection and obtain a shipping license. Whereas for quota, you can only ship specific goods which are not greater than the stated quota.
It is therefore essential to keep a record of any goods you import so that when you want to import further products from China to UK, you know exactly what you are bringing into the country, and the quantity.
2. Find out commodity HS codes for VAT or Duty calculations
Finding out how to look for HS commodity code for VAT in the UK is no longer that difficult. What HS code means is the Sales Tax that must be paid on certain types of commodities. Commodity prices fluctuate according to the value and the supply and demand in the market.
For instance, one type of commodity may be quite valuable one day and completely worthless the next, so you will have to be informed before investing in commodities.
It is important to find out how to look for HS commodity code for VAT in the UK before investing in the commodity because you will not get the best possible rates if you choose the wrong supplier.
The easiest way is to ask the supplier of the product for the HS code or follow this link to check out the commodity codes before importing for the UK.
3. Check if there is a need to register for VAT
In many cases, a business wishing to import goods from China to the UK should know and request the relevant information from the customs regarding VAT registration on such goods.
This would help ensure that your business does not get into an unpleasant situation, where you receive goods without registering for VAT on them.
If your VAT taxable income exceeds £85,000, you need to register for VAT. To know more information, you can email HMRC and wait for at least three working days for the reply.
4. Register for an EORI number
An EORI or Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification number is a European Union registration and Identification number for companies that undertake the transportation or transport of goods within or outside the EU.
When shipping goods from China to the UK, you need to register for an EORI. You may find this helpful as it also serves as your invoice when you use the CHIEF system or submit other forms online.
5. Goods declaration with the CHIEF System
Goods declaration with the CHIEF system is mandatory for all international shipments coming into the UK. For instance, if a Chinese manufacturer contacts you to arrange cargo for your products in the UK, they would have to fill in a formal declaration with the customs.
The Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight or CHIEF system is used by importers, exporters, and freight forwarders, to input customs data online.
You can look for some errors in the system and estimate the payable duties and taxes. It would also determine which of your consignments will require some documentation or if there’s a need for inspection. The CHIEF system can expedite the entry process for low-risk products.
6. Get a Customs Registration (CR) number and Power of Attorney (POA)
The Customs Registration number in the UK refers to the legal registration number of a product that has been imported into the United Kingdom. This is also referred to as the CVR or the customs declaration number.
It is a three-digit number that must be shown on all goods imported into the country for the first time or on all goods imported for the first time to an area designated as an import zone.
You need to obtain both CR number and POA when importing from China to the UK for non-documented products, regardless of their value. When importing in China, importers and exporters need to register with customs. You can do this to have either importer or exporter CR number.
Chapter 2: How to Calculate Shipping Costs from China to the UK
1. How Shipping costs from China to the UK got affected by COVID-19
During the Pandemic of Covid19, the shipping rates have increased a lot giving the importer a very tough time. There have been huge issues in the global shipping industry in 2020 which also caused a Pre-Christmas increase in the cost of shipping goods from China to the UK.
Many importers mentioned that the costs have almost tripled or even quadruple in the course of just a few months.
Let’s see the cost difference between and after Covid19. A 40ft container that usually costs around 1500$ was being quoted around 9000$, whereas a 20ft container which is normally costing around 800$ was being quoted around 3200$. This shows you that how much the prices have hiked during the Covid19 period.
This increase in prices has caused disruptions in the production schedules and demands. This was the first time the shipping rates went so high from China to the UK. Many companies in the UK were forced to stop importing from China in order to cut their costs and survive the pandemic.
2. How to calculate the estimated shipping costs from China to the UK
Some of the factors to consider estimating how much to charge per product are the average rates for the distance that the products need to be shipped. You can contact the Chinese supplier to obtain this information.
When you obtain this information, you will calculate how long it will take for your goods to reach their destination. This, in turn, will help you determine how much your supplier is quoting you, is it profitable for you or not, and how you can calculate the estimated shipping costs from China to the UK.
Typically, you can use a free freight calculator in estimating shipping costs from China to the UK. Just get the following details:
Dimensions of goods
Airport origin and destination
Mode of shipping via air
Taxes and duties
To know more about the shipping costs from China to the UK you can check this calculator link.
3. How much customs duties and taxes need to pay when shipping from China to the UK
When shipping from China to the UK, there are some basic questions that you need to ask your shipping company or broker. These are the things that will determine your shipping cost. First, you need to know the value of the items that you want to ship.
For instance, if you are shipping a computer or electronics item, you may add a fee for the higher value items. Second, you need to ask what customs duties and taxes to pay when shipping from China to the UK.
You ship from China to England; you need to pay for customs duties and taxes. Look in advance for your costs, so you won’t be surprised by the total costs you need to pay. Many people will miscalculate the duties and taxes which are required to be paid and then have to suffer a big loss.
For VAT, calculate the total costs of your products, duties, and delivery fee. The standard VAT rate is 20%.
For UK duty, it is based on the HS code. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs determine the duty depends on different products and may range from 0-12 percent or even more for some products.
Chapter 3: Carrier Services from China to UK Shipping and their Rates
The worldwide shipping rates greatly vary depending on the shipping service you select. So before you check shipping charges from China to the UK, one important thing is to compare all the available international shipping services.
1. Shipping rates from China to UK shipping
Note: The prices here are for reference only and just to give the reader an idea. Please note that shipping prices fluctuate from time to time especially during the period of Covid19. Contact your freight forwarder for the latest shipping rates.
You should get quotes from several freight forwarders who offer the best services. By doing this, you will know how much your imported goods will cost you. It will help you make the right decision when choosing a good freight forwarder and import operation from China to the UK.
For the estimated cost in LCL shipping, you may spend between 50-80 dollars per cubic meter to different destinations in the UK.
For FCL shipping, you may pay around 60-90 dollars per cubic meter when shipping products from China to the UK.
Sea Freight FCL shipping rates from China to the UK
The quotation below is port-to-port peak season average rates for Ocean/Sea Freight China to UK FCL shipping. This is the container shipping rate of 40 feet containers from China to the UK.
Shanghai (CNSHA Port)
Shanghai (CNSHA Port)
Shipping from Shenzhen (CNSZX Port)
Shipping to London (GBLON Port)
Shipping to Southampton (GBSOU Port)
Shipping to Felixstowe (GBFXT Port)
Sea Freight LCL shipping rates from China to the UK
The quotation below is door-to-door average rates for Ocean/Sea Freight LCL shipping containers from China to the UK. These rates are for a load of 200 kg/1 CBM.
Shipping from Ningbo
Shipping from Shenzhen
Shipping to London
Shipping to Southampton
Shipping to Felixstowe
Air Freight Costs per KG
When you use air freight for shipping from China to the UK, the price per kg lessens as your shipment weight increases. The chargeable weight per 10 kilograms is around $65.47, while for 100 kilograms, it’s $14.31.
For 300 kilograms, you will pay $5.09 per kg. It is all about bulk purchases. Therefore the bigger the shipment, the more discount is provided by the freight forwarders.
You can use a free universal volumetric weight calculator to avoid extra charges for shipping fees. If your shipment is lighter, then you will pay a higher rate than the actual weight.
Shipping Rates from China to the UK: Express Air
The shipping rates from China to the UK via express shipping are based on the average rate for door-to-door shipping for a load of 50 kg/0.2 cbm. The rate you need to pay is $884. While shipping freight cost is cheaper for under 100 kg.
Visit the express air company websites like DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc to get the exact quote. We are providing the websites down below for your convenience.
2. China to UK Shipping Time
The transit time for shipping from China to the UK is affected by several factors —e.g., season, location, and shipment size. Check the table below for freight time of sea, air, and express shipping:
Sea Freight (LCL)
Sea Freight (FCL)
Chapter 4: Major Shipping Routes between China to the UK
The shipping from China to the UK provides the ease of shipping and delivering your purchased goods from China to UK ports. Along with this, the rates of the shipping companies are relatively cheaper because of the large network of ports between both countries.
This makes it even more feasible for the businessmen to ship their goods from China through the ocean to the UK market. Moreover, they can send their commodities in bulk and avail discounts on the commodities.
1. List of Shipping Ports in China which ships to the UK
Your freight forwarder, supplier, or manufacturer may advise you of the best port when it’s about import duties from China to the UK. It may depend on your location, port volume, ease of customs clearance, and agreements between the manufacturer and the port.
If you choose a port by yourself, it includes transit time, cost, and venue. Here are the best Chinese export ports:
Shenzhen has many ports since the city is regarded as a technology hub.
In 2008, the port exported and grew steadily to more than 26 million TEUs. In more than 100 countries, it reaches almost 600 ports.
In 2018, Shanghai Port, with 42 million TEUs, is the busiest port in the world. The port opened for foreign trade in 1842.
2. List of Shipping Ports in the UK which accepts shipments from China
Shipping ports in the UK are important hubs for global trade. It plays a significant role in the smooth flow of goods from one place to the other.
There are so many essential shipping companies in the UK that have gained good fame and value because of their excellent services, competitive price, and safe transportation of goods from one state to another.
Here is the list of main ports when shipping from China to the UK:
In addition to serving as the primary container-handling port for the UK, it provides access to the largest distribution network by sea, road, and rail.
As deep-water ports go, the Port of Southampton is important to Britain, handling many forms of freight.
In 2018, Shanghai Port, with 42 million TEUs, is the busiest port in the world. The port opened for foreign trade in 1842.
Chapter 5: Factors Affecting Destination Port Cost
Generally, there are different factors to be considered while calculating the price of the import goods. First, the cost of the container or carton used for storing the goods is one factor.
Other factors include the weight of the load, the size of the goods, and the value of the goods transported. Some companies add a certain percentage of the overall cost of the goods to be determined as the shipping charge which others provide a fixed price of shipping.
To discuss in more detail, here are the main factors affecting destination port cost:
1. Destination Port Distance
This means the distance of the ports from where to the container is loaded on the ship and where it has to be delivered. The distance will affect the cost. The longer the distance the higher the shipping cost.
The shipping cost also depends on how many places the ship will stop and transit through or if the container ship is going directly to the destination port without stopping at any other port.
2. Types of goods being transported and the type of container being used
One of the main reasons why shipping from China to the UK may be expensive sometimes, comes from the types of goods that are being shipped. It also depends on whether you are shipping bulky or lightweight goods.
Remember that if you are shipping perishable items, they need special handling (reefer containers) measures to keep them from going bad before reaching their destinations. If you are shipping non-perishable goods, then the process is the same as with the perishable ones.
However, the shipping container that you use will play a significant role in ensuring that the goods arrive fresh at their destinations.
3. Size and weight of the cargo
Weight and dimensions can influence pricing depending on the type of shipping used. When shipping by air, the cost is usually calculated based on the value of the package and sometimes by volumetric weights. When shipping by sea, the dimensions of the container can affect the shipping cost.
Chapter 6: Key Tips to Remember when Shipping from China to the UK
Here is the key information to know about freight shipping from China to the UK:
1. Off and main peak season for shipping
The off-peak season for shipping from China to the UK would be from March-June. While the main peak seasons for shipping are these months:
Late January or early February due to Chinese Spring festival holidays
July-October (sea freight)
October-December (air freight)
2. LCL vs. FCL: Which one is best for you?
LCL or Less than a Container Load is used to manage space in containers and for goods smaller than the actual volume of a container. You just have to pay for the space of your loads and share the whole rate with others sharing the same container space.
It is best and more cost-effective if you are shipping items that are smaller than 15 cubic meters.
While FCL of full container load is when you are renting the entire container for your shipment, which results in lower cost per unit.
You may rent from three types of containers — 20 feet (internal capacity of 33 cbm), 40 feet (internal capacity of 66 cbm), or 40 feet HQ (internal capacity of 76 cbm).
Here is the table of pros and cons of which one is best for you:
Fast delivery than LCL
Needs to pay for space you use
Lower cost per cubic meters than LCL
Best for small shipments
Limited persons to handle your products (you and the supplier)
Fewer issues when receiving the shipment
The average rate for delivery is higher
Products are delivered in a container
Longer time for delivery due to customs declaration and clearance
Longer time for unloading, which requires manpower
Products are inspected numerous times
Not applicable for small shipments
3. Air Cargo vs. Express Air Freight
It is very important to have a clear understanding of what is the difference between Air cargo and Airfreight and why their cost differs from each other.
When we talk about Express Air, it is handled by specializing companies like DHL, Aramex, TNT, UPS, FedEx etc. These companies will provide you tracking facilities; pick up facilities, door to door delivery services.
They will also clear the customs for you in most cases and you pay them the complete fee including the customs clearance as well as shipping fee. They are very fast in delivering the goods compared to Air Cargo but are also expensive than Air Cargo.
While on the other hand, the Air cargo is usually handled by different Airlines who take passengers as well as Cargo, for example, Thai Air, Emirates, and Etihad, etc. The goods are booked through different agents for these airlines.
Usually, there is no tracking number and it takes a longer time to ship the goods due to space availability issues. Air cargo method will not help you in door-to-door delivery. The goods will come to the destination airport and you will have to arrange for the customs clearance of the goods.
4. Make sure the customs clearance documents are well prepared
If you are importing from China to the UK, you must first obtain an EORI number. It takes three working days to have it. Then, before paying VAT and taxes, you must declare imports.
Customs will not release your products until you have paid both duty and UK VAT. You can reclaim these back, or you can delay the payment for some given instances—e.g., temporarily importing goods and then transfer them to another EU country.
Chapter 7: FAQs About Shipping Costs from China to the UK
1. How do incoterms affect the cost of shipping?
Incoterms are trade terms when shipping from China to the UK. You will need to pay for the logistics costs after choosing the incoterms from the supplier to shipping the products to your delivery address.
For instance, when you’re shipping from China to the UK, ask your supplier how much the cost is if you pick the goods from the supplier’s warehouse. You will use the EXW incoterm in this situation. But if the supplier ships the products to a specific port this will mean FOB incoterm was used.
You can choose incoterms from FOB, FAS, FCA, or EXW for freight collect terms. Or DPP, DAP, DAT, CIP, CPT, CIF, or CFR for freight prepaid terms.
2. Do I need insurance to ship from China to England?
When you start shipping from China to the UK, you need to buy some sort of insurance to cover all the items that you are shipping. There is more than likely a high risk involved when importing goods from China to the UK.
If you do not protect your items, you can be in trouble when any issue arises during the shipping process. When you’re shipping from China to the UK, find out how much insurance you need to purchase and what type of coverage you should have.
3. What are the busiest shipping ports in China?
China’s busy ports have seen an influx of new container terminal construction. China’s ports are expanding to accommodate an ever-growing number of goods arriving at their ports.
The addition of a modern container terminal to an existing port facility improves the available traffic capacity, allowing for greater throughput and better use of space.
Here’s the list of the top 5 ports in China:
Shanghai (42 million TEU / Year)
Shenzhen (27.7 million TEU / Year)
Ningbo (26.3 million TEU / Year)
Guangzhou (21.8 million TEU / Year)
Qingdao (18.2 million TEU / Year)
4. How can I lessen the cost and shipping time from China to the UK?
You can lessen the cost and shipping time from China through the following ways:
Buy in bulk to get a discount.
Negotiate the shipping cost with freight forwarders.
Use the right delivery method for your products.
A freight forwarder can also lessen the costs of shipping through the following ways:
Advise you what is the best time to ship your cargo is.
Assist you in choosing a suitable transport mode.
Give you information regarding the local transport.
Finding reliable shipping rates from China to the UK is not an easy task. It will require some research and a lot of hands-on work.
However, once you have found a provider of freight services from China to the UK at rates that meet your budget requirements, you will be able to save a lot on the cost of shipping and freight fees as well as reduce the operational costs. Most importantly, you will be able to find a cost-effective carrier to ship your products to your destinations.