International Freight Forwarder and Customs Broker Based in China

A Comprehensive Guide to Ship From China to Singapore

Table of Contents

Shipping goods from China to Singapore is an extremely popular route for businesses of all sizes due to China’s status as the manufacturing hub of the world and Singapore’s strategic location as an Asian shipping hub. Many companies are importing goods from Chinese factories to sell in Singapore or to incorporate into their regional supply chains based out of Singapore.

However, international shipping is complex and requires dealing with various customs regulations, import duties and taxes, shipping providers, delivery times and costs. This comprehensive guide covers in detail everything you need to know about shipping from China to Singapore.

Methods for Shipping from China to Singapore

There are three main options for transporting cargo from China to Singapore, each with their own pros, cons and specifics regarding cost, speed and any item restrictions or shipment size limitations:

1. Air Express Shipping

Air express offers the fastest possible shipping times from China to Singapore at an expensive premium cost. This option is best suited for urgent deliveries or shipping smaller items, high value goods or perishable cargo.

The leading global logistics providers for China to Singapore air express services include:

●DHL Express – Offers time definite express shipping with a money back guarantee. Can deliver within 1 business day between many locations in China and Singapore based on cut off times. Features online tracking and a range of additional services such as dangerous goods shipping and temperature controlled options. However they have the most stringent size and weight limits per piece for China to Singapore shipments that vary based on final destination postcode in Singapore. Generally max dimensions per express parcel are 120cm length x 60cm width x 60cm height. Maximum weight typically capped at 70kg per shipment piece or 150cm length and girth combined.

●FedEx Express – Very similar service with time guarantees and online tracking. Slightly more lenient dimension limits of 150cm length + girth and a max weight of 150kg per shipment piece. Can take longer than DHL for certain China to Singapore lane options with transit times of 2 business days common.

●UPS Express – Also promises delivery by end of next possible business day for many China addresses shipped to Singapore. Max piece weight is 150kg and dimensions are 300cm maximum length + girth. Similar online tracking and guaranteed on time delivery backing. Rates can be slightly cheaper than FedEx but surcharges apply more easily for oversized cargo.

From a pricing perspective for door to door air express services, transport charges are calculated based on actual or volumetric weight and destination in Singapore postcode. Expect costs starting from around $9 SGD per kg as a baseline which can vary substantially based on seasonality, fuel surcharges and peak demand periods where rates can exceed $15 SGD per kg. Given courier firms use Light Classification Weight (LCW) for billing in many cases, low density cargo such as textiles or plastic goods often get oversized LCW treatment pushing costs higher too.

Customs clearance should be slightly faster with air express vs freight options but shipments are more prone to physical inspection if selected, which can add delays. Using a courier broker for customs entry rather than the shipper’s own account can reduce holds and intervention from overly strict product descriptions. Either way, clearing takes on average 1-3 working days once express parcels arrive at Changi airport cargo terminals.

2. Air Freight Shipping

While slower and less expensive than air express services, air freight from China to Singapore still provides reasonably quick cargo transit times compared to sea shipments. Standard air freight delivery typically ranges from around 3 days up to 2 weeks port to port.

The main variables impacting air freight delivery lead times from China airports to Singapore include:

●Cargo origin airport in China
●Consolidation processes where LCL shipments need to accumulate volume before despatch if not sending full charter load
●Frequency of direct airline connections vs indirect routings
●Connection times during aircraft transshipments
●Peak period demand where more cargo is flowing south China to Singapore

In comparison to courier air express, costs are lower primarily due to larger shipment sizes, slower transits accepted and less stringent cargo acceptance specifications. Where an upper weight limit per piece often applies using express services, air freight allows heavier individual items and denser products generally. Dimensional limits can stretch beyond 5-6 meters length for long, irregularly shaped single pieces in many cases too.

Expect approx air freight rates from China ranging $3-$6 SGD per kilogram to Singapore for mostly direct services. Cost savings compared to courier options come from the consolidation of cargo where your shipment shares container space with other goods in contrast to door to door exclusivity. Savings also arise from less priority handling and relaxed size/weight profiles. Slowing things down further can bring rates closer to $2 SGD per kg but will bump out transit days.

From a customs clearance perspective, standard air freight shipments on average take 2-4 working days to process once cargo flights touch down at Changi Airport in Singapore. This sees regular air cargo typically clearing customs faster than sea shipments but slower than time sensitive express deliveries.

3. Sea Freight Shipping

Ocean freight shipping provides importers with the most cost efficient method for moving high volumes of goods or very dense, heavy cargo between China and Singapore. The trade off for rock bottom transport rates is much longer overall shipment times compared to air options.

Regular sea freight transit times port to port from China loading to Singapore discharge widely range from just under 2 weeks for quick direct services from neighbouring Chinese ports, right up to an average of 30 days and in some cases over 45 days port to port.

The huge gap stems from variables like:

●Large variety of vessel sailing frequencies across so many China ports
●Quick point A to point B direct calls vs ships stopping at several additional regional ports en route to split cargo
●Prioritisation of Singapore deliveries – Some services cater more for this trade lane over others
●Time spent navigating congestion issues at Singapore terminal during peak discharge programs

Cost wise, ocean freight provides Sthe most cost effective means for shipping large volumes of goods between China and Singapore. Unlike air transport options which charge predominately on a per kg rate, sea freight discounts substantially with volume. It uses a more complex mix of charging mechanisms.

The two standard options for China to Singapore sea freight are:

A) FCL (Full Container Load)

This involves renting an entire 20ft or 40ft container exclusively for your goods from origin loading at a Chinese depot or port through to final delivery address in Singapore. Prices are quoted on a fixed lump sum basis taking declared cargo parameters into account. An advantage is avoiding costs for intermediate handling, storage and added transport legs needed in consol services. Ocean carriers publish varying FCL rates weekly based on public schedules and surcharges. Quotes need requesting from forwarders. Expect prices to sit very broadly around $2000-$4000 SGD for a full 20ft and $3000-$6000 SGD range for a 40ft container from China to Singapore. FCL suits larger shipments needing to fill at least 12 pallets spaces in a 40ft and 6 inside a 20ft container size.

B) LCL (Less than Container Load)

As the name suggests LCL suits smaller air or ocean shipments not requiring a full size container. Cost savings stem from your goods sharing a container with cargo from other importers. Consolidation hub ports in China assemble compatible cargo until enough volume is reached to completely fill and despatch an ocean container directly to Singapore. Your items are co-loaded at origin and deconsolidated at destination to respective consignees. Higher costs come from extra transport and handling legs at both ends moving your items into/out of warehouses and intermediate storage areas. Rates are quoted on a price per cubic meter basis – often in the range $50-$150 SGD p/cbm from China first port to Singapore port. Suits smaller imports up to around 15 cubic meters (CBM) volume. Major Asian ocean carriers such as Evergreen, Yang Ming, Cosco all run frequent LCL services China to Singapore.

In addition to standard dry sea containers, reefer containers equipped with active integral refrigeration cater for chilled or frozen goods needing temperature control throughout freight movements. There are also variations like open tops, flat racks, tank containers and so on to accommodate unique loads.

From a customs clearance standpoint, standard sea freight shipments on FCL or LCL services take anywhere from 1 to 6 working days to fully process once cargo arrives and undergoes discharge at ports in Singapore. Containers requiring inspection face extra delays on top of regular processing times.

Prohibited and Restricted Items for Import in Singapore

Before arranging your shipment, importers shipping inventory from suppliers and factories in China to Singapore need to be across regulations enforced by Singapore Customs regarding prohibited and restricted items. Penalties for trying to import illegal goods can be severe, involving hefty fines, criminal charges and confiscated cargo.

Broadly, prohibited merchandise falls under the following categories:

●Weapons, Firearms and Explosives
●Obscene or Sedition Materials
●Endangered Animals and Flora Restricted by CITES
●Unapproved Therapeutic and Tobacco Products
●Certain Telecommunications and Surveillance Equipment
●Pirated Intellectual Property and Copyrighted Media
●Counterfeit Currency or Official Documents

Additionally heavy restrictions apply across items like:

●Meat and Poultry – Requires Approved Country Sourcing and Halal Certification
●Plants and Vegetation – Phyto certificates needed
●Pharmaceuticals – Strict Licencing Laws
●Cigarettes and Tobacco – Only Allowed under Permit from Select Approved Countries in Limited Quantities

Penalties for breaching prohibited items laws in Singapore include up to 3 years imprisonment plus caning and fines in excess of $100,000 SGD depending on exact offences.

Checking precise HS codes and product descriptors is crucial using Singapore Customs free search tools ahead of any shipment from China to avoid severe punishment. Reaching out to seek professional customs advisory services is highly recommended for importers unsure of import licensing laws for commodities they intend to ship.

Singapore Import Duties and Taxes

One of Singapore’s major advantages as a trading hub is the broadly zero rated import duties applied on most products entering the country by sea and air. However importers still need to contend with goods and services tax (GST) and a few specific excisable commodities:

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

●Calculated at 7% of the Cost including Insurance & Freight (CIF) value
●Applied on all imports into Singapore exceeding S$400 SGD customs value
●Low value consignment relief available sub $400 threshold

The only generally imposed import tax, GST must be accounted for in your landed shipment prices and any sales margins built in later on if you plan to sell imported cargo in Singapore. This tax also applies equally on restricted products allowed under permit such as tobacco and alcohol imports from approved countries only.

Excise Duties

Outside of GST which applies widely, the only other import taxes imposed in Singapore are explicit excise duties targeting tobacco, fuels, motor vehicles and alcohol products:

●Tobacco and Tobacco Products – Excise duty levied based on weight and type of tobacco imports
●Intoxicating Liquors and Beverages Exceeding 30% Alcohol – Excise duty calculated based on pure alcohol volume
●Motor Vehicles – Tax typically around 40% levied on Open Market Value
●Petroleum Products – Selected oil products have excise duty

Unlike blanket GST, excise duty applies strictly only to merchandise matching categories above rather than all imports. Singapore carefully restricts taxing imports to help attract international trade and foreign investment as an Asian hub nation.

Checking any taxes applicable on your intended China imports again involves searching your products HS codes or local product registration number listed on the Singapore Customs website.

Shipping Times from China to Singapore

Sea and air transit times for moving various goods from Chinese ports and airports through to eventual delivery in Singapore can vary enormously:

Air Express Couriers

1-3 days typical from China to Singapore

Air Freight Services

3 days up to 2 weeks delivery time

Sea Freight (FCL and LCL)

14-28 days for fast direct services
Up to 45 days for slower indirect routes

These figures generally refer to port to port transit times. Using different incoterms other than the commonly quoted CIF and FOB terms then adds potential inland transport legs at both origin and destination along with import/export clearance responsibilities.

If sourcing goods from up in Northern Chinese provinces, certain cargo flights may route through transit hubs such as Shanghai or Guangzhou extending standard published schedules.

Seasonal peak demand from July through October tends to congest major Asian air and ocean freight routes which can bump out delivery lead times on all modes. Most services also do not operate overnight or across weekends/public holidays in China and Singapore so quoting buffer days to clients is common to meet deadlines.

When planning production schedules around shipment times from China to Singapore, allowing flexibility is key to avoid disruption from temporary customs holds, declarations requiring amendment and unavoidable carrier delays.

Cost of Shipping from China to Singapore

Real world transport prices to ship manufactured goods and industrial components from Chinese origins down to Singapore can deviate substantially from quick online freight calculator estimates which fail to factor common surcharges, seasonal rises and currency variability:

Air Express Couriers

Approx $9-$15 SGD per kg including all fees

Air Freight

Around $3-$8 SGD per kg dependent on variables

Sea Freight (Full Container Load)

Roughly $2-$4 SGD per kg for a 20ft and $3-$5 SGD per kg in a 40ft container

Sea Freight (Less than Container Load)

About $1-$3 SGD per cubic metre all inclusive

Lower volume air and sea consolidations along with LCL freight tends to ultimately work out more expensive than per unit prices may indicate when full origin and destination side fees tally up. Part charters suit larger volumes.

Factor in at least 10-20% fluctuations on top of base transport rates to account for volatile fuel, seasonal and currency conversion changes. Using established freight forwarders helps leverage buying power and yield discounts – avoiding simply taking a carrier spot rate.


1. What documents are mandatory for exporting goods from China through to customs clearance in Singapore?

Exporting cargo out of China requires a commercial invoice, packing declaration, Bill of Lading (sea freight) or Master Air Waybill (air freight), Certificate of Origin, Shippers Letter of Instruction plus any permits relating to the type of goods. Your freight forwarder will assist preparing documentation.

2. How long does customs clearance and release of shipments from China into Singapore typically take?

Average sea freight container processing time with Singapore Customs and port authorities ranges from 1-4 working days for standard deliveries. Air freight tends to clear faster in 1-3 days. Containers selected for physical inspection undergo longer release delays.

3. Is it best to purchase freight insurance when importing cargo from China to Singapore?

Yes, absolutely. Marine cargo insurance provides protection for lost or damaged goods in transit. Freight forwarders can arrange coverage as an additional service.

4. What are the most common Incoterms used for China to Singapore shipping?

Incoterms outline legal responsibilities between international trading partners. For China exports, common terms include:
– FOB (Free on Board)
– CIF (Cost, Insurance & Freight)
– DAP (Delivered at Place)
– DDP (Delivered Duty Paid)

5. Do professional freight forwarding services provide advantages over importing directly when shipping goods from China?

Freight forwarders offer expertise negotiating better rates, communicate reliably in your language, solve issues faster, provide extensive destination country compliance knowledge & proactively monitor consignment movements end to end. Well worth engaging.