You don’t need to know as much about the intricacies of shipping from China to the UK as your freight forwarder, but it is important to understand the shipping time from China to the UK. Read on to learn why…

The answer starts with appreciating just how big a country the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is – and the implications for shipping times from its different ports.

How big is China? It covers 9,597,000,000 square kilometres. That’s nearly 42 times the area of the UK (242,495 square kilometres). Furthermore, as the crow (or the Red Crowned Crane, China’s national bird) flies, the distances between China’s major industrial areas are similarly impressive. For instance, from Tianjin in the north to the Port of Shenzhen in the south is 1869 km. The sea voyage between the two ports, curving around the coast through the busy waters of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea, is 3176 km! And that’s before your container ship’s 11,000 nm onward voyage to Southampton or Felixstowe.

For more advice on shipping time from China to the UK, or to discuss your shipping requirement, call 01268 525444 or email us today


More about shipping time from China to UK


Read on to discover more about the main factors determining shipping time from China to the UK.

The outbound port from China really matters

More than being just interesting facts for your next pub quiz, these statistics have a huge bearing on the time it takes for your shipment to the UK. The numbers and the associated sailing times are important because, depending where in the country your shipment originates, it can add weeks to the delivery time from China to the UK.

If we’re using sea freight to get your goods to the British Isles, you need to fully understand the implications of a given ‘delivery window’ for your shipment and post-shipment planning.

Don’t forget terminal time at each end of the journey

Total door-to-door transit time from a Chinese factory to your UK destination is of course longer than just the sailing time (or ‘on the water’ time) from Shanghai or Shenzhen. That’s because of everything else that must be done at each end of the sea journey – including customs formalities, transit to and from ports of departure and arrival, loading and unloading. The time required for everything adds up, including the week that goods typically spend at the port of departure before being put on a ship.

Different shipping options from China to the UK

Visit Wikipedia’s page about Industry of China and you’ll see that around one-third of total industrial output (and most of its merchandise exports) emanate from the coastal provinces of Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shandong, Shanghai and Zhejiang.

While mainland China’s coast is packed with ports along most of its length, we’ll probably be shipping out of (from north to south), Tianjin/Xingang, Qingdao, Shanghai, Suzhou, Ningbo, Xiamen, Shenzhen or Guangzhou. So what’s the typical China to UK shipping time to get goods here by sea?

Sea freight

From Guangzhou, Shenzhen or Hong Kong to the UK, the sea journey typically takes three to four weeks. You can easily add another two weeks for complete door-to-door shipping, depending on the exact start point within the People’s Republic of China and the UK port of arrival.

From Shanghai or Ningbo, approximately halfway up China’s coast, add another week for door-to-door shipping. And for ports in northern China, such as Qingdao or Tianjin/Xingang (which serves Beijing), you really should allow up to eight weeks in total from door to door.

How to track shipping from China to UK

As for shipping anywhere in the world, the MarineTraffic website is a great way to understand how sea freight reaches the UK from China – and see how long it takes in real time. Not only is it an interesting resource as you plan shipping from China to the UK, but you could also use it while we’re shipping your goods. That’s because, if you know the name of the vessel carrying your shipment from China to the UK, you can track your container ship from Tianjin or Shenzhen to Felixstowe or Southampton.

Typical routes from China to the UK

MarineTraffic offers various subscription services for the shipping industry. However, even just visiting their website can be informative – and addictive. Typically, your container ship will cross the South China Sea and Indian Ocean before transiting the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. Alternatively, passing South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and transiting the Atlantic is another important China to UK shipping route.

According to their website, Marine Traffic is ‘the world’s leading provider of ship tracking and maritime intelligence’ and ‘monitoring vessel movements is at the core of what we do.’ Ship movement details are continually updated using the coastal automatic identification system (AIS) and satellite receivers. This means that you can follow your consignment’s journey and see for yourself how long your shipment takes to get from China to the UK.

Air freight from China to the UK

A broadly similar online tool exists for aircraft (Flightradar24). However this is less useful because flight times from China are so much shorter than sea voyages. It’s also harder to establish which flight your shipment is on.

What’s more helpful is knowing that, if the value, weight and urgency of your delivery justifies air freight, port-to-port shipping times (c. 3–8 days) and door-to-door shipping times (c. 6–16 days) are much faster than by container ship. However, if you want cheap shipping from China to UK destinations, air freight probably isn’t your best choice…

Land freight (rail) from China to the UK

In 2017, with the start of weekly service on the Yiwu to London Railway Line from China to the UK, we got another option for shipping goods from China to the UK.

The typical journey time is around 18 days (door-to-door time is longer) from Yiwu in eastern China to Barking, East London. This attempt to revive the former Silk Road from China and Europe takes significantly less time than sea freight. What’s more, it comes without the cost associated with flying goods halfway around the world.

Summary: questions and answers

Q: How long to ship from China?

A: It depends on the port of departure and terminal times at each end of the journey. By sea, allow between six and eight weeks depending on the port of departure. If in doubt, add another week’s contingency time.

Q: What is transit time in shipping from China?

A: When we think about China to UK shipping, transit time is the time taken by the ship, aircraft or train between leaving China and reaching its UK point of entry.

Q: Why does shipping from China take so long?

A: Assuming you are shipping by sea, it’s a combination of the pre- and post-journey times in China and the UK, and the long sea voyage involved. For example, from the Port of Tianjin near Beijing, to Southampton, UK, is nearly 13,000 nautical miles – that’s 462 times the distance from Dover to Calais!

Q: How do I find the best shipping from China?

A: Call us! We’ve done this for years and can give you the honest advice that you need about shipping times from China to the UK.


Helping you get the best shipping from China to UK

Whether rail freight from China to the UK will become a serious alternative to sea or airfreight remains undecided. Meanwhile, most consignments reach the UK in seaborne containers – and that typically means an average delivery time from China to UK of six to eight weeks.

With decades of experience behind us, we help customers like you get consignments from China to the UK as fast and cost-effectively as possible. Isn’t it time we had a chat?

For advice and information on shipping time from China to the UK, please call 01268 525 444 or email us today


Other China Guides:

Tips for importing from China

How to import goods from China

Costs to import from China