Container sea shipping in China/ procedures, prices, conditions and our tips


If you want to import goods by container from China, this article is made for you:

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1) Incoterms


1.1) Defining the responsibilities of the seller and the buyer



In China, the Organization of Maritime Transport is very picky. In general, the four common incoterms when shipping from China are: EXW; FOB; CFR and CIF. To determine a price and the responsibilities of every part involved in an international shipment, it is essential to understand what an incoterm is.

Let’s see how responsibilities vary according to each incoterm, taking these 4 incoterms as examples:

  • When shipping under EXW, the supplier is responsible for making the goods available and ready for dispatch when coming out of the factory. The carrier or the freight forwarder is responsible of the shipment from the reception of the goods outside of the factory to the final delivery location.
  • When shipping under FOB, the supplier is responsible for forwarding the goods to the port of loading, on the vessel. At this point, the responsibility is transferred to the freight forwarder, until the final delivery location.
  • When shipping under CIF, the carrier takes care of freight and transport insurance to the port of arrival.

In general, the incoterm is clearly defined in the proforma invoice or in the quotation which is provided. Otherwise, it is essential to make it clear before considering any international shipment.

Note: When comparing various quotations, make sure that the quotations are based on the same incoterms.

SINO Shipping’s advantage: We can ship under DAP. In other words, we can arrange a door to door service, which is highly appreciated by our customers. Pros: you deal with one interlocutor until the final delivery, you get an all-inclusive quotation (to avoid bad surprises) and we assure a permanent operational follow-up.

When shipping under DAP or DDU (excluding customs duties and taxes), the freight forwarder takes care of the whole process. This Incoterm can be likened to a “door-to-door” service, where your shipment is fully handled from beginning to the end.


1.2) FOB or CIF ?


Most of shipments from China are shipped under the same Incoterms, which are EXW or FOB in general. FOB is especially appreciated in case of a close relationship between the supplier and local transportation companies that are willing to handle the first part of the shipping process (from the warehouse or factory to the POL).

These long-lasting relationships between suppliers and local companies enable to get very competitive rates. As a result, this part of the transportation process is systematically handled by Chinese suppliers.

However, you can use our services for freight, customs clearance in Asia / USA / Canada, Australia, UK, Europe, and some African countries and final delivery as well.

A SINO Shipping advisor will personally take care of the rest of the shipping process, until your cargo reaches the final delivery location.

Now that you have learnt more about the conditions under which you can ship your goods, let’s have a closer look at the costs of the shipping process.


2) How much does shipping cost from China?


To better meet the needs of each client, several variations of rates and services are available. In this way, you can choose between two main option as regards sea freight:


2.1) Full Container Load (FCL)


SINO Shipping provides weekly shipments to the main ports around the world. For every single shipment, SINO Shipping offers two types of full containers:

  • The 20 feet, with an internal capacity of 33 cubic meters
  • 40 feet, able to carry up to 66 cubic meters.

This solution ensures a safe and reliable shipping process, as your container will be sealed from the departure to the final destination address.


2.2) Less than a Container Load (LCL)


This option is more cost-effective for lower volumes, as only one part of the container will be used for the transportation of your goods.

This solution allows you to rationalize your shipping costs significantly. Your goods are loaded in the container alongside those of other customers and you will end up paying only for the space you need.

SINO Tips : LCL is recommended for a volume between 0-15m3. However, it may vary depending on the port of departure. Please contact us for more information.

SINO Plus: SINO Shipping is proud to offer “door-to-door” services also for LCL shipments.


2.3) Our suggestions


You want to import / export goods to / from China but you do not know which incoterm to opt for? For a reliable and hassle-free shipment, SINO Shipping advises you to go for an (almost) full coverage of your shipment.

In other words, it is better for you to choose incoterms such as EXW or FOB, where (almost) all of your shipment will be handled and supervised by a team of dedicated professionals.

These two incoterms come with a pick-up from the factory / warehouse (EXW) or from the port of departure (FOB), which frees you from quite a heavy responsibility during the transportation process.

SINO Shipping‘s experience in providing logistics services for shipments between China and the entire world now enables our team to ship all kinds of goods between both countries (foodstuffs, chemical or dangerous products, etc.).

During your shipments, no matter what type of goods is shipped, we manage all the necessary steps, including the most complex part of it (customs clearance and other paperwork).

SINO Tips : For further information regarding your transportation needs from/to China, please contact a SINO Shipping advisor. Our staff is committed to answer all questions you may have.


2.4) Kilos, Lbs, m3, cbm; feet, you have to make sure you there is no misunderstanding on the volume and the weight


Your Chinese suppliers and factories can communicate with you using European or US metrics. Be sure to convert properly the volume and weight.

Dimensions & capacity of standard containers

container capacity


container china information



2.5) Huge price differences according to the quotations?


Be careful when choosing a logistics partner in China. Some companies do not adapt to specific customer needs and this may lead to misunderstandings.

To avoid this, do not hesitate to contact several freight forwarders and try to find the one that seems most responsive, professional and competitive.

This combination of the three factors will allow you to benefit from the best solution for you shipment from China to the country of your choice.

Also try to opt for a forwarder who will provide support and advice on the whole administrative part (customs clearance etc.). It is a crucial aspect of the logistics chain.

For more information, visit our contact page.   CONTACT US


2.6) Is sea freight always the cheapest option?


Which means of transport is appropriate, as well as the choice of the proper service often raise many questions for the customers.

Your parcel is equal to 1 cubic meter or even less? You wonder which transport service would represent the most cost-effective option for your shipment?

In this case, it is important to note that the minimum weight / volume charged for an LCL shipment is 1 cubic meter or one ton.

Many people tend to think that sea freight is always cheaper than air freight. But in reality, express freight tends to offer much more competitive solutions for the smallest volumes.

In general, air freight is recommended for a billable weight of less than 100 kg, and sometimes even 200 kg for certain destinations.

For that purpose, SINO Shipping has adapted to the needs of its customers by offering highly competitive air freight services between China and Europe. Our long-term partnerships allow us to provide you with high-quality services at very competitive rates. 


3) Packing service


3.1) The first step of a successful and hassle-free shipment


Your shipment must be protected appropriately to go through the various stages of the chain. First, your goods will be transported from the factory to the port of loading.

Then, your parcel will be loaded into a container before departure. After that, it will be transported to a warehouse at destination for unloading, and finally loaded again onto a truck.

With all these handling operations, decent packaging is one of the most important aspect that has to be taken care of. The main objective is to ensure a safe shipping process from the beginning to the end, minimizing as much as possible potential additional costs in case of damages.

To do so, SINO Shipping will ensure an excellent packing service for your goods in full compliance with international standards:

  • Cartons: 5 layers
  • Plastic packaging: yes
  • Pallets: Yes (IPPC ISPM 15 standard)
  • Freight Note: Yes (Printed on outer carton)

Here are the standard sizes of the pallets:

  • Europe: 1200 * 1000mm or 1200 * 800mm
  • Australia: 1140 * 1140mm
  • United States: 40 * 48 inches (1016 * 1219 mm)

SINO Tips : If necessary, you can provide the shipper with explicit and clear packaging specifications according to your needs, expectations and the nature of the goods to be transported. Make things as clear as possible and provide pictures if possible to avoid misunderstanding.


3.2) In bulk, cartons, pallets, wooden crates?


Shipping companies enforces maximum weights for containers:

  • 20 feet : 22,1 tons
  • 40 feet : 27,4 tons
  • 40 HC : 29,6 tons

Most of your goods will be packed (usually) in cartons. In this way, you need to know the following information:

  • Carton dimensions
  • The dimensions of the pallets on which these boxes will be placed

Now, you just have to compare these figures to the volumes of the containers seen before:

  • 20 feet : 33 m3
  • 40 feet : 67,3 m3
  • 40 HC : 76 m3


How many cartons per pallet, how many pallets per container?

how many pallet per container

In this example, let’s take the example of industrial pallets: 100 x 120 cm

  • As a reminder, the weight of a pallet is 30 kilograms
  • the maximum load per pallet is 1.5 tons

You will be able to load:

  • 9 pallets in a 20 feet container
  • 22 pallets in a 40 feet container

Once you know the size of your cartons, pallets, the container (dimensions), as well as the weight, then you are able to decide what is the most suitable option between FCL and LCL.

SINO Tips : Now that you know the size of your cartons, the height of the container (an industrial pallet is 16cm high), and the weight of your cartons, you can finally calculate the volume and therefore forecast how many containers or CBM you need.


4) Port of Departure – How to choose?


Chinese ports are among the most important ports in the world. 8 of the 17 most important ports in terms of traffic are Chinese. If we include Taiwan and Hong Kong, this figure goes up to 10.

SINO Tips: You want further information shipping routes from China to worldwide? Feel free to check our dedicated page: Shipping routes from China (about Sea freight only).


4.1) Biggest Chinese ports


The top 8 Chinese ports in terms of traffic are located on the east coast of the country, from Shenzhen to Dalian in the northern part.

The only port which is located in the inland areas of the country is Guangzhou, at the confluence of 3 main Chinese rivers.


chinese main sean ports


5) Transportation of dangerous goods and sea freight


5.1) How and under what conditions can you ship dangerous goods from China by sea?


A small introduction to the transportation of dangerous goods – What is a dangerous product?

Some goods that are classified as “dangerous” might surprise you, such as aerosols, perfumes, or anything that contains lithium batteries, such as phones or laptops.

There are nine categories of hazardous products.

Can I check the hazardousness of a product through labelling?

1 = Product Identifier
2 = Signal Words
3 = Hazard Statement
4 = Precautionary Statement
5 = Supplier Information
6 = GHS Pictograms (Diamond-Shaped Symbols)

SINO Tips: If you see any of these logos, please contact us before considering any shipment .CONTACT US


 Where can I find further details?


SINO Tips: If you are not sure, ask the suppliers to provide you with the MSDS (material safety data sheet). They have to provide it.

Who is responsible for declaring the dangerous goods?

The sender is responsible for the proper declaration, packing, and labeling of the hazardous products, ensuring a full compliance with all the paperwork required by the country of origin, the shipping company and the country of destination.

How can I ship my dangerous goods?

There is no standard procedures for hazardous shipments. It depends on what you are shipping. Get in touch with our advisors now, we will provide you all the information as regards the steps you must follow.

For more information visit the IMO (International Maritime Organization) website


6) Refrigerated shipping


SINO shipping is proud to offer temperature-controlled shipments from all major Chinese ports. We are one of the biggest service providers in China for perishable goods, frozen goods, drinks, or other goods requiring strict temperature control.


7) RORO & bulk shipments


We widened our range of services, by providing also Ro-Ro and bulk shipments, as well as project cargoes.

  • Port handling
  • Flow management
  • Verification of roads and access
  • Multimodal Transport
  • Lifting equipment
  • Packing and crating


8) Why choose Sino Shipping for your Sea Freight shipping ?


8.1) At the heart of the largest economic markets


Considering the economic dynamism of the country and its amazing shipping traffic, SINO Shipping decided its activities in China to better match the needs of its customers.

Our strong experience in the region now allows us to offer a full range of high quality services to handle your international shipments between China and the country of your choice.

Many logistics solutions are available and every single request is carefully processed by our team, in order to adapt our offer to your wants and requirements at the best price.


8.2) Sino Shipping: a dedicated team


When shipping with us, you get to benefit from a constant follow up throughout the whole process.

One advisor from our staff will personally take care of your shipment from beginning to the end, ensuring full transparency and permanent contact to inform you on the status of your cargo at every single stage of the process.

For any further information concerning your shipment between China and America, Asia, Europe, Australia, feel free to contact us.

Your personal SINO advisor will make sure to answer any question or doubt you may have.  Our strong network built throughout China and rest of the world allows us to offer tailored solutions to better serve your needs.

SINO Tips : We provide the most efficient and cost-effective logistics solutions depending on the specificities of shipment.




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🤑 At what volume is sea freight financially attractive?

Above 2cbm, you have to consider sea shipping. If your volume is less than 2cbm, air freight may be cheaper.

🔱 Should I prefer consolidation or full container?

If your cargo volume is less than 15cbm, LCL consolidation is better and cheaper. Above 15cbm, the full container is the best option.

🇨🇳 How to choose the port of departure?

According to 2 criteria: The supplier's address, prefer a port of departure close to the supplier's factory or warehouse. Also, you must choose the port according to the price. The more important a port is, the lower the price is.

🤔 What are the main shipping companies departing from Chinese ports?

China is the world's leading exporter, so all the shipping companies are present, for example the main ones we like to work with: CHINA SHIPPING, MAERSK, CMA-CGM, MSC, ONE.

🧾 How is ocean freight charged?

If you opt for groupage, you are invoiced per m3. For example, a China-USA groupage costs 30usd/cbm, for 1 month's journey, while a China-India groupage costs 20usd/cbm for 15 days of transit time.

✅How to choose a reliable sea freight forwarder?

Check if it really exists, and if it has offices in China, ideally in the main Chinese ports. If you want the best, Sino Shipping is at your service.

⚠How to avoid freight forwarding scams?

Don't be naive. Prices that are too low or offers that are too tempting usually hide unpleasant surprises. Sino Shipping and FS China are your best option for transporting your products by sea.