How to Ship from the UK to the USA

Aug 12, 2021 Lilia Khovrak Lilia Khovrak

There’s a lot to know about shipping from the UK to the USA, and this blog is a good place to start when it comes to understanding what the process entails and what it could cost you or your business.

Overseas shipping can be complex, and the sheer variation at each stage means there’s a lot to consider at each point in the journey.

If it’s your first time shipping from the UK to the USA, you need to know how much the process will cost, how long it will take, where you can ship to and from in each country and about the necessary documentation required to get your items through US customs.


What costs do I need to consider when shipping from the UK to the USA?

The cost of shipping from the UK to the USA can vary greatly, based on a number of factors including: the volume, weight and dimensions of the package(s) being shipped, the method of transportation, the goods being shipped, the incoterm used, the shipment’s insurance and the time of year of the shipping.

SeaRates can help you calculate the cost to help you get the cheapest shipping from the UK to the USA, but as general rule:

- Air freight is typically more expensive than sea freight (although it can be cheaper to send small packages via plane)

- Shipping expensive goods that carry a high insurance premium will increase your shipping costs

- If you can’t fill a shipping container with your goods, LCL shipping (less than container load) is a cheaper shipping method than FCL shipping (full container load).

Something else to consider when shipping to the USA from the UK is the use of Incoterms - contract terms that dictate who is responsible or liable for the shipment of goods at any point in the shipment process. Different Incoterms carry different price tags and can be complicated. It’s a good idea to talk to your freight forwarder about the ins and outs of Incoterms, and how they might affect where you decide to ship to and from, and how it can change your costs.

When shipping from the UK to the USA you’re also required to pay customs duties before your goods can be released into the country. These costs can be significant, and should be researched before sending your goods overseas.

Considering all of these cost factors can feel overwhelming. SeaRates’ Online Freight Marketplace can help you to figure out the best freight rates. To see what your options are, all you need to know is your ports of origin and destination, when you plan to ship your cargo and what type of shipment you’re sending.

To make the process easier, SeaRates can also connect you with freight forwarding specialists, experts in the world of shipping who can help you transport your goods from point A to point B.


How long does it take to move cargo from the UK to the USA?

Shipping cargo door-to-door from the UK to the USA could take anything up to 50 days depending upon your chosen port of origin and destination, along with the method of transportation and type of load.

Air freight is the fastest transportation method, with cargo taking between 2 and 8 days to reach its destination port in the USA.

Ocean freight takes longer, and can take as many as 40 days for goods to reach their US destination point from their UK port.

Where you’re shipping to also makes a big difference.

For example, from the UK, shipping to the East Coast of the USA is faster than to the West.

Cargo arrivals take around 15 to 17 days to reach New York or Philadelphia from London, whereas shipments to West Coast-based Los Angeles takes much longer, up to 32 days.

A shipment to the South Coast takes around 24 days.



UK to the USA, port to port
Sea FCL
24-40 days
Sea LCL
15-26 days
Air freight
2-8 days


When is the best time to ship from the UK to the USA?

Both air and sea freight rates – especially for FCL shipping – are affected by seasonal factors.

When shipping from the UK to the USA, you should consider that peak season is during the autumn, ahead of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. During peak time, prices increase because demand is high and container space is low. It is therefore cheaper to ship freight away from peak season.

The period in the month that you choose to transport goods can also make a difference to the price of your shipment.

In the last two weeks of the month it can be cheaper to book a shipment because carriers are trying to fill spots on vessels. The beginning of the month can be a more expensive time, as carriers can levy General Rate Increases on cargo spots.

In general, however, it’s best to book in advance to keep costs down.


What are the rates for shipping from the UK to the USA?

Like most things in the world of freight, shipping rates vary. The SeaRates Online Freight Marketplace can help to find you the right quote for you and your needs.

After plugging in some basic details like where you would like your cargo shipped and when, the marketplace will allow you to compare various freight journeys, giving you detail on how your shipment will be processed, and how long it will be in transit for. The marketplace also provides a cost breakdown for each leg of the journey, so you can see exactly where you are spending your money.

For something more tailored to your needs, you can request a quote. The request a quote process is more detailed, and asks specific questions about your shipment, such as its commodity type, its HS Code and its weight. You then leave your details so SeaRates can contact you directly.


What do you need to think about when packing your container?

It’s important to think practically about your packaging requirements when shipping cargo, like your shipment’s weight, dimensions and what packaging material you will require.

There’s a lot to think about, but SeaRates’ Load Calculator can help you better understand what your shipment will look like and the space it requires.

The Load Calculator will ask you various questions about your shipment, like what equipment you will need to ship, what cargo type you will use and your cargo dimensions.

At the end of the process the calculator will produce a visual of what your cargo will look like in your chosen container, as well as the total volume and weight of your cargo.

When shipping to the USA from the UK, it’s also important to remember that some items are restricted, requiring permission to be shipped, and some items are banned altogether. There are also restrictions set by individual states that may not apply elsewhere in the country.

Items that are restricted include: Alcohol, firearms and ammunition and ivory and wildlife products.

Needless to say, it’s important to do research on the specific produce you plan to send across the Atlantic to check if there are restrictions or additional documents you need to supply.


What are the essential documents that need to be completed when shipping from the UK to the USA?

It’s important to correctly package and label your cargo so it has a smooth journey from the UK through the customs clearance process in the USA. Having the necessary documents is also key, such as an importation permit for certain goods, commercial invoice and a packing list.

Getting the right paperwork together can be a lengthy and complicated process. The process could be made simpler by using a freight forwarder.

Documents you need when shipping to the USA include:

- Commercial Invoice

- Packing List

- Bill of lading

- Certificate of origin

- Letter of Credit or other payment terms

- Airway bill (if you’re sending goods via the air)


Should you insure your container?

We encourage our customers to always insure their cargo, because cargo insurance is often the only protection you have if your shipment suffers damage or loss.

You can find cargo insurance via the freight forwarding community or a third-party insurance agent. SeaRates can also help find the right cargo insurance policy for you.

Insurance costs are typically in the region of 0.3% to 0.5% of your Commercial Invoice value.


What are the major shipping ports in the UK?

You can find advice on which port is right for you via your factory, supplier or freight forwarding company. Certain ports may prove better for you based on their location, customs processes and goods handling volumes, or perhaps your factory has a special agreement with a particular port.

Major ocean cargo ports in the UK include:

  • Grangemouth
  • Felixstowe
  • London Gateway
  • Southampton
  • Tilbury
  • Belfast


Major air cargo ports in the UK include:

  • Birmingham
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester
  • London Heathrow


What are the major shipping ports in the USA?

Major ocean cargo ports in the USA include:

  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • New Orleans
  • Savannah
  • Oakland
  • Mobile
  • Philadelphia
  • Houston
  • Norfolk
  • Seattle


Major air cargo ports in the USA include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Cleveland
  • San Francisco

Lilia Khovrak is a professional content manager from Odessa, Ukraine. Loves life by the sea. Dreams to see Paris and eat a croissant on the thresholds of Notre Dame de Paris. Hates to read meaningless articles.


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