Shipping from China to Australia: Customs, Cost, Transit Time and More [2024]

We get it, figuring out your shipping logistics isn’t the most fun part about running your business. But, it’s something that needs to be done.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner. Shipping from China to Australia is complicated, but can be easy. Keep reading to discover the perfect freight shipping options to Australia today!

shipping from China to Australia

Australia Imports Licenses/Permits

There is no requirement for importers (companies or individuals) to hold an import licence to import goods into Australia.

If you have an Australian Business Number (ABN), you need to be registered for GST purposes and have an ABN in order to claim input tax credits or access the GST deferral scheme.

Australia Imports De Minimis – AUD1,000

For most goods with a value of AUD1,000 or less, there are no duties, taxes or charges to pay.

For goods with a value over AUD1,000, you must pay all relevant duties, taxes and other charges.

Timber and Bamboo Packaging

​​​​​Timber and bamboo packaging and dunnage (loose packaging) used to support, protect or carry products for imports into Australia are subject to strict conditions.

For the purpose of biosecurity, timber and bamboo packaging are grouped into three different types:

  • permitted packaging material (that have been sufficiently processed)
  • packaging and dunnage containing solid timber (ISPM 15)
  • packaging containing bamboo

The supplier or the packer of a container is required to complete a packing declaration for containerised cargo. Only Full Container Load and Less than Container Load consignments require a mandatory packaging declaration to be presented to the department. Packing declarations are not required for air and break bulk cargo consignments.

Australia Import Clearance Declaration Cost

Generally, all goods imported into Australia are liable for duties and taxes unless an exemption or concession applies.

The minimum amount of documentation required for customs clearance comprises a completed Customs Entry or Informal Clearance Document (ICD), an air waybill (AWB) or bill of lading (BOL), as well as invoices and other documents relating to the importation.

It is recommended that you check over all documents before they are given to customs and retain copies.

Customs Value

When goods imported into Australia are invoiced in a foreign currency, that invoice amount must be converted to Australian dollars using the prevailing rate of exchange for that particular currency on the day of exportation.

The customs value of imported goods must be expressed in AUD at the rate of exchange prevailing on the day of export of the goods (not on the day the goods arrive in Australia).

  • For goods packed in a container, the day of exportation is the day the container leaves the place where it was packed.
  • For goods that are not containerised, the day of exportation is the day the vessel or aircraft departs from the port or airport at which they were loaded for export to Australia.

The most common method for valuing any import is to use the ‘transaction value’, which is the price the importer actually paid (or is going to pay) for the goods. It’s the basis for calculating ad valorem customs duty.

Customs ​​​​​​​​​​Import Processing Charge​s

The Australian Border Force (ABF) applies Import Processing Charges (IPCs) when you make a declaration for imported goods. These charges are set out in the following table.

Consignment ValueCargo ChannelCharge (AUD)
≤$1,000Sea / Air / Post$0
> $1,000- <$10,000Sea / Air / Post$50
≥$10,000Sea / Air / Post$152

Customs Duties

Importers are required to self-assess their goods, including the tariff classification of their goods. Importers have a legal obligation to correctly assess their goods, and penalties may apply for incorrect or misleading information provided to the customs.

China-Australia Free Trade Agreements

China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), which entered into force in December 2015, paves the way for the next phase of Australia’s economic relationship with China.

ChAFTA set Australian import tariffs at zero on 82 per cent of China’s exports to Australia from day one, rising to 100 per cent tariff elimination by 1 January 2019.

The FTA portal is the easiest way to determine the preferential FTA tariff rate on your product. It is searchable by key word or HS code, and contains tariff rates for both imports and exports. The heading there which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description.

The FTA portal also contains information about whether your product is likely to meet Rule of Origin (ROO) requirements. China products are subject to DCS (Developing Countries) rates of duty.

China-Australia Certificate of Origin

Once you have determined that your good will qualify for preferential tariff treatment under ChAFTA, you will need to complete the appropriate documentation to demonstrate this, should you be asked, to the importing customs authority. This can be done by using a ChAFTA Certificate of Origin (COO).

A COO must be issued by an authorised body in China and may need to be provided, on request, to customs officials in Australia.

A COO applies to a single shipment. It may cover one or more goods, but must not exceed 20 items (that is, 20 unique goods)) and may be valid for up to one year.

For importers to Australia, China’s authorised bodies are:

  • China Customs Service (GACC)
  • The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)

Customs GST – 10%

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is payable on imported goods. The importer shall pay GST at the same time and in the same manner as customs duty is paid. The rate of GST applicable on taxable importations is 10%. And the 10% is the sum of:

  • the customs value of the imported goods
  • any customs duty payable in respect of the importation of the goods
  • the amount paid or payable for the international transport of the goods to their place of consignment in Australia and to insure the goods for that transport, to the extent that the amounts are not already included in the customs value

In short, GST fee = (customs value + transport and insurance + customs duty) * 10%.

Sea Freight to Australia

Australia has an important role in world shipping due to its geographical position in the South Pacific which makes it accessible to numerous countries. Having multiple ports and harbours, Australia conducts the majority of its foreign trade via international maritime routes.

Top Container Ports in Australia

Australia’s vast coastline is dotted with significant ports; each port is pivotal in facilitating international trade and further supported by an extensive rail and transport network inland after having been received at the ports.

Port of Sydney, NSW

The Port of Sydney, known as Port Botany, has become one of Australia’s busiest and most important trading ports. It handles a significant portion of the country’s containerised cargo, crucial to the New South Wales economy.

Three individual containerised port operators are:

  • Patrick Terminals – Sydney Autostrad
  • DP World Sydney Limited
  • Sydney International Container Terminals
Port of Melbourne, VIC

The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest container and general cargo port. It handles a diverse range of cargo, from containers and general cargo to vehicles and bulk commodities. Its infrastructure includes large container terminals, multiple berths for different types of vessels, extensive storage facilities and rail connections inland.

Three individual containerised port operators are:

  • Patrick Terminals – Melbourne
  • DP World Melbourne Limited
  • Victoria International Container Terminal Limited
Port of Brisbane, QLD

The Port of Brisbane is one of Australia’s fastest-growing container ports and handles various other commodities, including bulk and break bulk goods. State-of-the-art facilities include deep-water berths, large container terminals, extensive storage areas and intermodal transport links.

Two individual containerised port operators are:

  • Patrick Terminals – Brisbane Autostrad
  • DP World Brisbane
Port of Fremantle, WA

The Port of Fremantle, located on the west coast of Australia, is the primary maritime gateway for Western Australia. Given its geographical location, the Port of Fremantle has robust trade connections with Middle Eastern and Asian markets including China.

Two individual containerised port operators are:

  • Patrick Terminals – Fremantle
  • DP World Fremantle
Port of Adelaide, SA

Port Adelaide, located very close to the Adelaide CBD, has a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century. The port handles a diverse range of cargo, from grains and minerals to vehicles and containerised goods.

One containerised port operator is: Flinders Port Holdings.

Port of Darwin, NT

The Port of Darwin, located in the Northern Territory, holds a strategic position due to its proximity to Southeast Asia. This geographical advantage offers the shortest sea route from Australia to bustling Asian markets, making it a significant hub for trade. The port handles a diverse range of cargo, including livestock, minerals and general goods.

One containerised port operator is: Darwin Port.

Sea Freight FCL/LCL

We suggest choosing carefully between a Full Container Load (FCL) or a Less than a Container Load (LCL) – Groupage, so you can take advantage of your ocean freight to Australia. LCL allows sharing a container with the cargo of other traders. You pay only for the space used by your cargo, with great savings on your shipping costs.

If for any reason you don’t want your goods to be exposed to the products belonging to other traders, FCL is your right choice. Also, consider that FCL shipping is a profitable solution when you are able to fill more than half of a container.

LCL shipping could be best for you if:

  • Your delivery is not urgent
  • Your consignment will occupy no more than 20cbm
  • Your freight can be safely shipped in a shared container
  • You understand that the extra logistics associated with LCL shipping (consolidation and deconsolidation) could add extra time to your shipment when compared to FCL shipping

FCL shipping could be best for you if:

  • Your cargo needs to arrive in Australia by a specified date
  • Your freight can not be safely shipped in a shared container
  • Your recipient can unload the container at their place of business

Sea Freight Cost

Plenty of factors come into play when calculating the cost of shipping freight from China to Australia. These include:

  • The type of freight being shipped
  • The cargo’s dimension, weight and volume
  • The mode of shipping that’s been selected: LCL or FCL ocean shipping
  • The preferred method of delivery: door-to-door, port-to-door, port-to-port, or door-to-port

Sea Freight Transit Time

In general, the transit time from China port to Australia port is rough 20 days.

Air Freight to Australia

Businesses tend to choose air shipping if:

  • The consignee in Australia needs the goods urgently
  • Their freight is perishable and won’t survive weeks in transit at sea
  • They need their goods shipped from China to Australia as quickly as possible
  • The goods are high-value, needing the stringent levels of security offered by airlines and airport operators

Top Airports in Australia

IATA CodeNameCity
SYDSydney Kingsford Smith International AirportSydney
BNEBrisbane International AirportBrisbane
MELMelbourne International AirportMelbourne
PERPerth International AirportPerth
CNSCairns International AirportCairns
ADLAdelaide International AirportAdelaide
DRWDarwin International AirportDarwin

Top Express Companies

  • DHL
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • Toll Group
  • StarTrack Courier
  • MyParcelDelivery
  • AusPost

Air Freight Packing Tips

Pack your air freight items well, so they arrive in the best possible condition. Here’s a list of best practice packing tips to help get you underway.

  • Use quality supplies
    Consider new quality materials like cardboard boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, pliable cardboard and paper. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you’re not using materials that may have weakened with age.
  • Choose the right sized box
    Make sure your box is larger than the item inside, but not too large.
  • Stuff hollow items and wrap each item individually
    Anything should be wrapped separately according to size and weight. All loose pieces and attachments should be removed and wrapped in bubble wrap or other insulating material.
  • Use soft materials to fill in the gaps
    Make sure your item can’t move around in its box by filling the gaps with soft materials like packing paper, bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts.
  • Seal your boxes well with packing tape
    Tape down all open sides of your box with tape.
  • Label your boxes
    Display your air waybill clearly on the box, along with any ‘fragile’ or ‘this side up’ labels.
  • Fumigation for Wooden Packaging
    All shipments with solid wood packaging materials such as pallets, crates, shipping materials, dunnage, etc., must be properly stamped with ISPM 15 compliance markings.

Air Freight Cost

No matter what you’re sending, the basic costs of air freight depend on the size of the shipment or how much it weighs.

Air rate changes often. Before you can get an accurate quote for your freight movement, you’ll need to know both the dimensions of the freight (including packaging) and its weight. The dimensions are used to calculate the cubic (volumetric) weight and are compared with the actual (dead) weight of the shipment. The higher of the two will be what your basic charges will be based on.

Depending on the shipment, there may be other fees which apply.

  • If you require small business shipping services, door to door might be the best option.
  • If you have your own fleet, airport to airport should cut out extra hands from your logistics provider in the process.

Air Freight Transit Time

ServiceDescription
Next DayFor products that absolutely cannot miss a deadline delivered within 24 to 48 hours
Premium Air48 to 96 hour delivery service suited to just-in-time goods to Australia
Economy AirShipping that balances budget with speed to get larger freight delivered when it’s needed
International CourierFor urgent freight that needs to be delivered within three days (Door to Door)

What CFC can do for you?

We understand that each client has different import and export requirements according to their location. Our freight services are tailored to meet your financial and geographical needs. Our knowledgeable freight specialists are ready to work closely with you to ensure your cargo is delivered on schedule and in excellent condition.

CFC provides seamless logistics solutions that ensure your shipments arrive at their destination on-time and in top condition. Whether you need assistance with pick-up, packing, or customs clearance, our team of experts is here to help. With our global logistics network, we make shipping worry-free, so you don’t have to.

Choose us and stay focused on your objectives!

CFC News - May 22, 2024

Additional rate increases set for June show the carriers do not expect conditions to improve in the short term.

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