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How to Import Goods from China

& How Much It Costs

Understanding how to initiate the process of importing goods from China starts with a clear grasp of what you intend to import. Then, it’s crucial to embark on thorough research into the quality, reliability, and reputation of the goods available in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This research can encompass various activities, from basic desk research to an extensive exploration of Chinese manufacturers. If you opt for the latter, keep in mind that China’s vast size necessitates ample time for travel between its primary manufacturing hubs, including Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Xiamen.

For our top tips on importing from China to the UK, please explore the following sections and if you are interested in discovering the cost to import from China go to the next section.

For more advice on how to import goods from China, or to discuss your shipping requirements, call 01268 525444 or email us today.

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Importing FROM China:  How-to & COSTS

This guide discusses how to import from China and the costs. It covers the steps involved, the documentation required, the different shipping methods available, and the import duties, taxes, and other fees that you may need to pay.

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How To Import Goods From China

Check if the goods are permitted in the UK

Before you start importing from China to the UK, it’s essential to ensure that the goods you plan to import are permitted in the UK and any export markets you intend to supply. Three types of import controls apply when importing items from China:

  • Bans – Import is not allowed under any circumstances. These items include: endangered animal and plant species, rough diamonds and controlled drugs.
  • Quotas – The volume of goods is restricted.
  • Surveillance – Import is monitored with licences.
  • Refer to the UK import controls guide for detailed information on current national import controls or contact us for advice.

Find the correct commodity code for your goods

When importing goods from China to the UK, use commodity codes to classify the merchandise. Identifying the correct codes is vital for understanding duty rates, reliefs, and applicable quotas. The UK Government website offers guidance on finding commodity codes for imports into the UK. Keep in mind that some goods can be challenging to classify.

Calculate the landed cost of your goods

Landed cost can be defined as ‘the total cost of purchasing goods and getting them from their country of origin to their final destination’. In this case, the country of origin is China and the final destination is the UK.

Ideally, you will research and confirm the landed cost upfront. However, in some cases, you may not know the exact cost of your China import until it reaches the UK. If this is the case, make sure to estimate your landed coast as accurately as possible. It might even be prudent to build in a contingency allowance.

Check if you need an import licence

Determine whether you require an import licence to bring goods from China to the UK. Keep in mind that regulations may change so staying informed about import conditions is crucial.

Don't forget your EORI number

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is essential for importing. It’s used by UK Customs to record imports from China and other countries. Not having an EORI number could result in hidden handover charges upon your shipment’s arrival in the UK.

Source your supplier in China

Finding a reliable Chinese supplier is a critical step in the importing process. Careful sourcing is recommended, including checking product quality, seeking references, and potentially visiting suppliers in Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Tianjin. Understanding basic Mandarin and Chinese culture can help build strong business relationships.

Use a well-drafted contract

Preparing a well-structured contract is essential to reduce import risk. Seek professional contract advice and choose appropriate International Commercial Terms (Incoterms) to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth import operation.

Place your order

Once all product details and terms of business are confirmed, proceed with placing your order. At this stage expect to get an appropriate Pro-forma invoice for your goods, including Harmonised System (HS) information, descriptions, values, weights, packed dimensions and agreed buying terms.

Your purchase terms will include agreed Incoterms (International Commercial Terms). An oft-given piece of advice for importing from China to the UK is to specify Free On Board (FOB) terms (e.g. ‘FOB Tianjin’ or ‘FOB Shenzhen’) rather than Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) which leaves you responsible for all costs incurred after the goods are loaded in China. The difference in cost and administrative hassle between FOB and CIF can be considerable. You’ve been warned! If in doubt, please contact us for more advice.

Allow sufficient time for shipping

While airfreight and rail freight are options from China, the key to importing goods from China is selecting the optimal shipping mode. Based on our expertise, container shipping from China to the UK is the most common choice.

As outlined in our guide about China to UK shipping time, shipping times from China to UK ports of entry, door-to-door shipping from China to Southampton or Felixstowe can span up to six weeks, contingent on the departure port. Therefore, it’s advisable to allocate a minimum of 8 weeks between placing an order and the anticipated arrival of your goods in the UK.

Arrange shipping from China to the UK

While you could handle shipping arrangements yourself, professional help from an experienced freight forwarding partner can simplify the process and ensure a smooth and cost-effective shipping experience. We can assist you in arranging the best shipping solution for your needs, taking the hassle out of importing from China to the UK. Contact us today!

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Cost To Import From China To UK

When considering the cost of importing goods from China to the UK, it’s essential to take various factors into account:

  • Goods: The type of goods you are importing can affect the cost of shipping, import duties, and VAT. For example, goods that are considered to be hazardous or that require special handling will be more expensive to import.
  • Incoterms: The Incoterms you choose will affect who is responsible for paying for different stages of the shipping process. For example, if you choose the FOB Incoterm, your Chinese supplier will be responsible for loading the goods onto the ship at the port of departure. If you choose the CIF Incoterm, your Chinese supplier will be responsible for loading the goods onto the ship, insuring them, and paying the freight costs.
  • Shipping method: The shipping method you select will determine the cost and delivery time of your shipment. Ship freight is the most economical shipping method, but the slowest. Air freight is the fastest shipping method, but the most expensive.
  • Import duties: The rate of import duty on goods varies depending on the type of goods being imported. You can use the GOV.UK tariff checker to find the import duty rate for your goods.
  • VAT: VAT is charged on most goods and services imported into the UK.
  • Insurance: Insurance is recommended to cover the cost of lost or damaged goods in transit. The cost of insurance will vary depending on the value of the goods and the level of coverage desired.
  • Customs clearance: The cost of customs clearance will vary depending on the complexity of the shipment and the services required.

Other factors

Other factors that can affect the cost of importing goods from China to the UK include:

  • Fuel costs: Fuel costs can fluctuate, which can impact the cost of shipping.
  • Exchange rates: The exchange rate between the pound and the yuan can also affect the cost of imports.
  • Demand: If there is high demand for shipping from China to the UK, shipping rates may be higher.
  • Competition: The level of competition among shipping companies and customs brokers can also affect the cost of imports.

Hidden costs

  • Brokerage fees – A fee charged by a customs broker to assist with the clearance of goods through customs.
  • Storage fees – Fees charged by a warehouse to store your goods before they are cleared through customs.
  • Demurrage fees – Fees charged by a shipping line if your goods are not cleared through customs within a certain timeframe.
  • Detention fees – Fees charged by a shipping line if your goods are not picked up from the warehouse within a certain timeframe.

Contact us for information on the cost of getting your goods delivered from China to the UK with over 35 years’ integrity in freight forwarding, you can trust the advice we give you.

Shipping Quote: Key Information You Need to Know

Armed with a solid grasp of these shipping terms and their associated cost considerations, you can begin to explore other factors that play a role in determining the quotes you receive.

To obtain an accurate quote for shipping goods from China to the UK, your shipping partner will typically require the following essential information:

  • The weight, dimensions, and volume of your goods. Sea freight costs are typically based on the greater of volume or weight, with volume often being the primary determinant. Look out for industry shorthand such as ‘Weight or Measure’ or ‘w/m,’ which equates to a volume of one cubic metre to a weight of 1000 kg.
  • The Chinese port of departure can include options like Shanghai, Port of Shenzhen, Ningbo-Zhoushan, or Guangzhou. Different outbound ports in China can have varying cost implications.
  • The specific delivery address for your goods in the UK. Whether it’s near the Port of Southampton, located just off the M6 in Birmingham, or situated outside Lerwick on Shetland, each location will impact door-to-door shipping costs differently.
  • Agreed shipping terms, such as FOB, EXW, CIF, and others, play a critical role in determining the overall logistics and cost structure of the shipment.
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Key Considerations Import Costs from China to the UK

Different Costs from Different Ports in China

Before delving into the cost implications of shipping from various outbound ports when importing from China to the UK, it’s essential to familiarise ourselves with China’s port geography. Google Maps or can provide an overview of the ports along China’s 14,500 km-long coastline between Dandong and Dongxing. The considerable distances between these ports are noteworthy.

Sea freight rates can vary among these ports, often due to economies of scale. For instance, the Port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest, handles around 42 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) annually, benefiting from economies of scale. Smaller ports may lack direct container connections with the UK, necessitating extra transit and transhipment, which can result in higher sea freight costs.

Consideration of your supplier’s location relative to Chinese ports is crucial. China’s vast size means that some manufacturers are located near the coast, while others may be far inland. Shipping goods from inland areas to a port can significantly increase overland transit costs.

Manufacturing and logistics geography in China can influence your choice of port. For instance, Shenzhen is a hotspot for electronics manufacturing, while the Yangtze River Delta, served by ports like Shanghai, Suzhou, and Ningbo, is suitable for consumer goods, textiles, furniture, bicycles, and household appliances.

Length of Voyage from China to UK

The voyage distance between the outbound port in China and the UK’s destination port is a significant factor. While the 202 nautical miles between UK ports like Southampton and Felixstowe have a minimal impact, the distance between Chinese ports, such as Shenzhen (south) and Tianjin (north), plays a more substantial role in terms of time and fuel costs.

Other factors influencing sea freight costs include the proximity of your factory to the nearest port and how full and part container loads are affected by price variations. Expert guidance can help clarify these aspects and simplify container pricing, saving you time and effort.

Consider a Shared Container for Small Shipments

If you’re not shipping a full container load, Less than Container Load (LCL) shipping, where your goods share a container with other importers’ merchandise, is a common choice. It’s suitable for testing the market with a small initial order.

What Are Typical Container Shipping Rates to the UK?

Container shipping costs depend not only on whether you’re shipping a full or part container load but also on the container size. Standard 20 ft and 40 ft containers, as well as ‘high cube containers,’ all have price implications.

For a comprehensive quotation that accounts for all relevant factors, call 01268 525444 or email us today.

Keeping Your Costs Transparent and Manageable

Effective freight forwarding involves maintaining transparent and comprehensible costs from your Chinese supplier’s location to your UK address.

Avoiding Hidden Charges

Avoiding unexpected hidden charges upon your shipment’s arrival in the UK is crucial. This can be achieved by selecting suitable Incoterms, often opting for FOB rather than CIF/CFR, and making informed choices about shipping methods and outbound ports based on local geography.

Custom charges from China

Customs charges in the UK are another cost to consider when importing from China. Alongside UK VAT, customs charges can increase once your goods arrive at their UK port of entry.

Generally, you’ll need to settle these charges in full upon arrival unless you’re registered for a recognised duty relief scheme, allowing reduced or waived tax and duty payments on imports.

It’s important to stay informed about changes in tariffs and duty relief schemes, especially in the evolving post-Brexit landscape. Bookmark our Brexit page for updates on this fast-changing situation.

When it comes to arranging shipping from China to the UK, opting for professional assistance can provide a clear understanding of the costs involved and streamline the process. Collaborating with an experienced freight forwarding partner like us can help you find the most suitable and cost-effective shipping solution for your requirements.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to make your importing journey from China to the UK hassle-free.

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We’re friendly, easy to work with, honest and we don’t charge the earth.

For more advice on how to import goods from China, or to discuss your shipping requirements, call 01268 525444 or email us today.

Joe Archer
Joe Archer
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Excellent service all round!
David Smith
David Smith
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Needed Help getting an odd piece of machinery from the EU and got all the help I needed.
Kay Sherry
Kay Sherry
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Simon Pool from Barrington freight was very helpful and door to door service to S.Korea was excellent, pick up and delivery services on time. I highly recommend Barrington Freight for air cargo services. Thank you Simon and the team! Kay
Daniel Gardner
Daniel Gardner
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The team at Barrington where incredible at delivering our goods on-time despite the new Brexit regulations on goods being imported. We even didn't pay tax on the returning shipment coming back to German.
Drewit Studio
Drewit Studio
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Brilliant service. Extremely helpful, and they supported us all the way through the process of transporting goods to mainland Europe, which for anyone who hasn't done that before can seem quite daunting. Would definitely recommend using this company.
Jason Scott
Jason Scott
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Working with Barrington was brilliant. They really looked out for us, tackling our tough shipping/freight requirements keeping us informed at every stage of the process. Thank you
James Ayre
James Ayre
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kept up to date with all progress, i know they had a particularly troubling time with import customs messing up paperwork but sorted all that out for me. highly reccomend will use again
Peter Seal
Peter Seal
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Excellent company, very efficient and great communication. Competitive , quick quotes!
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We are very satisfied, we would like to thank the team for this with an awesome rating! They handled the delivery of a very sensitive, valuable, gigantic pallet for us at a fair price and without any problems. I mean, out of 4 companies, only they were able to undertake it. Nothing is damaged! We recommend the company to everyone :)
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Luckyn Lane, Basildon,
Essex SS14 3AX