Shipping Time from China to US - What You Should Know

2021-11-18

When you are sourcing goods from China for your business, there are a few key factors that you have to consider, such as the cost of freight, the reliability of the freight carriers, the sourcing company you choose, and so on. One of the most crucial factors here is time. Time is an important factor when it comes to choosing your sourcing agents in China. The time taken for your shipments to get delivered influences a lot of your other business activities too. Delays in shipping can be damaging for your business.

The shipping time from China to US varies for different shipping companies, different locations, and products as well. If you are planning to import products for your US-based business from China, making the best of Chinese manufacturing capabilities, it is important that you first understand the basics. This article aims to help you figure out why shipping time is important and what shipping delays may mean for your business.

What factors affect your shipping time from China to US?

When it comes to determining the shipping time for your cargo, there are a number of factors at play. The type of goods you are importing can impact the average shipping time from China to the US.

The mode of transport is also a key factor. For instance, air freight may be faster compared to shipping time from China to US by sea. But then again, air freight will also cost you about 10 times more than what shipping by sea costs. Keeping this in mind, most businesses prefer to get their products shipped by sea even if they have to wait a few days longer.

The quantity of products you are ordering may also affect the shipping from China to US time.

Product type

Different product categories may require different manufacturing times. The more time spent on manufacturing the product, the longer will be your overall shipping time. Particularly for products made to order, your wait time may be longer as the goods will only be manufactured after you have placed an order.

Also, the product types you are importing determine what kind of carrier services, packaging, etc., will be required, which may further impact the shipping time from China to US.

There is also the time required for customs clearance once the goods reach the US. Certain products like drugs, valuables, gold, etc., may require more time to get clearance from customs. So when importing items like these, you might want to add this time to the average shipping time from China to US and book your goods in advance.

Product quantity

After product type, the next important factor to consider is the quantity of that product you are ordering. Sometimes a large consignment of products may take longer to get delivered to you. There are various reasons why this delay may occur. Firstly, a larger batch of products will take longer to manufacture. Raw material and parts are procured from different suppliers and the wait time may be longer in such a case.

Even if your products are being manufactured at a single source, larger batches may take longer to reach you because of the restrictions in space available on the carrier. If the consignment cannot all be accommodated on a single carrier, it has to be divided into smaller batches and shipped separately. So some parts of the consignment may reach sooner and other parts may take longer. This means you will have to wait longer than usual to have all your goods delivered and your average shipping time from China to US will be increased.

Location in China and US

The third most important factor that affects the shipping from China to US time is the location both at the source and destination. If your goods are being shipped from inland China, where there are no ports, it may take longer for the consignment to be delivered.

Goods that are sourced from landlocked regions need to be transported to port cities by road or by air before they can be shipped to the US. This adds to the transit time and, thus, to the total shipping time from China to US by sea. The Chinese port from which your consignment is being shipped may also affect shipping times.

Similarly, the destination location also matters when it comes to your average shipping time from China to US. If your location in the US is too far away from the nearest port, it will take longer for the goods to be delivered to the final delivery station. Destination locations closer to ports usually receive their shipments faster. The US port you want to get your goods delivered to will also influence the shipping time.

How do shipping delays affect your business?

Every business functions like clockwork. If any one of the cogs malfunctions, the entire system may come to a standstill or may slow down, in a best-case scenario. Businesses must plan things in advance to make sure that there is a continuous supply of the parts, products, raw materials, or other goods they require for the normal functioning of the business. Despite every effort that you put in, there may sometimes be delays in shipping. But how does this delay in shipping impact your business? Also, why do shipments get delayed in the first place? Here are the answers to these common questions that businesses struggle with. 

What can increase the shipping time from China to US?

Shipment delays are more common than you might think. Of course, with a reliable sourcing agent in China, you are less likely to face such issues unless some major event occurs, like the Covid-19 pandemic we witnessed.

But with some other sourcing and shipping companies, shipping delays are not surprising. There may be various reasons for a shipping delay. These include –

Overbooking of carriers and rollover of goods

It happens quite often that shipping companies overbook their carriers to protect themselves from losses due to last-minute cancellations or consignments not showing up at the time of departure. In such a case, if all the consignments booked on a carrier do show up, they will accommodate them on a priority basis. This means your consignment may be rolled over to another carrier vessel which leaves later, causing your shipment to be delayed.

Delays in booking space on carrier

Some delays originate from the business itself. If your procurement department waits too long to place an order, consequently, the sourcing company will have to book space for your shipment on a carrier at the last minute. So the slots on the earliest carrier may already be booked by then. Your consignment will then have to wait for the next vessel where space will be available.

Natural calamities, bad weather, or unforeseen crises

Vessels carrying your shipment can also get delayed due to a number of unforeseen events. Since shipping by sea is highly dependent on good weather, climatic conditions like storms or hurricanes may require vessels to halt before they can sail again. If a vessel carrying your shipment is stuck in bad weather, you are most likely to face a delay.

Other causes of delay may include unprecedented events. The Covid-19 pandemic that started in 2020 is one of the most recent examples and also one with a huge impact. The unprecedented pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill, affecting the shipping industry, delaying shipments, and causing immense fluctuation in shipping costs from China to the rest of the world. This has caused many businesses to suffer and a disruption of the global economy.

But thankfully, these conditions are always temporary and normalcy is regained in the course of time. Both shipping companies and the businesses relying on them can gradually go back to their usual functioning despite the hardships they have faced.

Peak season of certain industries

The shipping industry in China gets busy during certain seasons. This peak season usually coincides with the kind of goods they ship. For example, China, being a hub for retail goods, witnesses a dramatic increase in orders for the holiday season, which starts in August and lasts up to October or November. During this peak season, most traders have huge consignments to ship and carrier vessels are mostly packed. The shipping costs are also considerably high during peak season.

So, if you are waiting until this time to place your orders, your sourcing agent may have a hard time finding a carrier to ship your goods. Alternatively, your shipping costs may be excessively high, forcing you to wait till after the season.

High demand and general rate increase

There are periods of high demand in the shipping industry from time to time and during these periods, carriers often tend to increase their base prices. This general rate increase by carriers increases your total cost of shipping from China to US. Businesses want to avoid these increased costs and so are usually bound to delay their shipments till the prices level out again.

High demand is usually seen during important holidays like Christmas, Chinese New Year, Eid, etc., and prices almost always go up during these seasons.

Multiple carriers, shipping lines, or transshipment

Sometimes the origin and the destination ports may not have any direct routes connecting them. In such a case, your shipment has to be shifted from one carrier vessel to another in transit. The routes of the two vessels may not always add up to be the shortest, increasing your average shipping time from China to US.

It is also possible that your consignment has to wait at the intermediate port before it gets a slot on the second carrier vessel. This will also cause a delay in your shipment.

Another likelihood of delay arises if the carrier vessel on which your consignment is being shipped is being shared between two shipping lines. Sometimes, shipping companies do share vessels to cut down costs. If your carrier is managed by two different shipping lines, the route can sometimes be longer than what it would be for an independent carrier handled by a single company. So, your shipment ends up spending more time on the carrier than it should have, increasing your shipping time from China to US.

How do shipment delays impact your business?

Shipment delays are undoubtedly bad for business. It slows down procurement for your business which in turn results in more negative outcomes for the business. Shipment delays can affect the following aspects of your trade, among other things.

Manufacturing slows down

If yours is a manufacturing business, a shipment delay can mean disaster because, without parts or raw materials, manufacturing is bound to slow down. For a manufacturing company, a halt in production means zero revenue. So a delay in shipments could result in huge losses for the business.

Restricted cash flow

Whether you are a manufacturer or a retailer, delayed shipments mean you will not be able to deliver products to the market on time. If you can’t deliver your products on time, it will mean a delay in the payments you receive as well. As a result, the business does not have sufficient cash flow and this can pose problems in your day-to-day business operations. Without cash flow, paying wages, running equipment, or making any other sort of monetary investment becomes difficult for a business.

Drop in customer satisfaction

Since shipment delays slow down your deliveries to customers too, your customer satisfaction is certain to drop as well. Customers are not likely to return to a business that cannot deliver products as promised.

Loss of value

If you are importing goods that have a shelf life or are perishable, such as drugs, food items, cosmetics, etc., a longer time in transit means your goods lose their value with each passing day. Perishable goods may also get spoiled if they are in transit for too long. This could translate into a monetary loss for your business.

How to avoid delays and minimize shipping from China to US time?

Businesses have to be far-sighted when it comes to choosing their sourcing agents in China as well as planning their procurements from China. With a little strategic planning in both these areas, you can very well avoid shipment delays in most circumstances.

Choose the right sourcing agent in China

The sourcing company that connects you with suppliers in China plays a key role in ensuring that your products reach you on time. A company that offers product sourcing from China as well as order monitoring right till your shipment is delivered to you would be ideal. A reliable sourcing agent will usually take care of your order by representing you at the supplier’s end. They make sure that the products being sent to you are up to the quality standards you have signed up for.

They will also take care of the shipping arrangement, order status reporting, logistics coordination, freight forwarding, and more to ensure that your shipment does not get stuck at any point. This is an important part of sourcing from China which is usually difficult for you to handle due to the numerous barriers of distance, language, and working culture. These barriers can further delay your shipments if you don’t have a representative of your business in China who is familiar with the Chinese market.

Having a trustworthy sourcing agent in China will ensure that you have someone to communicate with. They can, in turn, communicate with the suppliers, logistics companies, customs departments, and anyone else involved on your behalf.

An experienced sourcing agent would also be aware o the legal complexities involved in shipping from China to US. They can take care of these requirements and handle all the documentation involved to ensure that your consignment leaves on time and without hassles, minimizing your shipping time from China to US.

When you are looking for a sourcing agent in China, make sure to do your research and choose one that knows the industry inside out. Ensure that they partner with reliable shipping lines that are known to deliver shipments timely and efficiently.

Plan your shipments well in advance

Another very crucial thing to remember is that last-minute plans are not good for your business. In business, it is always better to plan in advance and have enough scope to pivot in case of emergencies. If you know that the products you are sourcing from China will take time to manufacture and ship to the US, make sure to place your orders much earlier to compensate for holidays, peak seasons, and such.

Do your research to find out the average shipping time from China to US for the specific product, and then add a few days of buffer just to accommodate any unforeseen delays. Booking in advance will also enable you to negotiate prices and get competitive shipping rates.

Also, plan your consignments well. For instance, order an optimum quantity that can probably be shipped at once instead of having to ship them in batches. Try to book on a direct carrier with no transshipments of possible. Direct shipments may be a little more expensive but, in many cases, will save you more in the long run as you can deliver to the market on time.

A little planning and foresight will go a long way to save you both time and costs.

Bottom line

The average shipping time from China to US will certainly be different for different products, different suppliers, and different regions. But you can always get a better deal with a shorter transit time if only you put a little more effort into planning. Some delays may be unavoidable and unforeseen, but for most others, you can always avoid them by making the right choices for your business. Having a trusted sourcing agent in China is the first step in this process and if you have found a reliable sourcing company, half the battle is already won.

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