Freight and Shipping from China to Australia – How it Works


A container ship leaving a chinese port with containers shipping from china to australia

Your order is underway; now it’s time to organise shipping. Cue the headaches. Nothing about shipping from China to Australia is simple and straightforward.

Plenty of things can go wrong, but with some careful planning and attention to detail, it can go right!

Shipping from China to Australia

There are three main areas you need to pay attention to when shipping from China to Australia: costs, paperwork, and labelling.

Attention to Detail with the Paperwork is Vital

The manufacturer is responsible for completing the export paperwork, so it’s important to choose your supplier carefully. Ensure they know the export process and have sent goods to Australia before. If they make an error, it can cause delays in shipping, gaining clearance through customs and additional costs.

Make sure you are informed about the shipping obligations of the supplier and yourself. Double check your contract to determine if your order is Free on Board (FOB) or Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF). If it’s FOB, the manufacturer is only responsible for transportation costs to the port and loading costs. Once loaded, the goods are your responsibility. Make sure you organise insurance, so your order is covered once it's on the ship. You’re responsible for freight arrangements and costs.

If the order is CIF, then the seller will make the arrangements and pay costs for freight and insurance while in transit. When you aren’t making the arrangements, it’s essential that you know when the order is due to arrive at your port so you can organise to take delivery of the goods.

Labelling your Order

Make sure your manufacturer labels your goods clearly and correctly. The label needs to be in English and include country of manufacture and origin, the sender’s address, a description of the products, and the recipient’s address.

Timing of your Shipment

Keep in mind that shipping isn’t a set price year round, it varies. The most expensive time to ship is the month before Chinese New Year in January or February, several weeks before Labor Day on May 1, and during September and early October in the lead up to Golden Week. Factories close during these official holidays so if you miss-time your order; you may have to wait longer and pay more for transport.

Shipping Cost from China to Australia

Air freight costs are usually too high unless you have a small, lightweight order so most importers choose to send their goods via sea. Sea freight costs vary based on whether you have a full shipping container or part container. There are two container sizes to choose from – 20 foot and 40 foot. If you want cheap shipping, it’s best to fill a 40-foot container but if your goods aren't big enough, use a 20 foot. If you can’t fill a whole container, you can rent part of one and pay by the cubic metre.   

Other Freight and Shipping Costs

Once your goods have arrived in an Australian port, there are additional costs to pay including:

•    Import duty if goods are valued at more than $1,000

•    Import entry and processing charge by Customers

•    Goods and Services Tax (GST)

•    Freight handling at a seaport

•    Trucking the goods to a warehouse

•    Storing Goods

•    Insurance

Avoid Penalties

It’s no good looking for the cheapest shipping rate then having to pay extra fees and penalties once your containers are in Australia. It’s important to understand the following penalties to make sure you keep your total freight and shipping cost as low as possible:

Your goods may also be subject to penalty fees. If you fail to collect your products from the porton time as per the terms of your shipping contract, you may be invoiced for demurrage.

Shipping containers not returned to the yard after unloading by their due date are also subject to a container detention charge.

Avoid penalty charges by being organised and knowing when your order is arriving, so you can have proper plans in place to take delivery.

Shipping is handled by the staff at Vara Allied on a daily basis.  For more information on our International Freight and Shipping service, or finding a Chinese supplier, call Craig on 0438 922 058 or contact us.