How to Ship Products From China to the U.S.

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What Are The Methods of Shipping From China to the U.S.?

Shipping your products in the right way can make or break your business's ability to scale. Your choices will be between express shipping, air freight, and sea freight.

Examples / Kanary Expert Opinion

Express Shipping From China to the U.S.

Do you need your products as fast as possible, regardless of cost? Express shipping from China is a solution to get samples, prototypes, and other products in your hands as quickly as possible. It's a great choice to quickly make sure your product is made to your specifications, and that there are no immediate quality control issues with your manufacturer.

Express shipping is delivered by air and can include dedicated flights and trucks specifically for your order. In addition to the premiums included for express shipping, costs will usually be determined by the weight of your order.

Air Freight From China to the U.S.

Air freight is an excellent choice if your products are small, lightweight, or low volume. Your company will use a traditional shipping partner, like FedEx or DHS, a tracking number will be provided to you, and shipping times will be faster than sea freight. Traditional air freight is slower than express shipping, but it is still a great option for larger, lightweight orders. 

Like express shipping, air freight costs are usually determined by the weight of your total product order.

Sea Shipping From China to the U.S.

Sea freight is usually the most cost-effective way to ship your products from China to the US. If you plan on large volume orders, regular and long-term orders, or products that are large and bulky, sea freight will be the ideal shipping choice. Shipping costs are determined by the amount of space taken on a container (or volumetric weight) instead of the actual weight of your order. 

Using space as effectively as possible can save you thousands on shipping. Kanary specializes in consolidated shipping logistics, including coordinating shipping between factories, temporary storage, and freight partners.

Common Mistakes With Shipping From China to the U.S.

Not Giving Enough Lead Time for Planning the Shipment

One of the most common things that can go wrong when you are shipping from China to the U.S. is miscalculating your lead times and otherwise preparing poorly before your shipment. There are a couple steps that you can take to minimize these mistakes.

First, it is very important to make sure you are scheduling your shipment as soon as you place the order with your supplier. As soon as you know the packaging details and total quantity of your shipment, you can start figuring out what size container you will need. This is also where you will determine if you can ship your product by air.

Once you figure out the method of shipping that works best, you should start preparing the necessary documentation for importation. These documents can include the Bill of Lading, Commercial Invoice, and Packing List. If you are using sea freight, you will be waiting for dates to open up to book a shipment. These waits were typically a couple days, but because of shipping complications due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have turned into a couple weeks.

Once your shipment is scheduled, it would be smart to give yourself at least one week in advance of the departure date to load your container and get it to the port. This is why it’s important to start scheduling your shipment as soon as you place your order with your supplier. As you can see, if you wait until your order has finished, you can be waiting as long as 2-3+ weeks to finally ship it out. Covid has made all lead times and shipment preparation even more difficult with limited workers and congestion at ports.

Not Calculating Your Estimated Shipping Costs Before Manufacturing

Calculating your shipping costs before you begin manufacturing can help you decide if you should even be purchasing from China in the first place. It can also indicate if you need to negotiate further with your supplier to lower your manufacturing costs. You always need to understand your total or landed cost before you decide to order from China. Manufacturing costs, local transportation costs to get products from factory to port, shipping costs, custom clearance costs, duties/taxes, and final delivery costs will give you your total landed cost.

Packing List is Inconsistent with Bill of Lading

If your packing list is inconsistent with your Bill of Lading, then your shipment will not be able to clear customs. A packing list itemizes the contents of each package (box, pallets, etc.) and the Bill of Lading is a detailed list of a shipment of the goods in the form of a receipt given to the person consigning the goods. If these two do not match up, you will have to amend the Bill of Lading, which will cause delays for your shipment.

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Shipping From China To the U.S. FAQ

How Can Kanary Help My Business With Shipping From China to the U.S.?

Kanary is partnered with multiple freight forwarders and customs brokers with extensive knowledge of the shipping process from China to the US. We help many of our clients ship by air and/or sea depending on the volume, size, and weight of the goods being shipped.

In addition to executing the shipping, Kanary can help prepare the required documentation for the importing process. We are importers of record for many of our clients, and have a continuous bond that you can use. Kanary can also facilitate the payment of duties and taxes to CBP (US Customs and Border Protection).

Finally, our customs broker partners can clear customs quickly and schedule local delivery of your goods to their final destination efficiently.

What Shipping Method Can I Choose When Shipping From China to the U.S.?

You can choose from several shipping options when shipping from China to the US. Air express usually takes 1-5 days and is provided by companies like UPS, Fedex, or DHL. Air freight can take anywhere from 2-15 days and is also provided by the aforementioned companies, as well as third party airlines like China Southern, China Air, Delta, and American Airlines.

However, it may make more sense for you to ship by sea than air. Sea freight can range between 25-30+ days. The two most common types of sea freight are FCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less Than Container Load). The shipping process is similar, but an LCL shipment can take longer since your container is being shared with numerous other shipments opposed to FCL where your shipment takes up the full container.

Finally, it is important to remember that the coronavirus pandemic has increased shipping times and pricing for all of these methods.

What Is the Cheapest International Shipping From China to the U.S.?

This will depend on your method of shipping, which depends on the goods you plan to ship.  If you are using air express shipping from China to USA, the cheapest option is either DHL, FEDEX, or UPS.  It depends on the time of year. Sometimes, DHL is more expensive than FEDEX or UPS, but the transit time is faster.  DHL's customs clearance process is typically smoother as well.

If you plan on shipping via air freight, the cheapest price will depend on the availability of space on third party airlines at the time you are ready to ship.  To ship internationally by sea freight, 20’ containers are cheaper than 40’ containers, but pricing for both has been astronomically high since the coronavirus pandemic. 

Even with the recent, high prices, sea freight will still be your cheapest international shipping option for heavier and large volume shipments.

What Is the Average Shipping Time From China to the U.S.?

This will depend on where you are shipping from and the method of shipping you are using. If we are talking about sea freight, it will depend on the route of the vessel from China to the U.S. It will also depend on if you are shipping FCL (Full Container Load) or LCL (Less Than Container Load). You will also need to decide what port you are shipping from in China and what port your shipment will arrive in the U.S.

For example, if you are shipping FCL (Full Container Load) from Shanghai to Savannah, it will take anywhere from 35-55 days from port to final destination. If you are shipping FCL from Shanghai to Oakland, it can take 28-40 days from port to final destination. If you are shipping LCL, transit times will be longer, and keep in mind that the coronavirus pandemic has also made lead times significantly longer than they used to be.

If you are shipping by air then air express usually takes about 1-5 days. Air freight usually takes about 2-15 days. Again, the coronavirus pandemic has extended the transit times and increased the price for all of these shipping methods.

How Has COVID Impacted Shipping From China to the U.S.?

The coronavirus pandemic has not only impacted shipping from China to the US, but the entire global trade market. Unprecedented shipping delays have caused backlogs of vessels and congestion at the ports, vessels are canceling and overcharging for shipments, limited workers are available at ports to load and unload vessels due to covid outbreaks, and there are just significantly increased shipping prices overall due to the lack of availability of containers.

For example, a sea freight shipment that would typically take 3 weeks can now take up to 5-7+ weeks. In addition, the same 40’ container that cost $5500-$6200 to ship before the pandemic, is now costing somewhere between $22,000-$25,000 in the beginning of 2022. The global shipping market will never be the same.

Why Are Shipments From China To The U.S. Delayed?

Shipping delays can happen for a variety of reasons when shipping from China to the U.S. Currently, the coronavirus pandemic is the main reason that shipments, both air and sea, are being delayed. Lack of container availability and port congestion due to limited workers caused by COVID outbreaks have caused vessels to cancel shipments and routes from China to the U.S.

Shipping is so delayed that it has caused an influx of importers to decide to import certain shipments by air that they normally would import by sea, which now has delayed air shipping. Other reasons for shipment delays can include improper import documentation, the time of the year you ship (4th quarter and holidays overwhelm companies like DHL, FEDEX and UPS), and random customs inspections.

How Do the Chinese Holidays Impact Shipping From China to the U.S.?

There are several Chinese Holidays that impact shipping from China to the U.S. October Holiday is every year from October 1st until October 7th. Usually, the days leading up to this holiday will have a big increase in shipping prices since companies are trying to get their shipments out before the holiday begins.

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is the biggest Chinese holiday that will impact shipping and is every year around the end of January or beginning of February. Typically, factories start to close 2-3 weeks before the holiday and will not go back to work until 2 weeks after the first day of the holiday. That totals about 5 weeks of limited to no manufacturing.

These holiday breaks translate into increased difficulty for shipment planning and sky high shipping prices. Which should make sense, as everybody wants to get their orders finished and shipped to make sure they account for the downtime in manufacturing. Basically, shipping prices and difficulty usually increase before a Chinese holiday.

What Are the Costs for Air Express Shipping From China to the U.S.?

The costs to ship from China to the U.S. via air express differ based upon the company used to ship and the type of product you are shipping. For example, if you are using UPS, DHL, or FEDEX, they structure their costs as follows:

Price per Kilogram + Fuel Surcharge + Emergency Rate (this number changes based on shipping demand from China to US).

A freight forwarder will tell you the total price per kilogram when they send you a quote for shipment. Once you have it, you can determine the volumetric weight to calculate the exact shipping price of the shipment.

Keep in mind that air express shipping prices fluctuate almost daily and the coronavirus pandemic has made them even more volatile. In general, the 4th quarter leading up to Chinese New year is typically when the prices are the highest, and right after the Chinese New year and between May-August prices are lowest.

What Are the Air Freight Shipping Costs From China to the U.S.?

Air freight shipping costs are a little different than air express shipping costs. It is actually a similar process to sea freight. Basically, you have a limited amount of space available to get your shipment on a third party airline. Once your order is completed by the manufacturer, you will need your freight forwarder to find you the per kilogram rate for the third party airline.

Air freight is typically cheaper than using air express. However, keep in mind that in addition to the price per kilogram, you will have destination costs in China, storage costs after your shipment has cleared customs, and local trucking costs from the airport to your final destination. Both air freight and air express make sense when shipping limited quantities and lightweight goods, but air freight is more logical when the total volume is over 150 kilograms.

What Are the Best Air Shipping Companies From China to the USA?

This will depend on your specific requirements for your shipment. The three most common options for Air Shipping from China to the U.S. are DHL, FEDEX, and UPS. Historically, DHL is the fastest air shipping method but it is also more expensive.
Additionally, DHL is always faster at clearing customs than UPS or FEDEX.

In Kanary’s opinion, they also have much better customer service when an issue needs to be resolved. UPS and FEDEX are both cheaper than DHL, but are slower to ship. The customs clearance process is also slower and, in Kanary’s experience, the customer service is not great.

What Is the Difference Between Air Express and Air Freight Shipping From China to the U.S.?

The biggest difference between air express and air freight is how many different shipping companies handle your products and the overall cost. With express shipping, you will usually have a single shipping partner handle your products from start to finish. 

For example, if you choose express shipping with FedEx, they would be the company to pick up your order from your supplier, and they would be the company to deliver your product to your doorstep. 

Air freight shipping is less expensive, but your package may be handled by several different carriers from start to finish. You'll still receive a traditional tracking number for your order, but the carrier that flies your order to the US may be different from the company that unloads it and delivers the product by truck. 

Both air express and air freight will be faster than sea freight, but they both will typically be more expensive, too.

How To Calculate The Weight for Air Express Shipments?

There are two possible formulas that your shipping partner can use to calculate weight for air express shipments. The first is simply weighing your products and using their actual weight to calculate the charge. This is called the gross weight and is often used to determine your shipping costs. 

The other formula will calculate volumetric weight. While less common, volumetric weight is used when products are extremely light but take up a large amount of space on a transport plane. Here's the formula for volumetric weight: 

First, find the volume of your product: 

(Length x width x height) x 167, where 167 is the dimensional weight factor, or DIM. The most common DIM for air express shipping and air freight is 167, but this factor can vary on your specific shipping partner. 

That formula gives you the volumetric weight of your product, which you will then compare to the gross weight of your product. Your shipping partner will charge whichever weight is the greatest, so you need to be sure to calculate both. 

Let's consider an example using this formula. You have a product that weighs 1102 pounds. First, you need to convert pounds into kilograms (with this value, it's 500kg). This is the gross weight

Now, we need to find the volumetric weight. The dimensions of your product are 50x50x50in. Your product probably won't be a perfect cube, but it's good to use as an example. 

Use that to find cubic inches, which is 125,000 cubic inches. That needs to be converted into cubic meters, which is about 2 CBM. 

Then, multiply the 2 CBM by the air cubic conversation factor (167), and you get 334, which will be 334kg. The volumetric weight is 334kg, compared to the gross weight of 500kg. In this example, you would be charged by the gross weight, or actual weight, of your product. 

This becomes more complicated when your products aren't uniformly shaped, and it can become difficult to accurately estimate your air express shipping costs. When you partner with Kanary, we handle all of the calculations for you to determine the best method to ship and to provide an accurate estimate of what your shipping costs will be.

How Can I Track My Sea Shipments From China to the U.S.?

When you use sea freight, the vessel you are using has the ability to track on their website. You can track your shipment by searching for the Bill of Lading number, container number or vessel number. The tracking will let you know when the container has been loaded, departed, estimated arrival time, released from customs and when it is available for pickup from the port.

What Are the Sea Freight Shipping Costs From China to the U.S.?

Sea freight shipping costs from China to the U.S. are fluctuating every 2-3 weeks. All shipping has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but sea freight has by far been the most affected. Due to the lack of container availability and limited workers at ports, the prices for Sea Freight have surged and continue to do so.

For example, prior to the pandemic in 2019 a 40’ container from Shenzhen Port to Oakland Port would cost as little as $5500-$6200. In 2022, the same container is costing $22,000-$24,000 and that is a conservative estimate.

The best way to figure out sea freight costs is to figure out the products and quantities that are going on the container. Then, figure out the most cost effective port in China to ship from and the closest port to your final destination in the US.

Finally, talk to your sourcing agent or freight forwarder about the estimated market rates to ship and keep an eye on the fluctuations until you get your booking date.

What Is Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping?

LCL (Less than Container Load) means that the goods you are shipping are not enough to fill an entire container. If you are not shipping enough goods to fill a whole container, and the shipment is too large or heavy to be shipped by air, then you are left with the LCL shipping method. This method is typically a longer process than FCL (Full Container Load) because your shipment is sharing the container with several other shipments to make it full, which has certain implications at customs.

What Is Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping?

FCL (Full Container Load) means exactly what it says.  FCL means the volume of goods you are shipping is enough to fill an entire container.  This is usually a quicker and more cost effective option than LCL.  If you are importing enough volume or heavy products, this is the recommended way to ship.

What’s the Difference Between LCL and FCL Shipping?

The main difference between FCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less Than Container Load) is that when you ship FCL, your goods fill the entire container. When you ship LCL, you are sharing a container with other shipments.

Another important difference is that LCL will take longer than FCL. With an LCL shipment, customs clearance will take longer because if somebody else’s shipment is flagged for inspection, then you have to wait till the inspection is finished before the container is cleared. It doesn’t matter if your shipment is completely fine, you still have to wait for the other inspection to be finished before the container is released.

Additionally, when the container arrives at port, it needs to be taken to a designated third party warehouse for sorting and unloading. This can cause further delays and you will need to wait until it is finished being sorted to schedule delivery with your local trucking partner. FCL shipments, on the other hand, can be scheduled for pick up from the port and delivered directly to the final destination.

What Are the Advantages to Shipping FCL Over LCL From China to the U.S.?

FCL has several advantages when it comes to shipping from China to the U.S. Some of these advantages include quicker transit time, cheaper shipping cost per unit, and more control over your shipment when it arrives at the port of destination.

How Do I Know if I Need to Do FCL or LCL From China to the U.S.?

Basically, if the quantity of goods you are shipping is large enough, or if the goods are extremely heavy and the CBM (Cubic Meters) of the goods is large enough to fill an entire container, then you will ship FCL. For these kinds of shipments, FCL shipping is a more cost effective and quicker option.

You will ship LCL when the goods you are importing do not make sense to ship by air and do not take up enough CBM to fill an entire container.

Why Should I Consider Consolidating My Shipment From China to the U.S.?

Kanary helps many companies save money by consolidating all of their products into one container and shipping FCL, instead of various LCL shipments. Kanary will manage lead times and make sure the multiple suppliers complete manufacturing around the same time.

Then, Kanary will move all of the products from various suppliers into one location to load onto one container. Money is saved by having one big shipment instead of multiple smaller shipments.

Kanary will also take care of all the overwhelming and detailed commercial invoices, packing lists, and duties/tax research that goes into a consolidated shipment, making sure it is correct so that you avoid delays and/or fines.

What Does It Mean to Palletize Shipment?

Palletizing a shipment means organizing all of your boxes or cartons onto one wooden pallet. This makes it easier to load onto the container at the port and unload the container at the final destination. There are usually charges for palletizing shipments, but most people choose to pay them because of the ease it provides for loading and unloading the container.

For example, if your entire container is palletized, it may take 45 minutes to unload with a forklift with one or two people. If your container is not palletized, you may need 5-6 people to unload it by hand and it can take hours. Keep in mind that if you do not unload your container in a certain amount of time (usually 2 hours), then you start getting charged for the time it takes to unload after that. Palletizing is cost effective and time efficient.

Should I Palletize Every Sea Shipment From China to the U.S.?

It depends on your specific situation. For very lightweight and cheaper products, it may make sense not to palletize a shipment so that you can fit as much as you can into the container, which would lower your per unit shipping cost. Remember that you will have to unload this by hand at the final destination, so you should have people ready to help and make sure the products are light!

For heavier or more expensive products, it is better to palletize a shipment. If the products are expensive, palletizing them will prevent them from moving around during transit. If they are heavier, it will be easier and quicker to unload them with a forklift at the final destination.

What Are the Fastest Sea Shipping Routes From China to the U.S.?

The fastest sea shipping routes between China and the US will usually be Shanghai to LA or Shanghai to Oakland. Shipping times for both of these routes takes 2-3 weeks, with Oakland having access to a special, expedited shipping option that makes the route as short as 17 days. 

However, the route that is typically the fastest won't always be the best route for your needs. You need to consider how close your supplier is to any given port. For example, if you have a manufacturing partner in southern China, it won't make sense to ship products hundreds of miles to Shanghai when you could use the Port of Shenzhen. 

Even if the sea freight shipping is faster, your business will pay thousands in extra costs to get your products from the supplier to Shanghai, and that's if your supplier even has a permit to export products from Shanghai. 

It's vital to consider what kind of supplier you need, where the supplier is, and what port is the best export option before you ever begin manufacturing your product. Kanary has years of experience partnering with China-based manufacturers and planning and executing the complicated logistics associated with optimizing export options with supplier location.

Which Port Has the Fastest Route When Shipping From Shanghai to the U.S.?

Generally, Oakland and L.A. ports provide the fastest route when shipping from Shanghai to the U.S, which is usually 2-3 weeks. In February of 2021, Oakland announced the opening of a special shipping route between Shanghai, in collaboration with CMA CGA, a French container shipping company. Shipping times on this route could be as low as 17 days. 

Remember, COVID19 and other supply chain disruptions will make shipping times hard to predict. Partnering with a sourcing agent, like Kanary, can help navigate the new challenges to shipping logistics.

Which Port Has the Fastest Route When Shipping From Guangzhou to the U.S.?

The L.A. port will provide the fastest route when shipping from Guangzhou. Standard shipping times are approximately 20 days, though this time frame can vary.

Which Port Should I Ship From if I’m Shipping From Shenzhen to the U.S.?

The Port of Shenzhen is one of the most developed port areas in China. It's not actually a single port, but rather a large collection of ports all under the "Port of Shenzhen" umbrella. When looking at possible port options, the most common choices will be: 

  • Shenzhen Haixing
  • Shekou Container Terminals
  • Chiwan Container Terminals
  • China Merchants Port
  • Yantian International Container Terminals
For most exports, you should choose the Yantian port to ship to the U.S. It provides the fastest, most cost-effective route to major ports like L.A. and even New York. However, the Yantian port may not be an option depending on your specific product. Your manufacturing partner may only have a permit for a specific port, which means they may not have legal access to Yantian. 

This is why you need to choose the ideal port and the ideal supplier. Kanary has decades of experience working with China-based manufacturers, and knows which suppliers are able to ship from which ports, which will help to avoid costly shipping headaches.

How to Calculate the Cubic Meters (CBM) For a Sea Shipment?

The formula for calculating CBM is straightforward, but its application is more challenging. The formula you need to determine CBM for a sea shipment is: 

Quantity of products x length x width x height 

The length, width, and height are usually not your individual products but the boxes or pallets that are shipped in. Your supplier will need to let you know how products are being packaged, and your business will need to make sure that the product is being appropriately packaged

Low quality suppliers may not palletize your products correctly, which can damage your order and skew your CBM calculation for shipment.

Will Sea Freight Costs Be Calculated by Gross Weight or Volumetric Weight When Products Are Shipped From China to the U.S.?

Sea freight will almost always be calculated based on the volumetric weight. This is why it's important to choose the right sized container for your order. If your container is far larger than you need it to be, your shipping costs will be the same than if you were able to maximize the entire container for your order. 

Having a container that is too large will also result in an LCL shipment, which can cause delays when the shipment arrives at customs. If there is a customs issue with any order in your container, the entire container will be delayed. Consolidated shipping freight strategies makes shipping more efficient and can help to prevent costly customs delays. 

If you're unsure about how to create a successful consolidated shipping strategy, Kanary can help. We've been developing successful consolidated shipping strategies for customers for years, helping them to save on shipping costs and to make shipping times as fast as possible

Should I Estimate My CBM to Fit the Exact Dimensions of My Shipping Container?

You should not choose your container based on the dimensions fitting exactly with your CBM calculations. Even in an FCL shipment, there will always be some kind of unused space in your container. If your CBM estimate is the exact dimension of your container, that means your container will be too small for your order. 

Choosing a container that is too small for your order will cause major problems with your shipment. Part of your order will be extremely delayed while you wait for another container to become available, you will have to pay for another container to ship products in, and you will have to pay for extra storage time while your products wait for a container to become available. 

This will completely defeat the purpose of executing the logistics of consolidating shipping, resulting in an LCL shipment. This could cause further delays at customs, since LCL and FCL shipments are processed in different areas at the receiving port. 

If your business is inexperienced with consolidated shipping or sea freight shipping, partnering with Kanary can save you from enormous product delays and thousands of extra dollars in storage and shipping costs.

What Kinds of Products Are Charged by Volumetric Weight Instead of Gross Weight When Shipping From China to the U.S.?

Products are charged by volumetric weight instead of gross weight when they take up a large amount of space despite weighing very little. Common products that you can expect to be charged by volumetric weight instead of gross weight include:
  • Cotton
  • Large, lightweight plastics
  • Certain kinds of clothing
  • Any product that is fluffy or large and difficult to pack into small boxes

How Can I Avoid Being Charged by Volumetric Weight Instead of Gross Weight for Products Shipped From China?

If you're concerned that your product will create a prohibitive cost due to its volume, the best way to reduce this cost is effective packaging. The ideal packaging will vary from product to product, but there are techniques you can use to reduce your volumetric weight, including: 

  • Proper palletization
  • Smaller boxes
  • Strict quality control when products are being packaged 
The only way to make sure that your products are appropriately packaged is to be physically present at the factory. Physical presence is also important for quality control in general, since you can see production issues in real-time and resolve them quickly and efficiently. Kanary has a physical presence in China, and personally oversees the production of any product our clients’ order.

What Is Chargeable Weight and Dimensional Weight for Products Shipped to the U.S From China?

Chargeable weight is a term that describes how your shipping costs will be calculated. For example, your chargeable weight may be gross weight, the actual weight of your products, or it may be volumetric weight, which is a formula based on how much space your products take. 

Dimensional weight is another term for volumetric weight, and they are often used interchangeably.

What Is a DIM Factor, and How Does It Affect Costs When Shipping to the U.S. From China?

A DIM factor is a dimensional weight factor, and it's a variable used to determine volumetric weight for shipment. For example, the most common DIM for air freight or express shipping is 167, which helps us to compare the volumetric weight and gross weight of your product. Freight partners will charge you based on which is highest. 

The DIM factor will also be different based on the kind of freight being used. The DIM factor for sea freight is much lower than air freight, which is why sea freight almost exclusively uses volumetric weight to calculate freight costs instead of the actual weight of your order.

What Is an Example of Sea Freight Using Gross Weight Instead of Volumetric Weight to Calculate Shipping Costs From China?

It is uncommon for sea freight to use gross weight (the real weight of your order) instead of volumetric weight (how much space your order takes up) to calculate shipping costs. However, if your order is extremely dense, meaning it is very heavy but takes up a small amount of space, it's possible to be charged by gross weight. 

The most common example of sea freight using gross weight is with batteries. Batteries tend to take up a very small amount of space and also be exceptionally heavy (think of a car battery and how compact and heavy it is). Any similar product may be charged by gross weight when using sea freight. 

Kanary can help bring clarity to your business if you're not sure if your product will be charged by gross or volumetric weight. We can provide accurate estimates, and we will supervise the packaging and shipping of your product to make sure you pay the best price possible for shipping.

Do I Need a Freight Forwarder for Shipping From China to the U.S.?

It is best to have several freight forwarding companies working with you if you plan to repeatedly ship from China to the U.S. At Kanary, we have our go to partners for each method of shipping (consolidated shipping, air shipping, FCL, etc.) and are constantly looking for other freight forwarding partners who can offer low cost, creative, alternative solutions.

It is definitely beneficial to have multiple freight forwarders that specialize in different shipping methods or have the ability to get you competitive rates based on the routes they frequently use. If you use one freight forwarder for all of your shipping needs, chances are you will be overpaying for the shipping options that they do not specialize in or frequently use.

Do I Need a Customs Broker for Shipping From China to the U.S.?

There is no legal requirement to use a customs broker for shopping from China to the U.S., but a customs broker can take care of the entire import process and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Specifically, a customs broker will have all the import documentation, like the Arrival Notice, for when the vessel arrives at the destination port. They will also pay duties and taxes to the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), help with clearing customs in general, and will schedule delivery for your goods to their final destination.

Custom brokers can help you avoid making costly mistakes because they are experts in the import process. They understand things you may not, such as the correct HTS codes to file for each product and the quickest/cheapest routes to get your goods from China to the U.S.

Do I Need a Customs Broker for Shipping From China to the U.S.?

There is no legal requirement to use a customs broker for shopping from China to the U.S., but a customs broker can take care of the entire import process and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Specifically, a customs broker will have all the import documentation, like the Arrival Notice, for when the vessel arrives at the destination port. They will also pay duties and taxes to the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), help with clearing customs in general, and will schedule delivery for your goods to their final destination.

Custom brokers can help you avoid making costly mistakes because they are experts in the import process. They understand things you may not, such as the correct HTS codes to file for each product and the quickest/cheapest routes to get your goods from China to the U.S.

How Do I Calculate Landed Costs When Shipping From China to the U.S.?

Your landed cost will depend on your method of shipping. For sea freight, your landed cost can be calculated by adding all of the following costs:

manufacturing costs, local shipping costs from factory to port, shipping costs, duty/tax costs, custom’s clearance costs, and final delivery costs.

If you are using shipping by air via UPS, DHL or FEDEX you can use the following formula to figure out landed costs: 

Price per Kilogram + Fuel Surcharge + Emergency Rate (this number changes based on shipping demand from China to US).

When you receive a quotation from a freight forwarder to ship via air express, they will let you know the total price per kilogram. After that, you need to figure out the volumetric weight of the shipment to calculate the exact shipping price. If your supplier has not agreed to DDP (Delivery Duty Paid) then you will need to figure out your taxes/duties and add them to their shipping price for the landed cost.

How Do I Figure Out the Duties and Taxes for Shipping From China to the U.S.?

In order to figure out the tariffs on the goods you are importing from China, you will need to figure out the HS code, or the number used by customs to classify your product. Once you have the HS code, it allows you to figure out the HTS code, or the code specifically needed to classify and define your product for importation into the U.S.

Each product will have a different HTS code and if you are not familiar with importing your product under the correct code, then you should let Kanary help. Having the wrong HTS code could mean you pay higher taxes than you need to, or it could mean paying a fine for paying too low of taxes.

What Documentation Do I Need for Shipping From China to the U.S.?

Some common documents necessary for importing are the Bill of lading (B/L), commercial invoice, and packing list. You may need other documents depending on the products you are importing. For example, certificates of origin, fumigation certificates, or FDA registrations.

Do I Need a Bond to Ship From China to the U.S.?

Yes, you will need to have a customs bond when importing from China if you are the importer of record, which is the business or person in the destination country that is responsible for taxes and duties and ensuring compliance requirements are met. If you are importing more than 4-5 times per year, it is best to have a continuous bond, which renews automatically until it is canceled, to save money.

Kanary can handle the shipping process for you and serve as your importer of record, which allows you to save money on a bond and simplifies the entire process for you.

What if My Shipment From China to the U.S. Is Flagged for an Inspection?

If your shipment from China is flagged for an inspection, then your shipment will be delayed until you provide customs with the proper paperwork they request. They need to ensure that the goods comply with their legislation.

Essentially, customs flags a container for inspection to verify that the description, value, quantity and markings on the imported goods match the import documents. Depending on why the shipment is flagged, and how quickly you deliver the paperwork they request, will determine how long the delay is or at worst if the confiscation of goods.

Customs brokers are experts at importing and customs clearance. To avoid any problems it is best to work with them or a company like Kanary.

Words from our clients

I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I was surprised that Kanary was able to help find us machines for a 1/3 of the cost compared with US and European manufacturers. What I really enjoy with Kanary is that they constantly keep me in the loop and get back to me almost instantaneously. What’s also great is that they kept me in the loop with the shipping, customs clearance, delivery, and also arrange travels for engineers from the factory to install our equipment.  The quality has been outstanding and I’m in the process of building out a new facility with them.
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I’ve been in the construction industry for over 30 years. We’ve always bought from US distributors. I reached out to Kanary out of curiosity to see if we could find similar construction materials of high quality. I did not think they were going to make much progress and so I was shocked when they found the exact manufacturer that my distributors have been buying from within 2 weeks. They were able to make contact and have the factory send me samples within a week.  By connecting directly with the factory, we’re looking at savings of over 30%.
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We’ve done quite a few different packaging projects with Kanary in the past (Child-resistant packaging, glass jars, plastic bags, shipper boxes, etc.). We sent AI files to Kanary, who then worked directly with the factory's design team to make prototypes of the packaging. Our in-house designer is very particular about our designs and Kanary was really flexible and worked with us when our designers wanted to make changes in the packaging development process. They were able to manufacture different prototypes at different price points, which gave us options when making our final decision.
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You’re interested in buying from China. Here are some helpful insights we’ve learned along the way.

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