How to Reduce the Cost of Shipping Containers from China – A Guide for New Importers

Shipping rates from China to the US have shot through the roof in the post-pandemic period due to increased customer demand. While small and first-time shippers are likely to face a tough time in the chaotic situation and become uncompetitive due to the high shipping rates, they can do a few things to keep shipping costs under control.

Understand and Choose the Shipping Terms Carefully

Even before you think of booking your first shipment, you must make it a point to understand Incoterms that defines the responsibilities, risks, and costs associated with cargo transport and delivery. The most common way of shipping from China is FOB, which puts the responsibility of delivering the cargo, paying for the transport cost and export fee, and loading it onto the ship on the Chinese supplier. The risk passes from the buyer to the seller once the cargo is loaded at the port of origin. The buyer is responsible for paying the costs of ocean freight, insurance, and unloading at the destination port. The buyer will also need to appoint an import agent to take care of customs clearance, processing documents, paying the taxes, and door delivery. According to Container Exchange, avoiding the peak season will help to reduce costs since you will not have to pay the peak season surcharge.

Choose a Dependable Freight Forwarder

The choice of the freight forwarder can make all the difference between a smooth delivery at the chosen US port and nasty surprises in the form of delays, documentation, and unanticipated costs. Because getting good rates or customized service from the large players can be difficult if your volumes are low, you should choose a small or medium-sized company that can offer more reasonable rates and container booking tracking. You can also look around for companies specializing in shipping to the US from China as they are likely to be more efficient, faster, and cheaper.

Be Familiar with the Ocean Route

Rather than leave the choice of the ocean transport route to the shipping line, you should familiarize yourself with the ocean shipping routes from China to the US. Generally speaking, you will observe there are three main ocean shipping routes from China. These are via the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic. The choice of the most optimum route may make a difference of $400-800. For example, if you are shipping to the East coast of the US, you can use the full waterway or the land bridge. If you don’t need quick delivery, you can choose the full waterway and save up to $800.


To keep your costs to a minimum, you need to have a cargo plan ready so that you can load the container promptly. You need to book the container well in time after studying the demand and ensure that the goods are loaded without delay. Last-minute booking will invariably cost much more. However, if the goods reach too many days in advance, you will incur extra storage charges. Another secret to lowering your shipping cost is to ensure that the product packaging is optimized for transporting the maximum number of units in the container.

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