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 freight and shipping - cue the headaches. There is nothing simple or straightforward about shipping from China to Australia, or any international shipment for that matter, regardless of whether the cargo is travelling by air or in a container on the sea. Plenty of things can go wrong when it comes to international shipments, whether it's problems with the goods, the container, or the shipment itself. However, with careful planning and attention to detail, the whole process can work in your favour and cause little-to-no stress.

Considerations to Make When Shipping from China to Australia

There are three main considerations you need to make when shipping from China to Australia: the paperwork, ensuring your order is labelled correctly, the timing of the shipment and the costs associated with the shipment. These considerations are crucial to making sure the order is fulfilled as easily as possible for all involved (including the freight forwarder if you are using one) and moved through sea or air freight customs easily.

#1 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 in China carefully. Ensure they know the export process and have sent cargo to Australia before. If they make an error, it can cause delays in shipping, liaising with customs and incur unexpected 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 the order is on FOB, the manufacturer is only responsible for transportation costs to the port and loading costs. This is not only the case when shipping from China to Australia, but for international shipments worldwide.

Once the cargo has reached the freight forwarder and has been loaded on to the container, the goods are your responsibility. Make sure you organise insurance so that your order is covered once it's on the ship or in the air. Remember, you’re responsible for freight arrangements and costs, meaning you'll be left out-of-pocket if you incur any additional costs without sorting an insurance policy.

If the order is on 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 once they have gone through customs.

#2 Labelling Your Order

Labelling is a crucial component in relation to the packing of cargo, as it ensures your shipment from China is able to reach Australia on time, as well as allowing the handler and freight forwarder to do their jobs efficiently. You need to check that your manufacturer labels your goods clearly and correctly. This means checking that the label is written in English and includes the country of manufacture and origin, the sender's address, a description of the cargo, and the recipient's address.

#3 Timing of Your Shipment

Keep in mind that shipping costs are not fixed. The most expensive time to organise shipping from China to Australia 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 don't time your order correctly, you're likely to increase freight delivery time and pay more for transport.

#4 Shipping Costs from China to Australia

Air freight costs are usually too high when shipping from China to Australia unless you have a small, lightweight order that can be processed easily at an airport. So, while air freight delivery from China to Australia is possible, most importers choose to send their goods on a shipping container across the ocean. Sea freight costs vary based on whether you have a full container load (FCL) or less than a container load (LCL). 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 container. If you can’t fill a whole container, you can rent part of one and pay by the cubic metre.

Additional Costs When Shipping From China to Australia

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

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

•    Import entry and processing charge by customs.

•    Goods and Services Tax (GST).

•    Freight handling at a seaport.

•    Trucking the goods to a warehouse.

•    Storage for the cargo.

•    Insurance.

Avoid Unnecessary Costs, Damage to Cargo and Penalties

As mentioned, things can go wrong. It's all about how you can reduce the likelihood of something happening that will incur unnecessary costs, damage to goods in your shipment and even penalties that may be applicable to your shipment.

Use a Reliable Freight Forwarder to Transport Your Goods

Using a reliable freight forwarder, whether you're shipping from China to Australia or not, can help to minimise damage or theft that may occur without one. By using a freight forwarding service, you are not only minimising the amount of risk associated with international freight and shipping, but also lowering your risk of incurring unnecessary costs that you may otherwise need to pay in the absence of a forwarder.

Understand Freight and Shipping Penalties

It’s no good looking for the cheapest shipping rate if you're just going to have to pay extra fees and penalties once your containers have arrived in Australia. It’s important to understand the following penalties to make sure you keep your total freight and shipping costs as low as possible.

Your goods may also be subject to penalty fees. If you fail to collect your products from the port on 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 supplier in China, call Craig on 0438 922 058 or contact us online.