The Port of San Juan was the 11th busiest port in the U.S. in 2020 as ranked by TEUs (twenty-equivalent units). In fact, the port received 702,056 inbound TEUs that year, and a significant number of those carried cargo from Asia.

If you’re planning on shipping freight to Puerto Rico from China, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, or another country in Asia, there are a few things you need to know to make sure your goods arrive safely and easily.


Below, you’ll find our ultimate guide to moving freight from Asia to Puerto Rico. We’ll show you exactly what you need to know to get up to speed on this shipping lane—fast. To start, let’s define several key terms so we’re all on the same page.


Must-Know Logistics & Freight Terms

If you’re new to shipping freight, the technical terms can get overwhelming quickly. Below, we’ve listed the four key terms you need to understand to move your shipments like a pro:

This term tends to cause some confusion. In simple terms, the consignee is the person or entity receiving the freight. If you’re sending freight from Asia that you or your company will receive in Puerto Rico, you are considered the consignee.

The company that moves your freight from origin to destination. Your freight will likely pass through a couple of carriers between Asia and Puerto Rico: an ocean freight carrier (also called a steamship line), an air freight carrier and/or a motor carrier (the trucking company that moves the containers on land).

The person or entity who sends the freight—your vendor in Asia. On certain types of paperwork, you’ll also see the shipper listed as the consignor.

A company that manages freight transportation on behalf of their clients. As we noted above, freight often has to move through multiple carriers to get to its final destination in Puerto Rico. You could manage those logistics yourself, or you could hire a freight forwarder to handle it all for you.


Want to expand your logistics vocabulary? Check out our Approved Transportation Glossary for an even deeper dive.

Now that we’re clear on who’s who, let’s dive into the actual logistics of moving freight from Asia to Puerto Rico.


Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Your Options for Moving Puerto Rico Cargo

When you’re shipping freight from Asia to Puerto Rico, you’ll have two main options:

  1. Ocean freight
  2. Air freight

Which one is better? It depends on a few factors, including your timeline, your budget, and the commodity you’re shipping. To sum it up in broad terms:

  • Ocean freight is cheaper, but it’s also slower. It’s the most common mode for international freight transportation. However, because ocean freight takes longer, you’ll need to plan ahead to keep your inventory at ideal levels.
  • Air freight is much faster, but it’s also more expensive. If you’re shipping light, high-value items with good margins, air freight might make sense. Or, if your shipment is time sensitive, air freight will be your best bet.
Read more

Ocean Freight vs. Air Freight

Learn more about the differences between these two modes—and discover which one is right for your business.

Read more

Let’s take a closer look at your options, starting with ocean freight.


What’s the best way to decide? For some shipments, the choice is obvious. For others, there’s a break-even point where one method makes more fiscal sense than the other.


That’s where a strong relationship with a freight forwarder becomes crucial. A good forwarder can price out both options to help you make the right long-term decision for your business. (Reach out to our experts if you want to start a conversation!)


Now that you know the main modes of transportation for moving goods from Asia to Puerto Rico, let’s talk timing.

Transit Times from Asia to Puerto Rico

How fast you receive your shipment all depends on how you send it.

  • Air freight can arrive in a few days, depending on which air freight service level you choose.
  • Ocean freight takes a bit longer. To get an idea of common transit times from Asia to Puerto Rico, check out the sample transit times below.
China ports

45 days

Vietnam ports
65 days
Malaysia ports
50 days
Indonesia ports
65 days
Cambodia ports
60 days
India ports
45 days

Keep in mind that ocean freight transit time is just one piece of the puzzle, since it only represents the length of time the container ship takes to go from port to port. Once the ship arrives, it will need to be unloaded, and your goods will get moved to a terminal for pickup.


In other words, there’s some lag time between when the ship arrives and when you can pick up your cargo. We’ll explore why in the following sections.

Will My Shipment Go Through Customs and Hacienda?

What Happens After My Cargo Reaches the Port in Puerto Rico?

Once the ship carrying your cargo from Asia arrives at the Port of San Juan, it goes through the following process:

First, the ship gets unloaded. Dockworkers at the Port of San Juan will remove all the containers from the vessel, including the one with your goods.

  • Next, your container may need to be screened by Customs and Border Patrol. (Note: As long as you’ve paid your excise tax, your shipment shouldn’t get held by Hacienda. However, if it does, there’s a network of couriers and runners who can help get corrected paperwork over to the local Hacienda office to remedy any potential errors.)
  • Then, your container will be made available for pickup at the port.
  • If you’ve arranged the shipping through a freight forwarder, they’ll pick up your container at the port and bring it back to their terminal.

From there, you’ll have a few different options:

  • You can pick up the goods from your forwarder’s terminal.
  • Or, you can arrange to have your goods delivered to your warehouse or place of business.

Tip: If you plan to have your freight delivered in Puerto Rico, look for a forwarder with a significant footprint in Puerto Rico. For example, our trucking partners make deliveries daily to every zone, which means you can get your shipment fast.

Now that you understand the process for shipping freight from Asia to Puerto Rico, let’s look at a few final tips from our experts to add ease to your shipment.


Concept of shipping and logistics management. Use smart phone for parcel tracking in the mobile application.

Tips for Streamlining Your Freight

Your Asia–Puerto Rico Cargo Made Easy

Now that you understand the ins and outs of moving freight from Asia to Puerto Rico, you’re positioned to start building out your business in Puerto Rico—more easily and more profitably.


If you’re looking for a partner to help you move freight from Asia, we’d be happy to assist. Get started with a complimentary consultation. Our experts will take a holistic look at your business and help you put together the right logistics flow to maximize your efficiency and minimize your costs.

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