Shipping from China in 2023

After a period of decline, cargo transportation costs have stabilized at almost pre-2020 levels. China ended the zero-COVID policy, and its economy is back on track. The below article presents a forecast for shipping from China in 2023. Now is probably the best time to source from China.

Shipping from China in 2023

Importers are more than glad to hear that freight rates for transportation from China are the lowest in several years. However, it is unlikely that the freight rates will decline further. It means that now is the best time to ship from China.

Compare modes of transportation and shipping costs before choosing a shipping method for your goods, and get to know our tips on importing from China in 2023.

Sea shipping from China in 2023

Sea freight shipping is the most popular form of cargo container shipping. In the spring of 2022, the sea freight rate (per 40-foot container) from China was over USD 11,000. In early 2023, the cost dropped to as low as USD 3,000. In less than a year, freight has fallen by more than 70%, meaning you can ship three times more load for the same amount. The price has stabilized for now, but it may increase again.

Sea freight rates from China to Europe and the US
Shipping container costs per 40ft container from China, data: Freightos

How long does sea freight take from China?

Sea freight transit times:

  • From China to Singapore: 5 days
  • From China to Australia: 12 days
  • From China to US West Coast (Los Angeles, Long Beach): 20 days
  • From China to Great Britain: 29 days
  • From China to Germany: 30 days
  • From China to US East Coast (New York): 32 days

Rail freight from China in 2023

Rail from China has been a good alternative to sea transportation for years. However, the difference between sea and rail freight rates is bigger than before. Although FCL (Full Container Load) rail freight is more expensive, it has an advantage – the transit time is shorter by about ten days (China-Europe route).

Sea and rail freight rates from China

LCL (Less than Container Load) rail freight is also cheaper. From July 2021 to January 2023, rail transportation costs decreased by 45-70% to as low as USD 160 per CMB.

How long does rail transportation from China take?

Rail freight from China to destinations in Europe or Asia takes around 10-30 days.

Air freight from China in 2023

Air freight has always been the most expensive method of shipping cargo. Fortunately, the situation has improved. The highest average global air freight rate in 2021-2023 was around USD 5.4 per kg (November 2021), and in January 2023, it decreased to USD 3 per kg (for shipments of 150-500 kg). For example, shipping costs from Yiwu to Cracow (Poland) decreased by about USD 1,100, which is more than one-sixth. Thus, air shipping has become more affordable for importers.

How long is shipping from China by air?

The air freight transit time from China to various destinations is up to 10 days.

Road transportation from China in 2023

Road transportation from China to other Eurasian countries is gaining importance, especially since rail traffic congestion is a serious issue. Organizing road transportation takes less time than booking space on a freight train. If you ship to Europe, you can ship cargo by rail from China to Turkey and then by truck to anywhere in Europe.

How long does road transportation from China take?

Road transportation from China to a destination on the Eurasian continent takes about 10-18 days.

How to plan your supply chain?

China-United States sea freight rates are very low, and the China-Europe freight rates are the lowest in two years. Costs of air and rail shipping also decreased.

In the second half of 2023, freight rates are expected to increase slightly. Now is the best time to source goods from China.

How to source from China in 2023?

  • Always carry out on-site quality checks before shipment to ensure that the order fulfills the quality standards and your requirements.
  • Check dates of holidays in China (some are movable) to prepare for downtime in factories and limited contact with suppliers.
  • Take advantage of China’s reopening and attend trade fairs, for example, the largest trade fair in the world, the Canton Fair.
  • Take into account the wait times at ports that cause delays and costs. Container dwell fees are added when boxes stay in the ports. The average dwell time in Europe is 45 days, and in the US and China is 60 days.
  • Change your shipping strategy and diversify your transportation solutions. You can, for example, split your shipments into air and sea shipments.
  • Reduce delivery lead times and transit costs by using multimodal transportation.
  • Many things can go wrong along the way (delays in production, adverse weather conditions, other issues), so always add one to two weeks to the overall timeline.
  • Analyze which method of transportation is best for you (sea, rail, air or road, FCL or LCL).
  • Negotiate the best Incoterms for you (FOB, EXW, FCA, etc.).
  • Expand your transportation options and consider shipping from Hong Kong or Shantou to terminals near the destination country.
  • Compare freight rates from reliable freight forwarders on for your shipment.
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