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Shipping from China to Amazon FBA - How to do it?

Posted by felixanderson on May 16th, 2019

The tricky part of shipping from China to Amazon FBA comes in after you have completed your order and it has gone through the inspection process. That part is when you are swamped with all the confusing shipping terminologies, and you don't know where to go from there.

This article will provide you a comprehensive guide that discusses the different intricacies and methods of shipping alongside the pros and cons of the different methods.

The Three Possible Methods of Shipment

Note that the transportation cost, time and intricacies vary from method to method. Hence, it is advised for you to do your homework in regards to your budget and schedule properly and thoroughly. The first of these methods is:


This is the most convenient and quickest method of transportation for a comparatively smaller quantity of goods usually less than 1000lb’s. This is done through a courier company, which means they will be overseeing all customs related issues. Courier companies like DHL, FedEx, UPS and more carry out these services.

Shipping costs are charged by express companies relative to either the dimensional weight or real weight of the product whichever exceeds the other. The delivery cost that companies charge however is not a constant value and may vary for instance FedEx usually charges - per kg. Your average express company like FedEx, however, will not ship products that contain batteries, liquid or powder.

In order to ship such products, one would have to resort to a regulated products shipping express that usually charges up to 100% more than normal express companies. Shipping through express companies generally costs more per kg than other methods of shipping. However, it takes less time this way.

For instance, the FedEx International Priority delivery service for emergencies takes 2-3 working days while the International Economy delivery service takes 4-5 working days.

Sea Freight

With regards to sea and air shipping, there are two pricing terms you need to know about. The Freight on Board or (FOB) and the Ex Works or (EXW). The FOB pricing quote can, for instance, mean that the supplier will let the goods remain at the factory after he/she is done with them.

An EXW pricing quote can mean the opposite whereby the supplier will have to deliver the finished goods to the nearest port. There are three transportation steps within this. The product is transported from the supplier's warehouse to the port, from the port in China to the port in the US and from there to your address. Two freight forwarders, one operating from the the US and one from China carry out this process.

You can either find your own Amazon freight forwarder or have your supplier find one for you. The cost of shipping from the sea is the least of all the three methods. However, it is also the most complicated method with all the customs clearance, import/export issues.

Hence, a freight forwarder is recommended to cater to these issues. The cost of shipping from the sea is variable and changes from month to month and region to region. For instance, the cost of shipping from China to Amazon FBA & Western U.S is less than Eastern U.S. The two different types of shipments are:

Less than Container Load (LCL)

The most widely used ocean shipment is the Less Than Container Load shipment or LCL. If the shipment is less than 18 cubic meters, it is an LCL shipment. This means that your shipment will be sharing containers with other products.

Full Container Load (FCL)

If your shipment is more than 18 cubic meters, then it is likely to be an FCL shipment, which is usually shipped to an Amazon warehouse straight away without having it unloaded. There are various container sizes available if one wants to make an FCL shipment.

Container Size

Topmost Capacity


Internal Dimensions (Meters)

Door Dimensions (Meters)

Maximum Cargo Weight (Varied by Carrier and Mode)

Standard 20’


Length= 5.89m

 Width= 2.33m

Height= 2.38m

Width= 2.33m

Height= 2.28m

21,727 kg

Standard 40’


Length= 12.01m

Width= 2.33m

Height= 2.38m

Width= 2.33m

Height= 2.28m

26,780 kg

High Cube 40’


Length= 12.056m

Width= 2.347m

Height= 2.684m

Width= 2.34m

Height= 2.58m

26,330 kg

High Cube 45’


Length= 13.56m

Width= 2.35m

Height= 2.70m

Width= 2.34m

Height= 2.58m

25,610 kg

Although cheap, sea freight is time consuming due to a number of factors. Seasonal behaviors and obstacles at ports may negatively impact shipping time. The average time of transportation from China to Amazon warehouses is 30 days if the warehouses are located in West U.S and 40 days if they are located in East U.S.

Air Freight

If your cargo is more than 200 kg, it is recommended to use a freight forwarder. For less than 200 kg you can go through your supplier since freight forwarders are too expensive for shipments less than 200 kg. Products that are shipped by airfreight will be charged relative to their dimensional weight.

The airfreight costs almost the same as express shipping although it may take a few days more. The time is dependent on the chosen flight. The cost of airfreight shipping fluctuates and is variable due to things like the exchange rate between USD and CNY changing. You also have to consider customs intricacies, and import/export fees of China and the U.S. Whether or not air shipping is better or worse than sea shipping is dependent on the weight and volume of the order.

If you are shipping a comparatively lighter product, which takes, up less space, then air shipping is viable. On the contrary for larger products that take up a lot of space, sea shipping is feasible.

The Three Possible Processes of Shipment

Shipping Directly from China to Amazon

In order to ship directly from China, it is essential for you to direct your Chinese supplier to prepare your goods completely in accordance with FBA guidelines. This is a more viable option for shipments from express and air since they are more expensive. The process of directly shipping the order to Amazon is simple. 

  • You create your shipment and make sure that you are only shipping to one FC (Fulfillment Centre) in case of sea shipping.
  • Make your supplier attach barcodes to each item individually alongside carton labels to every master carton and pallet labels to each side of a pallet (in case shipping of shipping pallets.
  • Arrange a door-to-door service from China with the help of your freight forwarder.

Shipping to Amazon through a Middleman

Certain prep shipping companies act as third parties to these shipment processes. The third-party logistics company take hold of your shipment from China, and either they ship it to Amazon from you or store it in a warehouse. They help with the shipment process and simultaneously check the labels of the goods, and the first one is the receiving fee, which is normally - per carton or - per pallet.

Then comes the pick/pack fee, which is for shipping the goods to Amazon FBA, which is normally around -. If there are any labels like barcodes, a labeling fee is charged which is usually --content--.1---content--.25. Lastly, there is the storage fee, which has a varying price.

Both of these methods have certain pros and cons as outlined in the following table.

Direct to Amazon

Using Middleman


  • Cheaper due to less transit costs and not having to pay a third-party
  • Reduction in time that it takes for the product to reach the warehouse
  • You can double check the quality of the product when it arrives
  • Chinese suppliers do not come across your sales strategies
  • Due to the middleman, the shipment is less likely to be rejected by FBA
  • Ability to use partnered carriers and it is easier to divide shipments


  • Unable to inspect the products when they reach
  • Have to send products to different warehouses and not one location as per Amazon’s requests.
  • Unable to us partnered carriers for assistance
  • The costs previously mentioned can be extensive when applied practically
  • It takes more time for the product to reach the FBA

When should you use a middle-man?

It is recommended to use a middle-man if you are launching the business and it's your initial shipment to China. In other cases, if you have financial troubles associated shipments sent from China save funds.

When to Ship Directly?

In the scenario that you need to have your products reach Amazon as soon as possible due to a time constraint, direct shipping is viable. Since direct shipping is significantly less expensive than using a middle-man, it allows for a longer association with your supplier.

Shipping to your home first

Another possible option is shipping to your home first. The most important benefit you gain from this is lessening the likelihood of getting bad reviews with regards to the quality of your product. This is because you will be able to inspect the quality of the product yourself and make sure you don't have your listing closed due to bad reviews.

If any quality problems are discovered, it is also possible for you to have them fixed with the help of your family, which reduces the labor cost of having it fixed by a third-party company, who often don't have the resources to fix them. This, however, is only a feasible option if someone resides within the U.S.

Why is it beneficial to Outsource Custom Clearance?

Custom clearance procedures are complex and very delicate since a single mishap can delay the entire shipment. In order to bypass this hassle, it is recommended to use a customs broker. The most important reason for outsourcing customs clearance is that it allows you to communicate directly with the freight forwarded in case of an issue instead of the supplier. The suppliers often times don't clearly know about the intricacies of customs clearance.

Since customs verifications vary from product to product, the process is complicated further, and hence a customs broker will save you the trouble. In the case of imports of toys and electronics, it is plausible to have your own compliance certificate since it won't cost a lot.

However, if you are importing expensive products, for instance, mobile phones or hoverboards etc., you need to have a specific kind of compliance certificate. Noncompliance of the certification can result in a fine of up to 15.5 million dollars.

Miscellaneous Details

  1. When shipping it is important to make sure your products are wrapped in some sort of casing, so they aren't dusted. It is also important to stuff the cartons and pad them so that fragile items if any don’t break or get damaged due to contact with each other.
  1. It is recommended to ship via pallet right from the originating point if your shipment is fragile. If it isn't palletized it stateside.
  1. You can track your shipment from Amazon Seller Central.
  1. It is advised to buy freight insurance since your cargo will be traveling a long way before arriving which increases the risk of damage. Simultaneously almost 50% of freight claims are denied by carriers. In case of damage, more expenses might come forth if the carriers deny liability and you take the option to sue.
  1. Make sure all your shipping documents, for instance, Bill of lading and commercial invoice are complete and available.


Conclusively it is important to understand that shipping from China to Amazon FBA is an extensive and intricate process that requires for you to really pay attention to detail. This is to say that the smallest of mishaps can result in your shipment being delayed and hence you incurring further expenses.

Furthermore, there are specific situations where specific ways and methods of shipping are more viable. For instance, for a startup business shipping through a middle-man is more viable while shipping via sea is more viable for higher volume products that take up a lot of space.

However, it is not possible for one to establish one specific way of shipment as the most feasible since all of them are dependent on the financial conditions, time constraints and business model of a specific firm.

Also See: Amazon Fba, Middle Man, Freight Forwarder, 2 33m, Shipping, Shipment, Sea

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