Nine of the United States’ top 20 trade partners are in Asia. Together, these countries traded $1.18 trillion in freight with the United States in 2019 alone, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


If you’re planning on jumping into this market by shipping freight from Asia to the United States, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find our complete guide to moving cargo from Asia—including countries like China, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, and more—to the U.S. We’ll show you everything you need to know to get your goods from your suppliers in Asia to your location in the U.S.—safely and easily.

First, let’s start with a few key terms.


If you’re new to logistics, you’ll soon discover that the industry has its own unique jargon. We’ll get you started with the main terms you need to know. If you want to take a deeper dive, check out our Approved Transportation Glossary.


Key Freight Terms
  • Carrier: The company that actually moves your freight. Freight from Asia may be handled by an ocean freight carrier (also called a steamship line) an air freight carrier, and/or a motor carrier (a trucking company).
  • Shipper: The individual or company who sends the freight. This will likely be your supplier in Asia. You may also hear this referred to as the consignor.
  • Consignee: The person receiving the freight. The ultimate consignee in a freight transaction would be you, the buyer.
  • Freight Forwarder: A company that arranges for freight transportation. Freight forwarders coordinate multiple carriers to get your freight to its final destination. By working with a forwarder, you only have to deal with a single provider, rather than managing all the logistics yourself.

Now that we’ve got the main terms covered, let’s talk about the “how” of shipping freight from Asia.

portrait photo of happy logistics worker with radio transceiver working in port shipping containers.

What Options Do I Have for Shipping Freight from Asia?

When it comes to moving freight from Asia to the United States, you’ll be looking at two main modes of transportation: air freight or ocean freight. In short:

  • Air freight is faster but more expensive. It’s best suited for light, high-value items.
  • Ocean freight is cheaper but slower. It’s also the most common mode for international freight transportation.

Not sure which mode is right for you? Learn more about the differences between air freight and ocean freight. By and large, you’ll likely be using ocean freight to move your goods from Asia. You’ll have two options in that arena:


Deciding between FCL and LCL? This is where a freight forwarder can add significant value. They can price out both options for you, and help you figure out which type of shipment makes the most sense for your business. It may not be as cut and dried as you think. (Reach out to our experts if you want to start a conversation!) Now that we’ve discussed the main modes of transportation available from Asia, let’s talk about timelines.

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

How Long Does It Take Freight to Move from Asia to the U.S.?

That all depends on which mode of transportation you use. Air freight can be as quick as a couple of days, depending on which air freight service level you choose. Ocean freight operates on longer timelines. Just how long are we talking? We shared a few examples below to give you a ballpark.

Keep in mind that these are just the ocean transit times—the time it takes a container ship to move from the origin port to the destination port. That doesn’t mean you’ll receive your goods the day the ship arrives in port. We’ll show you why in the next section.

What Happens After My Cargo Reaches the Port?

Once the vessel carrying your goods from Asia arrives at its destination port, it goes through a few different processes—and a few different hands—before it gets to you:

  • First, the ship needs to be unloaded. Dockworkers at the port will remove the container with your goods from the vessel.
  • Next, your container may need to be screened by Customs and Border Patrol.
  • 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, depending on where you’re located.

  • If you’re close to the forwarder’s warehouse, you can pick up the goods yourself.
  • If you’d rather have them delivered, your forwarder can arrange for that, too—even if you’re in the middle of the country. Depending on your exact location, your cargo will either be put on a truck for delivery or it may be moved by rail, then by truck.

This is where a forwarder truly shines: They’ll work with you to arrange whatever transportation is necessary to get your goods to the final destination of your choosing—your warehouse, your distribution center, etc. Finally, before we finish up, we’ve got a few tips from our experts to make your shipments from Asia to the U.S. simple and easy.

4 Tips for Shipping Cargo from Asia to the U.S. – Safely and Easily

A good freight forwarder is an essential partner that can make your shipments from Asia much simpler. If you’re new at navigating the world of logistics, a forwarder can save you tons of time by streamlining the process and acting as your single point of contact. It’s definitely a relationship worth exploring if importing cargo from Asia is a critical part of your business.

Your Asia-U.S. Imports Made Simple

Now that you understand the jargon, the options, the process, and the best practices for side of your business off the ground, establish profitable margins, and simplify your logistics going forward.


And if you need some assistance moving your cargo from Asia, we’d be happy to assist. Just reach out to one of our experts for a complimentary consultation. We’ll help you figure out the right logistics flow to maximize your efficiency and minimize your costs.

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