Freight Forwarding Services From China to Australia

Port of Shanghai

Importing goods from China into Australia?

Freight Forwarding Services From China to Australia

Dealing with numerous parties overseas and in Australia can be both challenging and time-consuming. As freight forwarders, we act as a single point of contact to arrange everything-shipping, from origin to final destination. We already have connections with the best carriers, transport operators, overseas agents and a team of in-house customs brokers to make the import process as seamless as possible. We can accommodate any requirement you may have:

  • Pick-up, packing and buyer’s consolidation
  • Competitive FCL rates
  • Weekly LCL consolidation services
  • Management of door-to-door shipments
  • Port handling and inland transportation
  • Project shipments

Since 2015, Australian businesses can import most goods from China without needing to pay import duty. We help you benefit from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Learn more about this agreement with our Guide for Importers and Exporters working out of China


Our Services

As an Australian-owned B2B commercial freight forwarding company with over 35 years’ experience, ICE have imported a wide range of goods from China to Australia. This includes industrial machinery, pumps, pipes & machinery parts, building materials & tiles, telecommunications equipment, commercial kitchen supplies, furniture, fixtures and fittings, electronic devices, apparel, shoes, toys and games, solar panels, shade structures, sporting goods, lighting products, tools, and industrial parts.

hong kong air freight

China – Australia Shipping Process

We collect the cargo from your supplier

If you are buying on EXW incoterms, we will arrange the pick-up from the supplier in China. If you are shipping on FOB terms, your supplier will be responsible for packing and sending the goods to the port or airport in China.

We organise the documentation

Working with your suppliers we will obtain a Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Packing Declaration and Certificate of Origin (to get an import duty exemption) and any other relevant documentation.

We book international freight

Ocean/ Sea freight, air freight, or international express courier based on your cargo’s specifications (weight, size, fragility, urgency, etc).

The goods get sent (via air or sea)

We send the shipping invoice for your payment confirmation and send you the sea/air freight tracking number.

We organise local customs clearance

We review your shipping documentation, prepare import or export declarations and permits, check your shipping documents and ensure your business is compliant with biosecurity (quarantine) requirements.

Final Delivery

Our cartage team arranges delivery from port or airport to your premises or we can arrange warehousing until you are ready to receive the goods.

routing & Transit times

Routes from China to Australia

For the East Coast of Australia, there are direct weekly service options to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne taking approximately 19-25 days, door to door.

There are no direct services for the West Coast of Australia, only transhipment services stopping at Singapore. When importing from China to Fremantle, allow approximately 18-29 days, port to port.

Air freight from China to Australia takes approximately 4-11 days, port to port.

Express shipping goods via courier from China to Australia is another option, taking approximately 3-5 working days. Express shipping is a door-to-door service provided by international couriers such as FedEx, DHL, TNT Express or UPS.

New service options and port rotations are constantly being implemented by carriers. At the time of quoting, ICE will provide the best service options available based on your shipment’s origin and destination.

*Indicative only from OOCL for general reference. Every shipping line offers different service options. ICE will advise on the best carrier and shipping route option on quotation.



  • Air freight is available for shipments weighing at least 45 kilograms.
  • Sea freight is available for shipments with the minimum of 1 pallet or volume of 1 cubic meter.
  • For anything less than that, you should consider an international courier instead.
  • ICE handles commercial freight for Australian Registered Businesses (must have an ABN). We don’t handle personal effects (such as personal items, cars, boats, alcohol, and furniture), perishables (fresh produce), and small one-off consignments.


Your Cargo In Safe Hands 

ICE is where premium service meets freight forwarding. With a strength in customer service and exceptional support, working with ICE translates into peace of mind. Learn more about the ICE Team today

  • In-house customs brokers
  • 35+ years’ experience
  • Personable, experienced and knowledgeable staff
  • Local teams, with offices across Australia
  • Completely tailored shipping solutions
  • Single source for all your freight needs
  • Easy and direct communication
  • Direct access to our Senior Management
Freight Forwarding Services From China to Australia


China-Australia Frequently Asked Questions

Does ‘Direct Service’ mean direct to the port of arrival I booked to?

A ‘Direct Service’ means direct to Australia, not direct to the port you booked to.

Vessels from China typically call the ports of Sydney and Melbourne first and then make their way back up to Brisbane, depending on the port rotation established by the shipping line. So please note that the term direct service is used generically for direct shipping into Australia, only.

ICE can advise what port rotations are scheduled on your direct service and provide an ETA for when your cargo will be available at the port of arrival.

How much does sea freight cost from China to Australia?

Shipping costs vary highly depending on your cargo type, the carrier, the weight and size of your cargo, if it is a door to door or port to port service and any other specifics (such as dangerous goods or sensitive cargo).

Freight rates of a standard 20’ container can start as low as $3,000. But the true cost will be calculated after adding import duty, fee-based on the value of the goods, transportation fees, insurance, surcharges, GST, and any other applicable charges. This is without accounting for any external events that affect costs, such as port congestion, labour strikes or capacity crunches, which are not uncommon in the industry.

Some online services offer instant freight rates, but only a freight forwarder will be able to provide an accurate quote considering all your specific requirements (time, budget, cargo type, insurance), instead of automatically charging a higher markup to cover any potential costs.

How much does airfreight cost from China to Australia?

Airfreight is priced based on chargeable weight (or volumetric ratios), which are used to ensure the weight or size of your cargo are considered in equal measure when shipping.

For example, you are shipping something light like toilet rolls. The toilet rolls only weigh 100kgs, however, they take up a lot of space: over 5 cubic meters. The airline will now charge you a volumetric weight to cover the space taken up on the aircraft.

We have a volumetric rate calculator to help you. Once you’ve got the chargeable weight, you’ll forwarder will be able to provide you with a quote.

As a rule of thumb, standard air freight is the cheapest option for shipments between 150 kilos and 500 kg.  Once a shipment weighs more than 500 kg, ocean freight should be considered if your cargo is not urgent.

How long does it take to ship from China to Australia?

Sea freight from China to Australia takes approximately 23-45 days, door to door. Typically, Full Container Load (FCL) offers quicker transit times than Less Container Load (LCL), as the container isn’t shared with other shipments.

Air freight from China to Australia takes about 7-10 days, door to door.

*LCL takes a bit longer as your goods need to be deconsolidated from the container before they can be delivered.

“I need it urgently off the boat! Can you get my container first?”

Unfortunately, we don’t have control on vessel unloading and accessing containers in a specified order. When your container will be uplifted depends on the cargo stack. Heavy cargo will automatically sit on the bottom of the vessel, for safety and weight distribution purposes.

It can take up to 5 days (typically 2 days) for a container to be offloaded from a vessel, depending on how far back and accessible the container is.

Once available at the wharf, we usually have three days to collect before demurrage charges apply.

How much is the Import Customs and Duties from China to Australia?

China and Australia have an FTA in place (ChAFTA) that eliminates import duty tax from most goods manufactured and imported from China.

For goods valued under AUD1,000 there are no customs and duty fees, allowing direct receipt of your items from China to Australia. However, it’s important not to intentionally underdeclare the value to avoid potential fines.

For goods valued above AUD1,000, you will typically have to pay:

Import Duty: 5% value of the goods— or NO tax if you present a Certificate of Origin.

GST: 10% goods and services tax (Value of goods + freight + insurance + duty * 10%)

Custom Clearance fee: this is charged by the broker to provide their services.

What do I need to consider for customs clearance if importing from China?

What documents are required to ship from China to Australia?

To ship from China to Australia, you will need the following documents, at minimum:

  • commercial Invoice – a document that states who is buying the goods from whom, including the agreed shipping terms;
  • Packing List – this document outlines all the details of your freight such as how your goods have been packed. This allows for reduced inspection times in the event some cargo needs to be looked at as it can be easily located within your consignment
  • Packing Declaration (for sea freight only) – These are mandatory for shipping into Australia, and declare what kind of material has been used to pack goods. If the material contains wood, straw or bark, the goods will require a fumigation/treatment certificate;
  • Certificate of Origin, which declares details of the country in which your goods are manufactured. You will need this declaration to benefit from the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement, allowing you to pay zero or lower import duty on goods imported from China.
  • Letter of Credit (optional). A letter of credit is a formal agreement that legally binds both parties in an international trade transaction.  It spells out the financial and other responsibilities between both parties.

Depending on the type of goods, you may also be required permits, certificates, or licenses. Whenever this applies, our team will notify you ahead of time so you’re better prepared to make the necessary arrangements.

What are the best incoterms for importing from China?

Incoterms are the terms of trade that buyer and supplier agree on before shipping so each party knows who is responsible for what in the shipping process (like who should arrange insurance, who should arrange transport and customs clearance).

The best incoterms for importing from China are EXW and FOB, as they give the importer the most control over each aspect of the shipment and full visibility of what’s being charged.

EXW indicates that you have full responsibility (and control) for bringing the goods from origin to destination. You must find someone to pick up cargo at the supplier’s warehouses and deliver to the port of export. The product price stated in EXW terms is only the product cost, and the supplier does not provide any shipping or exporting services. Under EX Works incoterms, you are responsible for everything in the shipping process.

FOB stands for Free On Board. The supplier bears the entire expense of delivering products to a Chinese port or airport, as well as the cost of exporting. You only need to arrange an Australian freight forwarder to book the freight, customs clear the goods, handle cargo pick up at the port in Australia and transport to its final destination.

Often suppliers push for CIF or CFR terms where they book and control the freight. However, if the freight is booked overseas it is often at a discounted rate and results in really high port charges on arrival in Australia for the importer (as shipping lines essentially then charge the importer the full freight rate to make up for the supplier ‘discount’).

What goods cannot be imported from China to Australia?

Here are some of the prohibited import goods that require an import permit in Australia:

    • Biosecurity risk items: plants, seeds, animal products, soil, woolpacks, certain breeds of pets, fresh foodstuffs like un-canned meat, eggs, fish, fruits and dairy, and any products that could pose a threat to Australia’s environment or agriculture. Some products such as straw objects, potpourri, and pine cones, used agricultural machinery and anything with soil or biological residue need to be treated for hygiene before entry, presenting a cleanliness certificate.

    • Medicines and pharmaceuticals: steroids, animal growth hormones, medicines and drugs require permits to ensure they meet safety standards.

    • Hazardous goods: pesticides, explosives, mercury, radioactive substances.

    • Firearms: including accessories, firearm parts, firearm magazines, ammunition, imitation firearms, paintball markers and airsoft firearms.

    • Weapons: daggers, blades, spikes, karambits, throwing knives/blades/axes, push knives, non-metallic, ceramic knives, pepper sprays, extendable or telescopic batons.

    • Other items: tobacco, lighters, vaping goods, glazed ceramic ware, certain incandescent lamps, body armour, laser pointers, pornography and objectionable materials, tablet presses and encapsulator machines.

Air cargo is even more restrictive than sea cargo, including gases (e.g. lamp bulbs), all things flammable (e.g. perfume, some mobile phones), toxic or corrosive items (e.g. batteries), magnetic substances (e.g. speakers), oxidizers and biochemical products (e.g. chemical medicines), and public health risks (e.g. untanned hides).

Find the complete list of prohibited imported goods in Australia here.

When is the best time to ship from China?

During the holiday season, most businesses in China close or operate with skeleton staff, reducing the supply of goods and services and consequently increasing delays. Vessel capacity is significantly tighter pre-holidays, as most shippers place their bookings early to secure their goods ahead of the holidays. Plan your supply chain around the Chinese calendar to avoid unnecessary delays or extra freight costs.

  • The Chinese New Year is the main holiday in China, taking place from late January to early February (exact dates change annually based on the lunar calendar), and lasting about 16 days. During this time, business shut down for 3-5 weeks for celebrations. Many factories pause production, so shippers should place their orders in advance to avoid price hikes and delays. Note: It takes 4-6 weeks for factories and port operations to return to normal levels after the CNY holidays.

chinese new year international shipping timeline

  • The Golden Week celebration lasts for a whole week from 1st October. This week-long festival exacerbates holiday season price spikes and delays.
  • The Dragon Boat Festival follows the lunar calendar in June. Factories and other units may not operate for three days, causing potential delays.
  • From July to October, the Christmas shopping season begins. During this peak time, freight costs rise steadily as all businesses place their orders at the same time.

What is the maximum weight that a container can have to be sent from China to Australia?

The international maritime convention, SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea), has issued a set of strict regulations that must be followed by shippers. Failure to comply can result in fines.

  • 20’ containers can have a maximum load of 24,947Kg to 28,122Kg.
  • 40’ containers can have a maximum load of 26,852Kg to 27,669Kg.
  • 40’ HC (High Cube) containers can have a maximum load of 28,122Kg.
  • 45’ HC container have a limit of 27,864Kg.

How do I minimise costs from China-Australia?

  • Ship off-peak. During shipping peak season (such as on the lead of Christmas and Chinese New Year), there is more shipping demand than vessel capacity available, and both shipping prices and transit times go up. Ship during off-peak seasons whenever you can.
  • Get your documentation in order. Ensure you have all documentation in place ahead of time for a smooth customs clearance. Missing information, incorrect documentation, and even a typo can result in costly delays.
  • Know your HS Codes. A lot of shippers are surprised by how much customs fees can affect business costs. Arrange a customs broker to find the right HS Code for each one of your products, or ask for a customs audit if you are unsure your goods have been classified correctly. You may even be eligible for a tariff concession or a customs refund if not.
  • Lean on your forwarder. Give as much detail about your requirements as possible and let us demonstrate our expertise by finding the best shipping solution available for your cargo.