Freight Forwarder – China to UK

In 2021, China overtook Germany to become the UK’s biggest single import market for the first time since records began. This spans all major industries trading in goods, making China an even more important trading partner to the UK than in recent years.

Goods imported from China rose 66% from the start of 2018 to £16.9bn ($24bn) in the first quarter of 2021,  according to the Office for National Statistics. Imports from Germany fell by a quarter to £12.5bn during the same period. The change came as trade with the European Union was disrupted by Brexit and the pandemic which both contributed to boosting the UK’s demand for Chinese goods.


2021 saw the United Kingdom’s imports from China reach an all-time high, at a staggering £69.55 billion / $91.16 billion, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

In this article, we will explore how China has become so significant to the UK economy in recent years and how best to go about importing your goods from China to our shores.

Why Ship from China to UK?

Chinese exports are a vital part of the global economy and shipping industry. China has a very large and diverse export market, heavily driven by consumers searching out more affordable goods without necessarily compromising on quality. Able to deliver this, China has become the prime country for trade.

On the other hand, the UK has been a major shipping destination for Chinese companies to export their goods to, along with Europe, North America and other parts of Asia. The shipping relationship between the UK and Chinese markets is strong, with UK businesses buying more from China than ever before. 

How to import your goods from China to the UK

It’s so important to have a clear understanding of the process when importing your goods from China to the UK. Let’s run through the process.

Get your business ready for import

Before you do anything, you will need to get your business ready to import. To do this, you will need an EORI number that starts with GB in order to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland. You’ll need a new one if you have an EORI that does not start with GB. If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

Here are some useful links and information below:

Get an EORI number

Find out about using simplified declaration procedures

Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you

You will also need to check that the business sending you the goods can export to the UK. They may need to make an export declaration in their country or may need certain licences or certificates to do so.

warehouse worker delivery

Find out the commodity codes for your goods

You’ll need to include the commodity code on your import declaration. This will determine the rate of duty you need to pay and if you need an import licence. 

Find the right commodity code for your goods

Work out the value of your goods

When you make your import declaration, you’ll need to include the value of your goods. This helps you to work out how much duty and VAT you’ll need to pay. It is the importer’s responsibility to ensure that the freight forwarder has the correct information in order to customs clear the goods on behalf of the importer. Failure to provide accurate information can lead to HMRC investigating and delivering significant fines.

Work out the value of your goods for customs

Ensure you have Marine Insurance

Marine Insurance is really important. Do you insure your home, your car, your holiday? The answer is clearly ‘yes’, so why wouldn’t you insure your goods? Without insurance, a carrier’s shipping line liability is limited in accordance with their terms and conditions. This means that you’ll get next to nothing back in the event of loss or damage if you get anything at all. 

warehouse worker

You can take out your own business marine insurance cover or purchase cover via your freight forwarder.

How best to ship your goods from China to UK

Sea freight is the most popular go-to method of importing goods from China to the UK. This is the most cost-effective mode of transport for such long-distance, however, the transit time taken to move the cargo by sea can be prohibitive. On average, shipping time can vary from 25 days to 45 days. Extremely long transit times were experienced during the global pandemic, when the supply chain became incredibly strained and inefficient.

Airfreight is a good alternative to sea freight when shipping from China to UK. It is sometimes referred to as ‘frustrated sea freight’, when employed due to the transit time for sea freight being too long. Airfreight is commonly used when moving urgently required or sensitive, high-value items. Airfreight is a faster and more secure way of moving cargo.

Best Freight Forwarder from China to UK

All freight forwarders will offer sea, air and road freight services. Some freight forwarders businesses will predominate in EU / UK trade, US / UK trade or others. In the majority of cases, many UK freight forwarders’ major trade lane will be the China to UK import market, due to the scale of it. 

When looking for the right freight forwarder partner, for your China imports, find one whose main focus is China to UK trade then investigate further. Here are some key areas to consider:  

  • Who is their freight forwarding partner in China?
  • The scale of Chinese partner’s business? Number and location of owned offices?
  • Contracts with which shipping lines?
  • The volume of shipments per year?
  • Online tracking capabilities?
  • Customs clearance capabilities? In-house or is a third-party required?

If you’re ready to make your first shipment from China to the UK, follow the suggestions above and employ a credible and suitable freight forwarder, who will guide you through each step to make your shipments successful.

Pinnacle have many years of experience and expertise in shipping from China to the UK and our team are available to provide personalised guidance and assistance.

Contact Pinnacle today and speak to one of our global logistics experts for information, pricing and advice for your unique requirements.  +44 (0)845 6216 111 /

Freight Forwarder – China to UK

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