Shipping From China To Australia. The process, costs and time

Roberto Efflandrin

China is one of Australia’s most important trade partners, with approximately 25% of its manufactured imports originating from there.¹ If your business is looking at working with a Chinese supplier it’s important to think about how you’ll get the goods to Australia.

This article will explore what there is to know about shipping items from China to Australia, including the process, transportation methods, and potential costs and timeframes. We’ll also let you know how Wise can help save you money when doing business internationally.

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What are the shipping methods from China to Australia?

Australian imports rely on air and sea transportation to reach the country. Which option you choose to use will depend on several factors including the size and amount of goods being shipped, your time frame for delivery and your budget.

Shipping by Air from China to Australia

Air cargo is the fastest way to ship goods to Australia, especially if you upgrade to an express shipment. The cost of air cargo can vary depending on different factors including the type of goods, size of the shipment and whether you want express delivery.

Air cargo is broadly split into two categories which have an impact on the shipping process.²

  • General cargo
  • Special cargo

Shipping General Cargo by Air from China to Australia

General cargo are goods that are considered to be safe to fly aboard an aircraft and don’t require special handling, documentation or precautions.² Here’s a few examples.

  • Textiles
  • Homewares
  • Toys
  • Hand tools
  • Mechanical parts

If your shipment only contains general cargo you could look at using a courier, logistics company, China Post or a freight forwarder to move the goods to Australia.

Shipping Special Cargo by Air from the China to Australia

Items that have specific handling, documentation or safety requirements are known as special cargo.² Here’s some of the types of goods that come under this heading.

  • Dangerous goods
  • Live animals
  • Wet cargo
  • Time and temperature sensitive goods (e.g. frozen foods)

Keep in mind that many everyday items are special cargo including some lithium battery powered devices such as phones, laptops, power banks, cameras and toys.

When choosing a service to ship your special goods you’ll likely be limited to carriers who are willing and able to handle your type of special goods. For example, not all services are able to organise the shipment of live animals.

It’s likely you’ll need to engage a logistics company or freight forwarder to assist you. Ideally, look for one that has experience managing your type of special good.

Shipping by Sea from the China to Australia

Sea freight from China to Australia is a slower but more economical option for shipping large quantities of goods to Australia.

Who you choose to handle your sea freight will depend on the size of the shipment. For a few boxes or pallets, China Post, a courier or a logistics company may make the most sense. If you’re looking to ship enough to fill or partially fill a sea container, a shipping agent or freight forwarder might be better suited to help.


Some popular shipping companies from China to Australia

You have lots of options when it comes to companies that ship goods from China to Australia. Here’s a few to get you started.

Package to Pallet Sized Shipping

  • China Post
  • DHL
  • Parcel International
  • DFH Logistics

Sea Freight Shipping Agencies

  • Maersk
  • Ocean Network Express (ONE)
  • COSCO Shipping

Freight Forwarders

  • BCR Australia
  • Freightos Group
  • SINO Shipping

What are the typical costs of shipping goods from China to Australia

There are many factors that influence the cost of shipping goods from China to Australia.

  • Size and shape of goods
  • Weight
  • General cargo or special cargo
  • Air or sea freight
  • Express or standard
  • Cargo insurance (if needed)

To give you an idea, here's a few estimates for the cost of shipping general cargo from Shanghai, China to Sydney, Australia using DHL.

DHL Shipping Type³Cost (Excluding VAT)
Port to Port Sea Freight

2 cardboard cartons, 50kg of goods total

From $885.69 AUD
Economy Airmail

2 cardboard cartons, 50kg of goods total

From $1323.57 AUD
Port to Port Sea Freight

5 pallets, 500kg of goods total

From $2306.63 AUD
Economy Airmail

5 pallets, 500kg of goods total

From $16328.02 AUD
Port to Port Sea Freight

20ft sea container, 2000kg of goods total

From $7510.53 AUD

Keep in mind that prices fluctuate depending on global events and that these quotes are only for the cost of shipping and customs clearance, and don’t include VAT.

What are the import duties, fees to know about

On top of shipping there are some additional costs to shipping goods to Australia. It can include the following.⁴

  • Australian Government Standard Tax (GST)
  • Australian Customs duties
  • Import processing fees

Something else to keep in mind is that certain fees or invoices may need to be paid in Chinese Yuan (CNY) rather than AUD. Exchanging AUD for CNY can get expensive as many providers charge additional fees, use a poor exchange rate or add a profit margin.

Here’s where Wise can help. When you send money abroad with Wise there are no hidden fees to worry about and your money is exchanged at the real exchange rate, just like you see on Google. Doing it this way can be 6x cheaper than traditional banks and 19x cheaper than PayPal.

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What documentation is required

When you import items into Australia you’ll need to provide documentation. Exactly what you’ll need will depend on the type of goods, but could include some of the following.⁵

  • Customs Entry or Informal Clearance Document
  • Air Waybill or Bill of Lading
  • Import permit
  • The consignors details
  • Invoice with the value of the goods

Are there any shipping restrictions into Australia from China?

Australia has restrictions on some international imports, generally due to safety or biosecurity concerns. As such, you need to make sure the goods you want to bring in are legally allowed into Australia.

Some goods are restricted and you have to obtain an import permit before you can import them.

How long does shipping take from China to Australia?

Here’s a general idea of how long it takes to ship goods from Shanghai, China, to Sydney, Australia.

Shipping Method³Approximate Time Frame
Express Airmail8 days
Standard Airmail9 days
Sea Freight19-33 days

Country specific information to watch out for

  • A few times a year business in China is interrupted by national holidays which go over multiple days, such as Chinese New Year and China National Day Golden Week. During these holidays it’s possible you’ll face shipping delays.
  • English is not an official language in China so you may need to find translation apps or services to help bridge the language gap.

Wise - Paying internationally the right way

As well as offering international transfer services Wise also has an account just for businesses.

With a Wise Business account you have the ability to hold and convert 40+ currencies through a single account. There’s no monthly account fees to think about and the exchange rate is the mid-market rate.

You’ll have the option to get local account details for 10 currencies including AUD, USD, EUR and GBP, making it easier to do business in those places. You can also have a Wise debit card attached to the account which automatically takes care of currency conversions - a handy feature if you’re planning any business trips to China.

When it comes to paying suppliers, you can pay invoices in the local currency with the funds going to the recipient's local bank or Wise account.

To learn more about the Wise Business Account why not try setting one up - creating an account is free and can be done in minutes.

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  1. Parliament of Australia - Australia’s economic relationships with China
  2. IATA - What Types of Cargo are Transported by Air
  3. DHL - Get a Quote Routing
  4. Australian Border Force - Cost of importing goods
  5. International Trade Administration - Import Requirements and Documentation

Sources checked on: 6 JULY 2022

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This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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