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A Guide for New Importers about China Shipping


A Guide For New Importers About China Shipping

As an importer, when you are shipping bulk goods from China to your destination, sea shipping can be the most popular way to save international freight cost compared to air freight. However, the procedure for shipping products from China is not so easy to comprehend, mainly because a variety of odd terminologies are utilized.

1. Incoterms

Internationally recognized standard codes known as incoterms specify at which location the supplier is liable to deliver the products.

FOB (Free on Board) is the most popular incoterm. The supplier is responsible to send the products to the specified port in China. Then, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the sea shipment, clear customs at destination port, and transport the goods to the destination warehouse.

CIF (Cost, Insurance, Freight) is another incoterm. The supplier is responsible to pay all costs related to the sea shipment and issuance. The buyer needs to clear customs at destination port, and transport the goods to the destination warehouse.

DAP (Delivered at Place) is also a frequent incoterm. Simply put, this means that your supplier is liable to transport the cargo from the China to the designated destination warehouse.

2. FCL and LCL

FCL means Full Container Load, in such case, only your goods are put in a container. The container is shipped directly to your destination warehouse.

LCL means Less (than) Container Load, in such case, your goods are consolidated with other goods from other providers and put in a shared container. Then, at destination port, your goods will be deconsolidated, and transported to your destination warehouse by truck.

You might fill a complete shipping container or just a portion of one, depending on the volume of products that you are importing from China.

Cost per CBM of LCL is 2~3 times more expensive than cost per CBM of FCL. Because of this, if you are shipping 15 CBM or more, it’s recommended using a 20 feet FCL, instead of LCL.

3. Shipping container volumes

Typically, there are 4 different options for shipping containers.

FCL 20 feet container having a volume of 28 cubic meters.

FCL 40 feet container having a volume of 56 cubic meters.

FCL 40 feet HQ having a volume of 68 cubic meters.

FCL 45 feet HQ, very seldomly used, having a volume of 78 cubic meters.

You might be able to save money if you can structure your order according to how many units would fit in a particular container size.

4. Freight insurance

Insurance on the goods being shipped is exactly what freight insurance means. Freight insurance will cover your losses if your shipment is taken hostage by ruthless pirates, or damaged in incidents or storms.

Who oversees ensuring the shipments is stated in the incoterms. The incoterm CIF automatically includes insurance (Cost Freight and Insurance). You must inform the shipping forwarder that your cargo needs insurance if you are using the other incoterms.

Don't forget to purchase insurance for crucial shipments; it will only cost you about 0.3% to 0.5% of the value of your items and can help you avoid financial damages should unanticipated problems occur.

5. Shipping lead time

The transit time between the shipping port and the destination port is known as the shipping lead time.

This is significant since the earlier you place your purchase, the shorter the lead time. You must place your order well in advance if you need to receive it on time.

You need to pay attention to Chinese holidays and peak seasons, as during those periods, the ports and carriers are usually very busy, hence, your shipment may be stuck in the process, and be significantly delayed.

6. Packaging and labelling

You definitely don't want your cargo to sustain any damage while being transported. Sales are lost because of damaged cargo, and revenue falls. It is imperative that you understand how to pack your cargo well. In order to verify if the packages are strong enough, you may send a sample of your package to a lab and conduct ISTA transition testing.

Additionally, you must be very explicit with your supplier because they might not uphold your expectations. Suppliers frequently employ inexpensive packaging materials, which might result in breakage.

Also, you need to very clear about the labelling and marking details required by destination customs, or the designated warehouse. For example, importers frequently send products directly from China to Amazon FBA warehouses these days. As Amazon manages the entire product distribution from these warehouses, there are very specific and complex labelling requirements. If your packages are not properly labelled or marked, your goods will be rejected by Amazon FBA, and you will get in trouble.

7. Bill of lading

The bill of lading will function as your checklist of sorts. It will show:

The shipping company
The exporting company (seller)
The buyer
The products being shipped
The volume of the products
The incoterm used on the products.

While shipping from China, bill of lading is a compulsory document and should always accompany the shipped goods, in order to clear the customs.

8. Container tracking

International shipping is not always reliable, there might be incidents or unexpected situations. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart if shipments are delayed.

So, you need to keep track of your containers. You will need the following information to track your shipments:

The shipping line transporting the cargo
The container numbers
Your booking number.

You should be able to follow the progress of your shipment once you have all this information.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1. As an international buyer, how to look for China wholesalers?

There are normally 3 methods for locating Chinese wholesalers.

The first method is to conduct an online search for Chinese wholesaler websites, get in touch with each one, and select the best.

Utilizing an online directory of Chinese wholesalers is the second strategy. The leading businesses in the country would be listed there, along with the contact information.

The third way is to personally attend Chinese Trade Fairs or send representatives speak with wholesalers face-to-face and get started.

2. Is it correct that Chinese wholesale products may not be compliant with international product regulations?

You must be aware that goods created for domestic use, or for Chinese consumers in China, must adhere only to Chinese product regulations, which may not necessarily be in line with those of other countries.

These compliances are frequently in the realm of technical, chemical, and safety regulations.

3. Do products made by any Chinese wholesalers meet international standards of labelling?

Because Chinese labelling rules differ from those of any other country, Chinese items produced for sale and distribution in China are unquestionably not in compliance with international labelling standards. You must consult an experienced freight forwarder or shipping agent to learn the full details by your own.

4. Is it possible to brand any products made by China as wholesale distributors?

This situation is challenging. If you are working with a manufacturer directly, you can have your private label manufactured in China.

However, you will need to place more orders, pay more, and allow the manufacturer longer lead times in this case. Because Chinese wholesalers deal in generic products, it may be nearly impossible to get bespoke products created there.

5. Is quality audit necessary while buying from China wholesalers?

Yes. Quality control in China is crucial at every level of the purchasing process from Chinese wholesalers.

Because most wholesalers cater to the home market, it is possible that their product quality and safety standards don't meet those of other countries.

Additionally, it is wise to have audits performed because these products are created generally rather than to specific buyer’s specifications. The materials and manufacturing facility may be changed along with time, so, it’s recommended that you hire a QC company to monitor the manufacturing process.


Various terms used while shipping from China may be initially a little confusing, but once you are familiar with them, everything will become easy.

The most crucial factor to consider initially is that your goods arrive securely, regardless of whether you require FCL or LCL shipment from China. Work with a reputable forwarder and make sure the goods are packed properly.

Once all shipping details are taken care of by a reliable freight forwarder or China direct sourcing ltd, you may focus on the price and delivery time of your shipment.

Recommended Articles:

Things You Need to Know About LCL Shipment

What You Need to Know about Shipping from China

A Guide for Importers on Quality Inspections in China

How to Ship Products from China to Amazon FBA


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