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A Comprehensive Guide to Sea Freight from China to the USA

The task of getting sea freight from China to the USA can get made easier by searching for the right freight forwarder. These people usually combine features such as flexibility, experience, and the likes. The concept of shipping isn’t as straightforward as many may want to believe. You have to be conscious of things such as the time of shipping, cost of shipping, and other related factors.

What is Sea Freight?

Sea Freight is a method of moving large volumes of products using ships. This system, the goods get loaded into containers and the containers are then loaded into vessels from where they get taken to the country of destination. A typical cargo vessel can carry about 18,000 containers thus making sea freight a better way to convey large quantities of products.

Who are the people that use sea freight?

The sea freight mode of transportation is often used by people who are importing from China or other places in the world. For people who are purchasing their goods from oversea, sea freight is always the cheapest method of shipping. Thus is you intend to import bulk goods, sea freight presents a cost-effective option for you.

How long does sea freight take?

Explaining the time typical sea freight from China to the USA will take requires several factors. The time the ships spend on water and the time the shipment will take from door to door are not the same. With Sea freight, there are different processes the goods have to pass through before they get to the vessel.

The destination of the goods also plays a big role in determining the time it would take for the goods to get to their destination. The further the distance, the longer it would take for your goods to arrive. Usually, it would take an added week at the end of the process to the time spent on the water. For instance, if you are getting your goods from Central China, your goods may spend 30 days on the water. You will need to add an extra two weeks to this time for customs in both countries.

Delays can occur with sea freight. The major delays are as a result of importers who do not have the complete required documentation. It may also be because of goods held up at customs. Being well prepared means you have little to worry about in this regard.

What are the sea freight processes?     

Depending on whether your goods are FCL or LCL, the process of importation is quite different. Here is an outline of what to expect:

You are to first engage the services of a shipping company who then collect the goods from the supplier

The goods are then cleared by the customs of the Chinese

If your goods are LCL, it will get loaded onto a shared container. If they are FCL, they will get loaded into a single container.

The containers get loaded into the next available vessel and taken around the world to the client

Once they get to the United States, they will get processed by American customs.

If you are importing LCL goods, they will get unpacked from the container and get shipped to you either as loose cartons or pallets. 

If you are dealing with FCL, the container will get loaded on a lorry or truck and conveyed to you in its sealed state.

What are FCL and LCL

There are two kinds of sea freight and these are the FCL and LCL. Each one of these types applies to different shipments. When you are importing goods to the US through sea freight shipping, the goods get loaded on containers which are then loaded into vessels for onward movement. You will either be able to either share or fill the entire container depending on the size of your shipment.

FCL: The Full Container Loaded is a term that is applicable when you have all the container space reserved for only your goods. This approach has a lot of benefits. For instance, you stand fewer chance risks such as breakage. Also, the total cost of the FCL is lower than the LCL. Added to this is the fact that the China-US shipping time gets lowered.

LCL: Less than Container Load applies when a shipment does not use up all the containers’ space. The remaining space is then used by the service provider on other available clients. 

This option is quite cost-efficient because the cost gets shared by the interested customers. If your cargo weighs lower than 150kg, you should settle for this shipping model. Note that added costs can create a scenario where things become quite inconvenient in the long term.

How much does sea freight cost?

When shipping via sea, there are several sea freight costs you may encounter. Let’s take a careful look at the major steps in importing.

The first cost involved is the cost of sea freight. If you intend shipping via the full container loaded (FCL) option, you should get prepared for sea freight rate fluctuations. The steps involved in the importation process include the following:

  • At the factory

The goods get picked up at the factory for transportation to the port

  • Customs

Before your goods will leave the country, they have to get cleared by customs.

  • On Water

When your goods get cleared by customs, they get conveyed on the water to the desired destination.

  • US Customs

Your goods have to get cleared by the American customs before they get allowed to enter the country.

  • Delivery

When all the processes get met, the goods will get delivered to you.

What you should know is that each of these processes outlined incur costs depending on the Incoterms you are using. Some of the sea freight costs may get carried by the supplier. 

Sea freight rates

The rates of sea freight are largely controlled by the shipping lines. They are the ones that dictate what the cost of using sea freight will cost you using their vessel at any point in time. One major issue with sea freight rates is that they are subject to fluctuations. The major determinant of sea freight rates is competition. Shipping lines will compete with each other to get their vessels full. This is why they sometimes lower the freight rates to beat their competition to clients.

How long does Sea Freight to the United States from China Take?

Sea freight from China to the USA takes between 30-40 days in the case of a door to door shipment. It takes this much time because the ships move slower than planes for instance. Aside from the added preparations required, ocean liners also move slower to conserve fuel because of the crashing freight margins. For example, the American customs necessitates importers who are using a single bond and using Ocean freight to also use the ISF bond. Added to this is the issues of port congestion, bad weather, and customs delays which all contribute to the cost and convenience of this model.

There have been reductions in these delays recently which have made ocean shipping more reliable. Sea freight now has premium services as well. Thus, depending on the requirements of a shipment, expedited freights may be able to reduce the transit time. Expedited freights get done by streamlining the ocean freight processes and by only using quicker ocean services as well as the best trucking services.

A breakdown of the recognized American and Chinese ports

Knowing the recognized ports in either country should help make your importation adventure easier. Here are the most prominent ports in both countries:

American Ports 

Long Beach Port: The Long Beach Port is near the Port of Los Angeles. This port records yearly trades of about $180 Billion. When dealing with container shipping from China to America, this port is an integral player. 

Port of Los Angeles: This port is among the twenty busiest ports in the world with regards to the container volume. It is a major force in the Trans-Pacific trade because it is close to the coast of California. It handles an average of 4.5 million TEU each year.

Georgia Ports: There two ports here Brunswick and Savannah. The Savannah Port has the largest single-terminal facility as well as the biggest import distribution centers on the USEC. The Port of Brunswick has the perfect port for auto-related trading.

New York and New Jersey Port: This is among the busiest ports along the Eastern seaboard. This is large because a large number of customer trades globally go through this port.

Seattle-Tacoma: The Tacoma and Seattle port located in Washington is keen on taking over as the number one handlers of American International Container volumes in years to come.

Virginia Port: This port is well located and this is why it is quite popular. It also shares partnership s with the other ships of the Eastern Seaboard.

South Carolina Ports: Georgetown and Charleston are the two ports located in South Carolina. Charleston has five public terminals and handles containers, motor shipments, and cruise ships.

Port of Houston: This port has a large area with good equipment which makes the whole process easier.

Port of Oakland: This port handles most of the container shipments that are entering or leaving Northern California.

Port of Miami: This is a very vital port located in Florida. It plays a vital role in world trades and links both South and North America.

Chinese Ports of Note

Shanghai Port: Shanghai is along the tip of the Yangtze River Delta. This port can be accessible by even the inner provinces of China. The presence of different manufacturing industries in this environment makes it a choice port for shipping from China to the United States.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port: This is one of the busiest ports in the world and handles millions of tons of shipment each year. It is in Zhoushan and Ningbo.

Shenzhen Port: This is a very important port that connects the remote areas of China to the world.

Hong Kong Port: This port offers about 340 container liner services every week. It also connects to about 470 destinations each week.

Dalian Port: Located in the most northern area of China, this port connects to about 160 countries aside from being the biggest port in the Northeastern part of China.

Xiamen Port: This is a port that connects to over fifty countries. It is in the mouth of the Jiulong River and has over 68 shipping routes. 

Guangzhou Port: This port is in the Pearl River Delta and has been in use since the days of the Silk Road Trading.

Qingdao Port: This is the largest port in the entire country and caters to goods under the categories of data, automation, and e-commerce.

Tianjin: This is an ever-growing port that can handle large shipments per time.

What should you do before you choose a freight forwarder?

  • Do they have the requisite experience?

Experience is vital. Using the services of an experienced freight forwarder can save you a lot of stress. They are not only able to handle the complexities and variables; they can also assist you in stabilizing your operations. 

  • Can they offer the services you need

The moment your goods get to America, you may need to get them moved to the intended destination. Hence, your service provider must have a trucking facility for moving them to the location.

  • Are they connected to China?

You select a forwarder that has reliable contacts in China. This is to make the process of acquiring the needed documents easy.

  • Can they meet your expectations?

The perfect freight Forwarder should be able to offer the needed services. This is while also being able to get the needed tasks done without affecting quality and safety. Goods transported to the United States have different needs as regards storage and handling. This is why the freight forwarder needs to be conscious of such requirements. They are also expected to make sure the goods are safe on their way to the US.

  • What is the size of the freight forwarder’ network

The more connections your freight forwarder has, the better it is for your business. The freight forwarder should provide an alternative means of contact if you can’t reach them via their primary contact.

It is also important that they have a proven excellent communication service. Communication is compulsory in the shipping business. This is due to the technicalities and personnel involved.

  • What is their customer service reputation?

There is nothing like a helpful customer care service. Your service provider must be helpful at all times. They should be able to clarify your queries about the entire process. If you find freight forwarder that is willing and able to guide you through the entire shipping process and give you tips that could help you reduce time and cost, chances are that they are the ideal choice. 

  • Customer review

These days, it is not difficult to get information about anything on the internet. One way to know if the service provider is good enough is by checking online for their reviews from previous clients. The ideal reviews should be without bias. They should have positive and negative feedback, but the positives should outweigh the negatives.

Last line

In conclusion, You can directly find a freight forwarder from China to US, such as China freight.com. From the calculation of the costs of choosing the perfect mode of shipping, you should have a good idea of the concepts before you decide to start importing products from China.

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