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International Container Shipping to Shanghai

So you’ve made the decision to move to Shanghai, a buzzing global metropolis of huge cultural wealth with a strong expat community. Whether you’re moving for work or to be closer to family, here are a few things to consider early on.

Sea or Air Freight?

For long-haul relocations to places like China, sea freight is almost always going to be the right choice - particularly if you need to ship furniture and other large and heavy items. It might be significantly slower than air freight, but the difference in price is normally worth it. The Port of Shanghai receives large volumes of cargo on a daily basis – it’s the busiest container port in the world, in fact.

People moving abroad usually fill a 20’ or 40’ container when packing up their belongings. A forty foot container will fit two cars and the contents of a three bedroom family home – so this is usually more than enough space. Airlines, on the other hand, charge air freight by weight. If you’re going to fill less than a container load, don’t rule out air freight on the basis of price.

If shipping by sea freight is an attractive option but you’re not shipping enough to fill a container, there is often the opportunity to consolidate your load with others. This is a great budget-saving option, but containers won’t ship until they’re full – so send your consignment early or at least make sure there’s nothing in the container that you’re going to need urgently...

Shipping a Car

Purchasing a new car might be the more sensible option if you’re moving to Shanghai, but here are a few things to check with your freight company if you’re thinking about bringing your car with you. Be sure, first of all, that their quote states the origin of the journey (your address or departing port) and the cargo destination (freight company’s door, port or warehouse – or your new home address).

You have two main options for car transportation services. The first is ro-ro (roll-on roll-off), where your car is transported on a cargo ship solely used for vehicle freight. Another option is putting your car in a container along with your other belongings, and shipping them together.

Your freight quote should clearly state all other services you have asked for with your car transportation service: delivery to a specified place in the destination country, customs clearance, export declaration, bill of lading, marine shipping insurance, shrink-wrapping, crating, loading, container drayage, paperwork, and fumigation. Make sure every service you need is on the quote before instructing a cargo company.


CIF (cost, insurance and freight) is the most common type of sea freight used by people moving their belongings abroad. With CIF your freight transporter company takes responsibility for your container (or containers) and all its contents until it arrives in your destination country – this includes insuring all contents for loss or damage.


Convenient container tracking services are offered by lots of cargo companies now. This sort of service lets you see on a map exactly where your container is at any time – great peace of mind. Lots of big cargo companies provide this service for free, so look out for this feature if you think it’s something you’d take advantage of.

How is the Cost Calculated?

Shipping costs come down to the cubic volume of your shipment and the distance it needs to travel. If you want the peace of mind that accompanies a door-to-door cargo service, expect to pay quite a lot more for the privilege. Your shipping quote should cover all possible extra fees that can be involved with freight, so make sure the shipping companies you talk to give you a fully itemised quote that includes customs inspection fees and import duties. Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best quote, and don’t rule out a bit of haggling to get the best price!