Shipping costs from China to UK through Air & Sea in 2022

by Tim Blue

With the shipping costs of consumer goods from China to the UK increasing manifold, it is essential to monitor the costs to avoid hassles and implement better computation. Keep a tab on the in-depth shipping prices mentioned in the article.

Estimating the shipping costs of goods from China to the UK will help you avoid the typical pitfalls during importing. Read ahead for a comprehensive overview of the shipping costs. 

The shipping costs of various goods from China to the UK is a cause of concern for most people in the export and import trading ecosystem. With the rise in shipping costs of over 350% in 2020 alone due to the COVID-19 induced lockdowns and delays caused in the manufacturing and supply chain industries, there has been a cloud of doubt and apprehension regarding importing goods from China – the manufacturing hub of the east. 

When it comes to Express Air companies like FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc., the express shipping rates depend on the average rates of door-to-door shipping for a load of 50 kg/0.2 cu-m. Although you need to pay a rate of USD 884, you might consider taking a quote from the Express Air companies as the freight cost is cheaper for 100 kg shipment. The shipping time is between 5-7 days. 

Cost of Shipping from China to UK

Shippings costs from china to UK by sea

The carrier charges between China to the UK fluctuate daily and the latest charges should be quoted from the shipping provider. However, we have tried to provide an outline of the charges.

In case of maritime freight shipping, the major ports are – 

Shanghai, Shenzhen and Ningbo in China and London, Southampton and Felixstowe in the UK.

  • For Sea freight of FCL (Full Container Load) of 40ft containers:
  1. From Shanghai to London – USD 1903
  2. From Shanghai to Southampton – USD 1596
  3. From Shanghai to Felixstowe – USD 1760
  4. From Shenzhen to London – USD 2219
  5. From Shenzheni to Southampton – USD 1834
  6. From Shenzhen to Felixstowe – USD 1886
  7. From Ningbo to London – USD 1803
  8. From Ningbo to Southampton – USD 1546
  9. From Ningbo to Felixstowe – USD 1617.

The maritime FCL freight shipping time is between 30-35 days. 

  • For Sea Freight of LCL (Less than Container Load) of 40ft containers (200 kg/cu-m):
  1. From Shanghai to London – USD 1068
  2. From Shanghai to Southampton – USD 1141
  3. From Shanghai to Felixstowe – USD 1193
  4. From Shenzhen to London – USD 1055
  5. From Shenzheni to Southampton – USD 1155
  6. From Shenzhen to Felixstowe – USD 1125
  7. From Ningbo to London – USD 1099
  8. From Ningbo to Southampton – USD 1135
  9. From Ningbo to Felixstowe – USD 1125.

How to calculate shipping costs for your shipment?

Take the cost of a container with full capacity and Pro Rate it to your requirement. If you are looking to ship individual items, then e-packer rates are charged. You can check out this article on epacket rates shipping details.

The maritime LCL freight shipping time is between 29-41 days.

Shippings costs from china to UK by air
  • Air Freight costs for goods shipped from China to the UK:

Since the shipment weight decreases considerably compared to maritime shipping, the air freight costs from China to the UK costs lesser. Additionally, the bigger the shipment, it will incur greater discounts. For example, the air freight costs of a 10kg shipment is USD 65.47, whereas that of a 100kg shipment is USD 14.31. The air freight shipping time is between 3-8 days. 

  • Express Air costs for goods shipped from China to the UK:

Although, this does not paint a complete picture of the present trading scenario between the UK and China. The unexpected implications of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global scarcity of OOG and ODC containers due to the following factors – 

  • Product derailment 
  • Sudden international border closures 
  • Irregular workflows in the production and supply chain industries. 

The post-pandemic recovery period is witnessing a jump in the prices of the OOG and ODC shipping containers, and companies worldwide are getting the cold feet regarding the exponentially rising container prices. Although the Italian brokerage giants Banchero Costa have analysed the global jump of the fleet capacity to be nearly 10% in the first seven months of 2021 alone, UK ports and warehouses are still encountering potential delays, causing a disruption of business activities. 

The difference in shipping costs is one of the major ramifications of the above factors. After COVID-19, a 20ft container that typically costs around USD 800 has been quoted as USD 3200, whereas a 40ft container with a standard pre-COVID cost of USD 1500 currently costs USD 9000! This astronomical surge in prices has had a domino effect on the production schedules and demands, with multiple UK companies deciding to halt shipping goods from China to cut costs. 

How to prepare before shipping goods from China to the UK?

Following the underlined steps will help you prepare comprehensively before shipping goods from China to the UK.

  • Understanding the different categories of restrictions regarding goods that can/cannot be shipped

There are three major categories of restrictions – inspections, bans and quotas. When it comes to inspections, the goods will be properly surveilled and have to pass the inspection check.

In case of banned goods, there is no provision for shipping them from China to the UK. You need to possess a shipping license and pass the inspection. However, certain goods can be shipped upto their specified quota, which should help you to make a decision regarding the types of goods and their quantities being shipped. 

  • Understanding the HS commodity codes for VAT in order to ship goods successfully 

Understanding the HS commodity codes for VAT in the UK will help you to track the right suppliers and invest in shipping goods from them, or you will end up losing a lot of money at the table. The structure of the Harmonized System of classification (HS) is quite simple and you need to follow it to find out the respective commodity codes. 

  • Checking the need for VAT registration

Businesses shipping goods from China to the UK must request the relevant information from the customs regarding VAT registration in order to avoid any unpleasant situation. Shipping goods above GBP 85,000 require VAT registration, and the details can be obtained by emailing the HMRC.

  • EORI registration 

For shipping goods into or outside the nations under EU’s jurisdiction, you need to obtain the EORI (Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification) number which will streamline subsequent procedures too. 

  • Goods declaration under the CHIEF system 

The CHIEF (Customs Handling Import and Export of Freight) system is a foolproof system that makes it mandatory for all international shipments arriving in the UK to provide a formal declaration from the manufacturers. It helps in assessing the tax payable and need for documentation and inspection of goods. 

  • Obtaining a CR number and Power of Attorney

A CR (customs registration) number is a three-digit number that is of paramount importance for displaying at definite sites known as import zones against the goods arriving in the UK. Additionally, when the goods are shipped from China, there needs to be a Power of Attorney for seamless documentation of non-documented products. 

Estimating shipping costs between China and the UK

Estimating the shipping costs of products from China to the UK requires relevant information regarding charge per product and the average rates for the distance that the products need to be shipped. Once you obtain this information from the Chinese supplier, you can verify it against a simple freight calculator to estimate the costs by inserting the following information – 

  • Dimensions of the goods to be shipped
  • Origin and destination of the goods 
  • Modes of shipping via air 
  • Duties and taxes payable. 

After estimating the shipping costs and analysing whether your shipping partner is charging you legitimately, you need to keep a tab on the taxes and duties payable. 

You can start by asking your shipping partner about the total value of the products that are being shipped from China to the UK. Following this, calculate the VAT for total cost of the deliverables, duties, delivery charges. The standard VAT charges are 20%. Subsequently, you should also calculate the duty payable in the UK following the HMRC system and the HS code, which generally amounts to 0-12%, but could be higher in specific instances. 

Various factors affecting shipping costs from China to UK

There are multiple factors that affect the shipping costs between China and the UK. A brief overview is provided below for easy understanding. 

  • Destination port distance – It signifies the distance between the ports where the containers are loaded and subsequently delivered.
  • Types of goods being transported – It refers to the bulky or sleek, lightweight goods, and even the quality of goods being transported – expensive or sporting an average price tag.
  • Types of containers used – There are several types of containers, including open top, flat rack, reefer, tank, bulk, high cube, dry van, insulated, double door and many others. Each of these has its own price points. 
  • Dimensions of the cargo – The volume and weight of the cargo also influence the shipping costs heavily. 

According to the Trade and Investment Factsheet presented by the government of the UK in October 2021, the imports from China to the UK increased in 2021, amounting to GBP 66.2 billion, which was a staggering 37.3% increase from the previous fiscal year’s figures. Thus, the markets are recovering steadily and you should be armed with credible information to execute the trades. 

If you are executing a maritime shipment method, you should factor in the pros and cons of FCL and LCL to never incur a loss. Another factor is evaluating the peak shipping seasons and the off-seasons for shipping, which will help you to keep your shipping costs under control. Now that you have got a detailed picture of everything relevant to the shipping costs between China and the UK, you should be ready to initiate your activities. 

However, the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year 2021 marked nearly 8.6% increase compared to the last 4 quarters and indicated a rejuvenated trade ecosystem between the two nations. The 4 quarters leading to the Q2 of 2021 signalled a bounce back, with a net amount of GBP 91.9 billion worth of goods and services traded (exports and imports) between China and the UK – GBP 7.2 billion more than the previous fiscal year. 

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