China has invested trillions of dollars to develop its transportation infrastructure. In fact, some of its busiest airports are practically brand new. Jiaodong International Airport (TAO) in Qingdao (between Beijing and Shanghai) and Chengdu Tianfu International Airport (TFU) in Western China both opened in 2021. Beijing Daxing Airport (PKX), launched in 2019. Reliable air freight is critical for aerospace, medical equipment, and high- fashion companies, as well as China’s many tech manufacturers and the thousands of component manufacturers that supply them. The accompanying chart shows the busiest ports in China by cargo volume (air and sea). Shipping to China via air is not cheap, but it’s fast. You can get 24- to 48-hour transit times from other countries within Asia and 72-hour transit times from most other origins. To achieve this level of time-critical service, look for freight forwarding partners with strong relationships and block space agreement with all top Asia-based, global airlines. Not all airports in China have international flights. Often, it depends on the origin city. A freight forwarder that understands the China market can help determine airport options and which offer the best costs – port-to-port and door-to-door.
For smaller shipments that are not urgently needed in China, less-than-container (LCL) ocean shipping, where your goods travel in the same container as other shippers, will probably be cheaper than reserving a full container. If your shipment is around 18 to 20 cubic meters or above, you can consider shipping a 20’ container as FCL. FCL has natural advantages over LCL: faster transit time, better cargo security, and potentially a lower shipping cost. For instance, from Los Angeles to Shanghai FCL service is normally 9 days faster than LCL. Ocean freight shipments into China will be cheaper than volume out of China since steamship lines want to get scarce containers back to cover the large volume of China exports. Don’t ignore the multi-modal option when shipping ocean freight. In the current freight environment, an agile shipping operation is a must. A Sea-Air or Air-Sea solution can achieve fast delivery, lower costs and a smaller carbon footprint. Using multiple modes does add complexity, so it’s important to work with a forwarder with experience coordinating the en route handoffs.
Rail Freight has emerged as a viable option for cargo moving from Europe to China. The main reason: transit time is 20 days faster than ocean and as much as 30% cheaper than air freight. The Chinese government has invested heavily to improve service and ship times along the Silk Road. For example, you can ship from Germany to Xi’an, China via rail in about 15 days, with final door-to-door delivery within 22 days (28-30 days during the pandemic). When a valve manufacturer had to ship 33 tons of cargo from Milan to support construction of the Beijing Daxing Airport, it opted for rail. Sino Shipping handled complex customs clearance requirements at the borders, as well the road/ rail transitions at origin and destination. The shift from ocean to cross-border rail cut the customer’s transit time by nearly 3 weeks. If you’re based in Europe, don’t ignore rail as an option when shipping to China.
A road freight option can be part of a multi-modal solution that can keep your products flowing in a constrained freight market.A global semiconductor product distributor found this out when pandemic-related lockdowns and flight cancellations limited air freight capacity from Malaysia to Hong Kong, threatening its ability to support mobile phone production in China. Leveraging the cross-border trucking capabilities of its freight forwarder, Sino Shipping, the company trucked products from Penang, Malaysia to Singapore, and then shipped them via air to pakistan. The 4-month project involved 83 truckloads and helped the distributor meet its delivery promise to a VIP customer.