Importing goods from China to UK – A guide to services

Many new businesses who are looking to import from China, need to give consideration to how they will be importing goods from China to UK.

Having decided on a product and identified a supplier/factory you will be buying from, you now need to find out what is going to be the most cost effective way of shipping from China. Which freight forwarder you will be using or will you be using a courier company such as DHL, TNT or UPS? Depending on the size and weight of your shipment, will determine which method of transport is best for your business. Another factor to consider is how quickly you require the goods in the UK? A courier service from China for a small package could be as quick as 3 working days – whereas shipping a full container from China can take 24-40 days by sea freight.

Many people who are new to the word of importing from China, will automatically assume that a sea freight service would be the most cost effective way of transporting goods. Whilst sea freight is very economical way of transporting goods, it can be a prohibitive for smaller or lightweight items. This is because there are many minimum charges when calculating freight forwarding prices by sea. So for small shipments from China, maybe it is much better to consider an air courier service, sometimes also referred to as an “express” service. We have given a breakdown of the types of services available when shipping from China:

Postal Service From China to UK

Whilst quite a slow service, international mail services are available from China to the UK. Similar to the UK postal service offered by Royal Mail, China operate China Post, which is an ideal method of importing goods from China to UK. This would be ideal for small orders of samples for example, or low value orders where the delivery of these items is not time critical. Postal deliveries can take some time to arrive, with transit times of 6 weeks not being uncommon. Tracking facilities may be available on some of the postal services, but not all. Therefore being able to monitor the progress of your delivery can be problematic. Heavier or bulkier items are generally not ideal for the postal service and even if accepted, can be quite expensive.

Air Courier Service From China

Often referred to as an “Express” service, air courier services from China are available from all the major courier companies. DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT and many more, all offer import courier services from China. The big advantage of this being that the prices offered are usually door to door, inclusive of all transportation charges. Therefore a customer will know how much it will cost from the Chinese factory to the destination in the UK. Track and Trace facilities are available and usually provide comprehensive updates throughout the journey of your shipment from origin to destination. An air courier service is ideal for smaller or less bulky items, where a postal service would be too expensive and/or take too long. When compared to a standard air freight service from China, pricing would be better by courier, purely because the way the courier networks have their infrastructure in place. Many courier companies want packages and parcels within their delivery network, as opposed to pallets or crates. So their pricing tends to be more attractive for shipments with weights in the region of 5 Kilos up to 50-60 Kilos. For shipments over 60 Kilos, it is always worth checking the price difference between courier and standard air freight.

Air Freight From China to UK

Moving goods by air freight from China usually take anywhere from 4 to 10 days, depending on the origin in China and airline being used and their routing. Some airlines offer very competitive pricing, but their transit times tend to be longer, as they fly the goods via different “hubs” on route to the UK. Many of these hubs, could be in places such as Asia, Middle East or Europe, before arriving into the UK. Another thing to consider is that some airlines will fly the goods from China to mainland Europe and the final journey from the European Hub to UK airport is completed by truck and not plane. Truck connections whilst very common within the air freight industry, can be a little bit of an “unknown”, as some trucks will only depart once they have a full truck load. Whereas other airlines will operate their trucks, only on specific days of the week. This can mean your goods sitting at a European Hub, until the truck is either full with other cargo heading to the same UK airport or the relevant departure day has arrived. For cargo weighing over 60 Kilos, an air freight service is likely to be cost effective, but also give consideration to an air courier import service and also, if you are not in a hurry for the goods – benchmark the air freight price with a sea freight service. This may offer you a considerable saving when importing goods from China to UK.

Sea Freight From China

A popular method of transport when it comes to importing goods from China to UK, is a sea freight. Offering an ideal solution for large or bulky items, sea freight can be an economical way of transporting goods. Most freight forwarders who offer a sea freight service, will be able to accommodate large and small shipments. A freight forwarder will provide LCL (Less than Container Load) and FCL (Full Container Load) services. Depending on the total volume (size) of your shipment, will determine whether LCL or FCL shipping is best for you. As a guide, a 20ft container can load in the region of 29 cubic metres (cbm/M3). However depending on the sea freight market pricing, LCL shipments in the region of 19-20 cubic metres, could be more cost effective to transport as FCL, due to the way pricing is calculated. So if you have large shipments from China by sea freight, always ask your freight forwarder to check on the cost to transport your goods as a full container load from China.

FPF Global are shipping from China experts, having been involved in this market for many years. The company has their own appointed agent in China and can coordinate large and small shipments from China to the UK. Whether you are importing goods from China to UK by air or sea, contact us on 01753 911655 for a free no obligation quote.