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United Kingdom Imports from China were US$91.16 Billion in 2021, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade. It makes the ninth-largest of China’s export trade partners worldwide. This sum also places the United Kingdom as China’s third-largest export destination in Europe, trailing only Germany and the Netherlands.

Perhaps your company imports electronics, toys, furniture, or sporting equipment from China to the UK and wishes to reduce supply chain costs and complications. Perhaps you intend to ship commercial goods between the two countries and require the advice of a professional.

Most companies that import from China to the United Kingdom choose ocean freight because it is the most cost-effective way to ship cargo such a long distance.

If your goods can be shipped in a container, the two most logical options are LCL and FCL ocean freight. Air freight is also faster than shipping a shipping container from China to the United Kingdom by sea. However, the advantage of speed comes at a high cost.

Sea Freight From China to the United Kingdom

Less than Container Load (LCL): When shipping smaller quantities of freight from China to the UK and finding air freight too expensive, you can ship your imports by sea as a less-than-container load (LCL).

LCL is a type of containerized shipping that allows multiple shippers’ small consignments to share a shipping container. It saves you money on the costs of renting and transporting a container from China to the United Kingdom because you only pay for the space your goods take up.

Full Container Load (FCL): Sending your international shipments in full-container loads is another option for getting them to their destination. FCL is ideal if your shipment will fill a shipping container or if you can wait for enough orders to fill a full load. FCL is the most cost-effective way to ship large quantities of freight in a shipping container from China to the United Kingdom—or even several shipping containers.

How long does it take to ship from China to the United Kingdom?

Long transportation periods are required when importing from China to the United Kingdom. Unless your company can afford the high rates associated with air freight’s speed benefits. As air cargo, your goods can be available for collection or shipping from a UK airport in a couple of days. In contrast, it takes several weeks for a carrier to transport a cargo container from China to the United Kingdom.

The total transit time for sea freight transportation between China and the United Kingdom is determined by the precise ports of loading and discharge via which your cargo is routed. The samples below will give you an idea of what to expect depending on whether you pick an LCL or FCL freight service:

  • Guangzhou to Immingham – 34 days LCL, 46 days FCL
  • Ningbo to Immingham – 33 days LCL, 41 days FCL
  • Shanghai to Immingham – 36 days LCL, 34 days FCL
  • Tianjin to Immingham – 59 days LCL, 43 days FCL
  • Dalian to Immingham – 42 days FCL

Customs Clearance

Getting a freight forwarder on your side might make customs clearance easier, your company will still need to complete some actions to fulfill official criteria. Some of the documentation required to clear your items will remain the responsibility of your company. You must either complete and file them or make them accessible for inspection by customs officials.

Customs authorities in China and the United Kingdom often demand to see the following documents (or, in some situations, electronic files):

  1. Invoice
  2. Checklist for Packing
  3. Origin Certificate
  4. Letter of Credit or other payment arrangements (depending on the contract between the parties involved)
  5. Bill of Lading for maritime freight (Your freight forwarder should provide this)

If you require any further information, feel free to contact us at or with our  team in the UK

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