Thinking about shipping container from China to USA?

You must consider many things such as freight cost, multiple shipping options, transit time, and all of the above, the shipping regulations. Making shipping from china quick and safe, a supply chain manager must look for authentic services.

The recent pandemic of Covid19 had a significant impact on worldwide industries; consequently, freight forwarders and shipping lines from China to the US have already faced disruptive delays in all aspects.

Here, we provide you with a complete guide on shipping containers from China to USA. And what you need to know before streamlining your shipping process? Let’s have a look!

Table of Content

Chapter 1: All you need to know About Containers

Chapter 2: How Shipping Container from China to USA Works?

Chapter 3: Different Types of Shipping Containers from China?

Chapter 4: How much does it Cost to Ship a Container from China to USA?

Chapter 5: Important Things to Consider Before Shipping Container from China to USA

Chapter 6: Pros & Cons of Shipping Container from China to USA

Chapter 7: FCL & LCL Detailed Comparison

Chapter 8: 11 Problems to consider while Shipping Container from China to USA

Chapter 9: FAQs about shipping container from China to USA

Chapter 1: All you need to know About Containers


A shipping container would be with the appropriate strength for shipment, storage, and handling to withstand. We will discuss everything about containers, their materials, and their uses here.

1. History of Containerization

History-of-Containerization (2)

The international trading of the whole world depends on the containers in shipment by sea.

The history you need to know about is that in 1956, an entrepreneurial trucker named Malcolm McLean, looking for a cost-effective alternative to move cargo between New Jersey and Texas loaded 58 trailer bodies onto the vintage World War II tanker, the TS Ideal X, marks the beginning of containerization.

This marked a new system of shipping goods from one place to another by sea and Malcolm McLean is known as the father of Containerization. He revolutionized transport and international trade.

This lead to a huge reduction in freight cost along with more efficient handling of Cargo during loading and unloading.

2. What are Containers?

A shipping container is a container with stability feasible for shipment, storage, and managing to contain. Such as substantial refillable metal boxes used for intermodal shipments to ubiquitous corrugated boxes, shipping containers range widely. In 1956, the first metal shipping container was invented to help resolve break-bulk problems with wooden boxes.

3. What are Containers made of?

The primary material in shipping containers is Corten steel, also known as weathering steel. Aluminum, along with fiber-reinforced polymer, is also used. Or even a blend of all three materials.

The wooden flooring framework is put in place, followed by holes being drilled, so it is possible to attach the floor panels to the block firmly. With rubber seals intact, the doors themselves are now installed and connected. The concept is to be air-tight and water-tight for the entire container.

4. Why do We Use Them?

Depending on their dimensions, containers can be utilized in several ways. In the shipping industry, shipping containers are used extensively for cargo transport.

However, these beneficial devices have been recycled and used in several innovative ways outside the shipping industry, just as viable in their operation field.

Chapter 2: How Shipping Container from China to USA Works?


You are a company owner based in the US, and your supplier is in China. That’s a prediction, but it’s mostly pretty obvious. Your next concern now is how to ship things to the US from China.

Their sea is the only way to move a shipping container from China to USA. So, you can find how much it costs to ship a container from China to USA.

Typically, it takes approximately 15-30 days to ship your product containers by sea from China to the US to the west coast and 25+ days to the east coast.

There are several participants in the procedure of sea freight shipping. They are:

-Shipping company: that handles the actual shipment of products.

-Custom broker: that handle permission and related documentation

-Freight forwarder: they work with customs brokers in the delivery of items on nearly located ports.

Here is the process of sea shipping:

-The start of the process is to move the cargo from the supplier to the forwarder’s location.

-The customs clearance will be the next part. Based on the country’s regulations where the supplier is based, which is China, this is needed in every port.

-The brokers will handle the customs clearance as they are licensed for it.

-The second would be to handle and load other cargo to prepare for the actual shipment.

-The freight forwarder will then select shipping from one port to another that will handle the actual transportation. Usually, this is based on the timeline needed for the shipment to be delivered.

It would have to pass through import customs clearance once the shipment arrives at a port in the United States.

The cargo will now have to be unloaded from the ship and the shipment separated from other shipments and then prepared so that the recipient can collect it.

Chapter 3: Different Types of Shipping Containers from China?


From coffee to mobile phones, the vast majority of the goods we use and consume each day at one point spend time in a shipping container. Different types of shipping containers, each used for another purpose, are in circulation.

To find out what the most common weighted shipping container types are, read below.

Different-Types-of-Shipping-Container-from China2

1. 20ft container

A 20ft container for shipping is considered the main general container. On the outer walls, the storage containers are 8ft 6in high. There are 14 steel panels throughout the container. On one end, it has locked double doors. It is designed on the inside with 1- 1/8” thick marine plywood flooring.

In a single parking space, the 20ft storage container fits in and can be shipped and received on a much smaller and more survivable vehicle than the larger containers.

They are multifunctional storage for the shop floor and solutions for commercial storage. A 20ft container tare weight is 2300 Kg, Payload capacity is 27 to 28 tons and cubic capacity is 33.2 cubic meters.

2. 40ft container

One of the most widely used containers for the international shipping of large products’ ocean cargo is the 40-foot shipping container. They are fully enclosed and provide safety against all components, making them perfect for most regular cargo.

It does not require control of temperature. A 40-foot container’s empty weight is 3,750kg and can be stocked to a maximum overall weight of 27 to 28 tons. The Exterior dimensions (in feet):  40 ‘long x 8’ wide x 8 ‘6″ high.”

Their durable and robust design of a 40 ft shipping container from china protects items from stealing, damage, and structural harm. The 40-ft container is particularly suitable for transferring low-density and heavy products to reduce shipping costs.

3. 40ft HQ container

This 40-ft HQ version is slightly taller than the standard 40-ft container and is designed to give tall cargo more capacity.

All other features are comparable to those of the standard size version. The empty weight is 4150 kg and can be loaded to a maximum overall weight of 27 to 28 tons. The 40-foot container dimensions are Exterior Dimensions (in feet): 40 ‘long x 8’ wide x 9 ‘6″ high.”

4. Reefers

Reefers usually come in 20 ft and 40 ft and are generally made of weathering steel known as ‘Corten’ steel. Reefer containers are an underside air delivery system and the way to distribute chilled air.

From the floor through specific T-shaped decking, with the advantage of generating a reasonable and adequate airflow throughout the entire shipment. Powerful enough to ensure an ideal circulation of air with the products.

This container type specifically uses an external power to regulate the temperature.

Chapter 4: How much does it cost to ship container from China to USA?


Here we discuss the costs involved in importing containers from Chinese ports to US ports under different trade terms and present costs according to different shipping container sizes.

The container prices are for reference only since these prices may change from time to time in the current pandemic. Therefore please check with your freight forwarders for the latest and updated prices.

1. Container Shipping Cost by Container Size

Container Shipping cost to the United States from China are given below:

Choose the container’s size and the port you want to ship your container to in the United States.

2.Cost of Shipping Container  from China to USA

The shipping costs from China to the US can usually be estimated by looking at the weight and volume of the products being shipped and the speed at which the products are shipped, based on the shipping method used.

The average shipping costs for the different shipping methods currently range from:

  • Air Express to the USA:  $5 to $9 per kilo
  • Air cargo to the USA:  $4 to $8 per kilo
  • ocean Freight to the USA: $3000-$3900 per container

3. Container Handling cost

Container shipments are charged to cover the container handling cost at the shipping terminal, including loading and unloading the container from the truck and transporting the container to and from the ship.

It would be prepaid before shipping in certain countries, but this is customary in the US.

Chapter 5: Important Things to Consider Before Shipping Container from China to USA


Here are some important considerations while shipping containers from China to USA. Have a look!

1. Acknowledge the Legal Requirements

Proper documentation is essential when exporting any type of merchandise. You want to ensure proper document management.

Required documents include cargo shipment form, bill of lading, commercial invoice, original certificate, inspection certificate, Declaration of Destination, Ship Export Declaration (SED), Export packing list, insurance certificate.

2. Export Requirements in China

An export license is a document that contains information about the exporter, the buyer, the cargo, the value, and the mode of transport. It is issued to companies by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom).

Working with containers for your exports to China gives you access to a complete hub of ports as you may work with many ports, including the offshore ports of Shanghai, Ningbo, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong.

Transit times and rates will depend on the actual port, as well as the best shipping details. With China’s long coastline, many important ports may strategically be located, giving you practically endless options for shipping containers to China.

3. Complete Details of Chinese Ports

Here are some significant ports described by their province:


  • Port of Fuzhou
  • Port of Quanzhou
  • Port of Xiamen


  • Shunde Port
  • Rongai Port
  • Gaolan Port
  • Port of Guangzhou.
  • Port of Shenzhen.
  • Port of Shantou.
  • Port of Zhanjiang.


  • Haikou New Port
  • Haikou Port New Seaport
  • Haikou Xiuying Port
  • MACUN Port


  • Caofeidian
  • Qinhuangdao Port

Hong Kong

  • Container Terminal 9
  • Victoria Harbour
  • Crooked Harbour
  • Double Haven
  • Gin Drinkers Bay


  • Port of Shanghai
  • Yangshan Port


  • Port of Tianjin


  • Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan

– How many ports are in China & which is best in what aspects?

The top 5 ports in China by container throughput in 2018 were:

  • Shanghai

The new record shows that 40 million TEUs handled in 2017, the Port of Shanghai has probably cemented its spot as the busiest port in China and that of the world. In comparison, second-placed Singapore managed 33.7 million TEUs.

  • Ningbo-Zhoushan

The port is Ningbo Zhoushan, the first port to handle 1 billion tons of cargo annually. But in recent years, Shanghai has also seen significant progress locally and globally.

  • Shenzhen

The port of Shenzhen connects southern China with the rest of the world. Known as the Pearl River and Hong Kong gateway, the port handled 23.98 million TEUs in 2016.

  • Guangzhou

It primarily handles manufactured industrial and agricultural equipment. In 2016, it ran 17.59 million TEUs.

  • Qingdao

Qingdao port is known as the special international port of transshipment and reference. It is located in the Yellow River basin in eastern China’s Shandong Province. In 2016, it handled 17.44 million TEUs.

The ports’ primary purposes are to provide import and export, domestic trade, and transshipment services.

– Which port offers you cheap shipping

It may depend on where your products are made, but your supplier has a choice.

If your supplier is between the major ports (usually Shanghai and Ningbo or Guangzhou and Shenzhen), you can choose the nearest port located to where your goods are being produced or are stored in the warehouse.

Chapter 6: Pros & Cons of Shipping Container from China to USA


Here are some common pros and cons that are attached to shipping containers from China to USA.

1. Pros of Shipping Container from China to USA

– Provide Low-Cost Fast Transportation

Most container cargo ships contain details and all the necessary information about the container’s content. This makes it easy for customs officials and customers to identify what’s inside the container quickly.

Besides, it speeds up the transportation process by limiting delays at the customs office by inspecting products one by one. But in some cases, customs officials may decide to re-inspect the container if they suspect something.

– Provide High Cargo Security

The security of your goods is mostly maintained as the ship is containerized and reaches its destination safely.

Wondering how? All your products loaded into the shipping container are entirely sealed. That means no foreign object can come into contact with them so that no damage occurs.

Also, bad weather doesn’t affect your luggage, making the containers more ideal for raw materials and food.

Best of all, the shipping containers are made of hardy and durable metal that protects your luggage from weather conditions and theft during transit. Thieves cannot easily break through the strong metal body of the container.

– Favors Flexibility in Cargo Transportation

The containers are so flexible that they can transport a wide variety of goods. For example, containers can safely transport dangerous liquids like hydrocarbons. And reliable products, like cars, can transport wheat to others.

That makes it easy to transport different goods around the world as it makes transport flexible and versatile. They have a large capacity to transport a large number of goods in a container.

2. Cons of Shipping Container from China to USA

The cons of a shipping container from China to USA are as follows:

– Delays may Occur

Delays may occur due to the overburden of loads and the container’s non-availability, or the container operator is unable to secure the load. Sometimes bad handling also damages a container.

– Require Adequate Handling Techniques

Some containers require useful or sophisticated handling techniques; if you have no methods, you may face a problem while shipping. For example, reefers need a constant supply of power to keep the frozen items fresh and safe.

– High Capital Expenditure

For a small business, the primary concern is capital expenditure which needs highly handling container shipping costs.

– Some constraints cause high packing costs.

There is much merchandise that causes high packaging costs. In some cases, quality limitations of goods can interfere with a container shipping plan. The weight, volume, and dimensions of the merchandise may not match any standard container.

However, it is possible to do business with vendors that adjust their product and packaging dimensions according to containerization.

These protective measures against possible damage may require special container packaging as well as special container shipping insurance.

Chapter 7: FCL & LCL Detailed Comparison



-FCL used If a buyer has goods to accommodate in one full container load, the buyer will book an FCL (Full Container Load) to stuff his goods. In an FCL cargo, the complete goods in the said container own by one himself.

-LCL used If a buyer has goods to accommodate but not in one full container, the buyer will book an LCL (Less than Container Load) to stuff his goods. In an LCL cargo, the buyer books cargo with a consolidator to console his goods along with goods of other shippers.

Chapter 8: 11 Problems to consider while Shipping Container from China to USA


Here are some common problems you might face while shipping containers from China to USA. It includes many different things, and each entity is composed of its own set of rules and regulations to maintain.

1. Customs Exam

Random customs checks are not usual in shipping. Only 2% to 10% of the shipments are investigated. That is a relatively small part.

But if you handle imports and exports regularly, customs will ultimately label your products for review. Sometimes the law can change overnight resulting in a more detailed examination.

Whether it’s Dutch customs, US customs, or elsewhere, you’ll want to know what to expect if your products may select for random review.

2. Custom Clearance Problems

The customs department of each nation has multiple goals. Some carry out inspections at random, and others concentrate on complex concerns of different types of exports that are country-related.

Extensive knowledge ensures a smooth loading process, fewer headaches, and unexpected misfortunes.

3. Delay costs

The investigation leads to delays. That leads to demurrage. This results in a late container release. Sometimes improper documentation, weather, and change in government rules and regulations also result in delays.

4. Missing documents

The real bill of lading is an essential document in the entire shipping process. Those who lost them face the problem. If they are lost, you could expect to have problems delivering your shipment, which will result in a delay.

Make sure your original bill of lading has been verified through a trusted channel. All documents required for customs declaration and clearance must be kept safe.

5. Cargo damage

It is not surprising for damaged goods to arrive. With that said, you must know the basics of loading a container. It also includes knowing how many items will fit in your container, be it 20 feet or 40 feet.

Mishandling of cargo/terminal rarely damages cargo. If your container is damaged, be sure to file an insurance claim. Please do so following the proper procedures and through the right channels to get paid.

6. Overweight cargo

Overweight or roughly divided cargo in the container is one of the typical problems shippers face.

Sometimes, the weight of the container doesn’t resemble the paperwork submitted. The problem occurs when the trucker picks up the container. He might need several types of equipment to lift the container. Or he might not be able to transport it at all as it’s over the legal road weight limit.

7. Penalties

Senders usually have to agree with regulations to ship merchandise. Failure to do so results in fines and penalties.

8. Unexpected and unanticipated closures

Natural accidents can also cause sudden delays in shipment. Even meteorological agencies cannot correctly predict whirlwinds and cyclones due to their unpredictability; unexpected closures occur.

Accidental closures include strikes – from workers, truckers, or anyone involved in the entire shipping process. That can happen at the starting point or destination point, and it may cause disturbances to stop the work.

Moreover, when work resumes, it will still take a while to clear the blockage.

9. Lost Containers

Shipping containers hold the potential to get lost sometimes if proper handling is not done. When containers arrive and dockworkers unload them, it is not uncommon for containers to be missing. Searching the entire port area for a single container is sure to find a needle in a haystack!

10. Drowning of the Ship

If a ship sinks in the water, the container will also be lost. Ships will face huge storms in the sea resulting in the drowning of those ships. Make sure to insure your cargo so that as a result of a disaster, you can get compensated for your goods.

11. Holidays

From country to country, national holidays and festivals differ. To eliminate delays, make sure the timetable is flexible and adapt accordingly. Ideally, after the holidays, make sure the shipment goes in. Otherwise, you will have to negotiate with other shipping containers.

Chapter 9: FAQs about shipping container from China to USA

1. What is the maximum weight for 20ft and 40ft?

27 to 28 tons can be loaded in both containers. It is important to note here that just because 40ft container is bigger than a 20ft container, this does not mean that I can load more weight. It is for more volume.

2. How tall are the Containers normally?

Most of the Shipping containers and storage containers come in a range of sizes; 20ft and 40ft is the most common container lengths. Mostly the height of a container will be 8ft6,” and a high cube will have an additional foot at a height of 9ft 6”.

3. What are containers made of?

Steel is the main material that makes up a shipping container, but some other components and materials are also part of a structured body. Aluminum is also used, along with the fiber-reinforced polymer. All three materials are combined to make the container.

4. What is a container seal?

A container seal is a small device or tool which is placed on the doors of the container after loading the goods. The seal comes with an identification number and ensures that no one has opened the container throughout the journey of the container without proper approval.


We hope this blog has provided you all the related info and answers to the queries you were looking for. Whether is its understanding of the shipping containers, problems one faces in shipping from China to the USA, or knowing how to calculate the approximate shipping costs?

In the end, shipping from China to the United States is a process that requires thorough knowledge. You have to have a firm grasp of everything before deciding to import products from China.