Sea Shipping from China to UK

Unlock the secrets of efficient sea shipping from China to the UK. Explore shipping methods, customs clearance, transit times, and expert tips to streamline your international shipping. Access now for a seamless China-UK shipping journey.

China, the global manufacturing powerhouse, annually ships an enormous volume of goods to the UK. Meanwhile, British consumers, contributing to the world’s fifth-largest economy, continue to increase their purchases of Chinese products. Over 14% of all UK imports originate from China, with a total value exceeding $110.41 billion USD (approximately £103 billion). If you’re considering entering this market, you might be wondering where to commence. In a post-Brexit landscape, UK laws and import regulations have become more intricate and convoluted than ever. Coupled with language barriers and a seemingly endless array of shipping options, starting out can appear daunting.


Did you know that almost 90% of goods globally are shipped by sea? Sea freight involves transporting large amounts of goods using carrier ships. Goods are packed in containers of various sizes and placed on vessels that transport them between ports. One large cargo ship can carry about 18,000 containers.

Understanding Sea Shipping from China to the UK

Sea shipping represents a cost-effective and dependable approach for conveying commodities across extended distances. This method employs cargo ships to convey goods contained within standardized containers. Sea shipping offers numerous advantages, such as the capacity to transport substantial quantities of merchandise and the flexibility to select container sizes as needed.

Choosing the Right Shipping Method

If you’re planning to import a significant quantity of goods and are in search of the most cost-effective shipping option, sea or ocean freight emerges as the ideal choice.

Here’s why sea freight is the preferred option:

  • Your shipment surpasses 2 cubic meters (CBM) in volume – You can utilize a CBM calculator for precise measurement.
  • Your supplier is situated near a Chinese port or a location with excellent access to a port.
  • You aren’t facing tight time constraints.

The two most common options:

a. FCL (Full Container Load)

FCL is ideal for businesses with larger shipments. With this method, you have exclusive use of an entire container, which provides better security for your goods. It’s also faster and more predictable in terms of delivery times.

b. LCL (Less than Container Load)

LCL (Less than Container Load) is the appropriate choice for smaller shipments that do not necessitate the use of an entire container. In such instances, your cargo will be combined with goods from other shippers. While this option is more economical, it may entail a longer transit time due to the requirement for consolidation.

Freight Forwarder or DIY?

Determining whether to collaborate with a freight forwarder or manage the logistics independently is a pivotal decision. A freight forwarder can streamline the process by managing documentation, customs clearance, and potentially providing door-to-door delivery. Nevertheless, if you possess experience in international shipping and customs procedures, you may choose a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to economize on expenses.

Steps in  choosing a freight forwarder to ship from China to the UK

1. Conduct thorough research. The presence of numerous freight forwarders necessitates diligent research to select a reputable and seasoned one. You can peruse online reviews, seek recommendations from friends or colleagues, or reach out to a trade association for additional information.

2. Gather quotes from multiple forwarders to compare prices and services. Assess your shipping needs, including the type of goods, weight, volume, and delivery timeline. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to understand their services better. Take your time to choose a forwarder you trust; it’s a significant decision.

While DIY shipping from China to the UK is possible, it can be a complex and time-consuming endeavor.

To arrange DIY shipping from China to the UK, first, choose between Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL) as your shipping method. Then, find a suitable shipping company either online or through recommendations. After selecting a company, request a quote that includes shipping costs and customs clearance fees. Properly prepare your goods by packing them securely and labeling them clearly with shipping details. Follow the shipping company’s instructions to dispatch your goods and use the provided tracking number to monitor their progress. Finally, ensure your shipment undergoes customs clearance upon arrival in the UK.

Documentation and Customs Clearance

Shipping goods from China to the UK requires extensive documentation, mainly due to the lack of a common Free Trade Agreement between the two nations. While customs clearance initiates in China, the bulk of attention, labor, and paperwork centers on the clearance process upon arrival in the UK. To ensure a streamlined procedure, it is imperative to have the accurate documentation in order, including the following key documents:

  • Commercial Invoice: This document describes your products, verifies the sale, and includes the consignment price, as customs valuations are based on it.
  • EORI Number: All goods moving in and out of the UK require an EORI number, which must be provided alongside your commercial invoice.
  • Bills of Lading: These are issued by the shipping line as acknowledgment of your cargo.
  • Packing List: It outlines the contents of each package within the shipment.
  • Certificate of Origin: This certifies the country of origin of the goods.
  • Customs Declaration: Required for tax assessment and customs clearance.
  • Import License: Depending on the type of goods, you may need an import license.
  • Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Created by the manufacturer, this document provides details on a product’s physical, chemical, and hazardous properties.

The Shipping Process

Cargo Booking and Pickup

After you’ve chosen your preferred shipping method and compiled all the necessary documentation for your international cargo, the next crucial phase involves orchestrating the transportation of your goods. This involves contacting your selected shipping company or freight forwarder to schedule a pickup from your supplier in China. The coordination of cargo transportation requires meticulous planning and exact execution. By making informed decisions regarding your shipping method, verifying the completeness of your documentation, and nurturing effective collaboration with your chosen shipping partner, you can ensure a seamless and hassle-free shipping experience.

Cargo Loading and Transit

Your goods will be transported to the port of departure in China, where they will be loaded onto the chosen vessel. Tracking your shipment is crucial during this phase to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Arrival in the UK

When your shipment arrives in the United Kingdom, dedicated customs agents will take care of all the necessary paperwork, including any required tariff payments. Once it is successfully completed the clearance process, they’ll ensure your goods are ready for a smooth delivery to their final destination. Stay in touch to stay updated on the progress of the customs clearance process and address any questions or concerns promptly.

Shipping Routes from China to the UK

There are two main routes that connect China and the UK: the Silk Road route and the Suez Canal route.

  1. The Silk Road route, connecting East Asia and Europe through historical land routes, now serves as a conduit for rail and road transport. While it surpasses the Suez Canal route in length, it also boasts greater cost-effectiveness and environmental friendliness, as it avoids ship-based transportation.
  2. The Suez Canal route is like taking a scenic journey through the stunning Mediterranean Sea to the captivating Red Sea. It’s the fastest way to get from China to the UK, although it does come with a slightly higher price tag. But here’s the catch: this route, at times, encounters minor challenges like storms or political instability. Now, while the Suez Canal route offers a shortcut due to its geography, it’s important to keep an eye on the financial aspect. Tolls, fees, and other expenses related to using the canal can significantly impact your shipping costs.

Shipping Time Estimates

While the speed of your shipment can be influenced by your chosen carrier, the departure and entry ports, you can generally anticipate sea transport from China to the UK taking approximately 30 to 40 days. However, it’s essential to remember that this ocean crossing represents just one segment of the journey.

Factors such as the initial and final mile transportation, as well as the time needed for customs clearance, should also be considered. These additional steps may range from 24 hours to several weeks, impacting the overall transit time of your cargo.

Import Duties and Taxes, Tariffs and Cost

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to consider:

1. Shipping Method, Speed, and Distance:

  • The shipping method you choose (air, sea, rail, etc.) will have a substantial impact on costs. Airfreight is generally faster but more expensive, while sea freight is more cost-effective but slower.
  • The distance between your origin in China and the destination in the UK will also affect shipping costs. Longer distances typically result in higher transportation fees.

2. Service Level:

Your choice of service, whether standard or expedited, directly impacts pricing, with expedited options usually incurring higher costs.

3. Import Taxes:

Import taxes, VAT, and tariffs are pivotal in your shipping costs, notably when importing from China to the UK.

Import Taxes and Tariffs:

Post-Brexit, the UK has introduced new and intricate import tax regulations impacting sellers shipping goods into the UK. These rules differ for foreign sellers stocking British shelves compared to e-commerce businesses selling directly to British consumers.

VAT (Value-Added Tax) can range from 5% to 20% on Chinese exports, depending on the product type, and forms a substantial part of import expenses.

De Minimis Threshold: In the UK, there’s a de minimis threshold of £135. If your shipment’s total value is below this limit, you might not need to concern yourself with customs or excise duty, offering potential savings on extra charges.

Tariffs: The UK government offers a user-friendly lookup tool to calculate potential tariff fees. This tool assists in estimating the charges for particular goods.

What rules and regulations should you know when shipping from China to the UK?

The most important steps for shipping from China to the UK:


In a globalized economy, having a reliable and efficient partner for sea shipping from China to UK is crucial. Forceget, with its innovative digital approach, not only simplifies the process but also enhances it in ways that traditional freight forwarders cannot match. From online booking to real-time tracking and expert guidance, Forceget is poised to revolutionize your shipping experience.

So, if you’re ready to take your shipping operations to the next level and want to enjoy a hassle-free and cost-effective process, consider partnering with Forceget. Your journey from China to the UK has never been smoother. Remember, in the ever-evolving world of logistics, staying ahead is the key to success.