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Cargo Shipping from the US to Thailand: Ocean vs. Air Freight

The article discusses shipping from the US to Thailand, comparing ocean and air transport options and highlighting the importance of logistics services and freight companies in making shipping choices.

The United States of America holds a significant role as Thailand's eighth-largest source of imports. Thai businesses actively participate in the importation of various commodities from the US, including organic products like soybeans, cotton, wheat, fruits, and frozen fish.

For businesses interested in exploring trade partnerships between the United States and Thailand, involving the importation of goods from US suppliers, this page offers invaluable insights. It serves as a comprehensive resource for sharing essential guidance and information regarding the process of cargo shipping from the US to Thailand.

In contrast to many other publicly available resources that often focus solely on logistics services and ocean freight, this page provides a holistic view of freight shipping, covering both ocean and air options from the US to Thailand. Here, you will find relevant details about the ports and airports involved in the logistics process, along with valuable insights into the necessary customs documentation required for seamless freight shipping.

What Shipping Choices Exist for US to Thailand Freight?

A successful US and Thai trade partnership relies on ocean and air shipping from the US to Thailand as the primary means of transporting goods between the two nations. But which shipping method suits your business best?

We assist you in making that decision by providing a comprehensive overview of the advantages and disadvantages associated with both international shipping modes on this page.

Ocean Freight From the US to Thailand

Less than Container Load (LCL): When it comes to shipping small quantities of freight, the Less than Container Load (LCL) method is the standard approach. With LCL, your goods are transported by a shipping line in a container from the US to Thailand. The key feature of LCL is that your merchandise will be consolidated with cargo from other shippers into a 20-foot or 40-foot container. This method is advantageous for businesses with smaller shipment volumes, as it allows for cost-effective transportation without the need to fill an entire container.

Full Container Load (FCL): Full Container Load (FCL) shipping offers a straightforward pricing structure for the exclusive use and transportation of a shipping container from the US to Thailand. The pricing remains consistent regardless of whether you completely fill the container or use only a portion of its capacity. This means you pay a flat rate for the container, making FCL an attractive option for businesses that have enough cargo to fill a container or simply prefer the convenience and security of having a container dedicated exclusively to their goods during transit.

Air Freight From the US to Thailand

For situations where time is of the essence and speed takes precedence over cost considerations, air freight services from airport to airport provide a swift solution for your imports from the US to Thailand. These services typically ensure that shipments between the US and Thailand are completed in less than a week, making them ideal for urgent deliveries.

However, it's important to note that air freight typically comes with a significantly higher price tag compared to ocean shipping, due to the rapid transport and specialized handling involved.

Determining the Cost of Shipping Cargo from the US to Thailand

When it comes to estimating the cost of shipping goods from the US to Thailand, several factors come into play, and a freight forwarder will require answers to the following questions:

  1. Nature of Freight: Understanding the type of cargo that needs to be shipped is crucial in calculating the cost.

  2. Size, Weight, and Volume: The dimensions, weight, and overall volume of the consignment play a significant role in determining shipping costs.

  3. Shipping Method: The choice between LCL or FCL ocean shipping and air freight impacts pricing.

  4. Distance: The distance the cargo needs to travel from the origin to the destination is a key factor in cost calculations.

  5. Delivery Options: Deciding whether the shipper requires door-to-door, port-to-door, port-to-port, or door-to-port delivery also influences the final pricing.

If you're uncertain about whether ocean or air freight suits your requirements and budget best, you can consult a freight forwarder to provide quotes for both options.

For small shipments, typically around 100 kilograms, the cost difference between air and ocean freight may not be substantial. In such cases, the speed advantage of air cargo can make it a more attractive choice. However, this is less likely to hold true for larger shipments. Shipping substantial quantities of freight by air can be significantly more expensive, often several times the cost of ocean shipping.

It's important to note that for shipments weighing 35 kilograms or less, many freight forwarders may not handle them, and you may need to approach international couriers to obtain quotes.

What is the Shipping Duration by Sea and Air from the US to Thailand?

The time it takes to ship cargo from the United States to Thailand varies depending on the mode of transport. Here are some examples of transit times for both sea and air freight:

Sea Freight:

  • From Los Angeles: Approximately 38 days

  • From New York: Approximately 33 days

  • From Seattle or Houston: Approximately 44 days

  • From Philadelphia: Approximately 58 days

  • From Long Beach (FCL): Approximately 35 days

  • From Atlanta (FCL): Approximately 41 days

Air Freight:

  • From Philadelphia or Chicago: Approximately 5 days

  • From Los Angeles: Approximately 3 days

  • From Atlanta: Approximately 4 days

  • From New York, Cincinnati, Denver, Seattle, and Houston: Approximately 8 days

These estimates provide a general idea of the shipping durations for both sea and air transport from various locations in the US to Thailand. Keep in mind that these times can vary based on factors such as the specific shipping route, customs clearance, and any potential delays.

Customs Clearance in the US and Thailand

While a comprehensive understanding of export and import customs clearance intricacies would require more than just a section of this page, having a basic grasp of the necessary documents is a crucial starting point.

However, it's important to note that partnering with a knowledgeable freight forwarder who is well-versed in the customs procedures of both your origin and destination countries can be invaluable. This collaboration can significantly reduce the need for specialized customs clearance expertise within your business and minimize the risk of procedural errors that could lead to delays.

Even with the support of a freight forwarder, you will still be responsible for completing and filing essential documentation that must accompany your consignment. These requirements typically include:

  1. Commercial Invoice: A detailed invoice that specifies the value of the goods being shipped.

  2. Packing List: An itemized list of the contents within the shipment, including details such as weight, dimensions, and packaging.

  3. Certificate of Origin: A document that verifies the country of origin of the goods, which is essential for determining customs duties and trade agreements.

  4. Letter of Credit or Payment Terms: Depending on the contract between the parties involved, you may need to provide a Letter of Credit or specify payment terms.

  5. Airway Bill (for air cargo) or Bill of Lading (for ocean freight): These documents serve as evidence of the contract of carriage and ownership of the cargo. If you use Shipa Freight, we can assist you with these documents.

Furthermore, depending on the nature of your shipment, you may also require specific licenses, permits, or certificates. Your freight forwarder will guide you through these requirements and ensure that all necessary documentation is in order for a smooth customs clearance process.

Choosing Between Ocean Freight and Air Freight

When planning shipments to Thailand, one of the critical decisions you'll face is whether to opt for ocean freight or air freight. This choice hinges on various factors, including the urgency of your shipment, the size and nature of your cargo, and your budget constraints. In this guide, we'll explore the key differences between these two modes of shipping to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your specific shipping needs and priorities.

Ocean Freight

Shipping commercial goods via cargo vessels in containers from the US to Thailand is a method known for its slower pace. Ocean-going vessels typically maintain an average speed of around 35 kilometers per hour. When shipping goods from ports on the West Coast of the United States to Thailand, the cargo must traverse the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Consignments originating from ports on the southern and eastern seaboards of the USA have even lengthier voyages.

Regardless of where your cargo commences its journey in the US, it will likely be transported in a standard shipping container, typically 20ft or 40ft in length, and open at one end, which suits the requirements of most shipments.

Your freight forwarder will guide you on whether your commercial goods necessitate a non-standard container, such as one with an open-top or refrigeration. These experts in ocean shipping can also assist you in determining whether Less than Container Load (LCL) or Full Container Load (FCL) service is better suited for your shipment. More details on both options can be found in the sections below:

Considerations for LCL Freight Shipping

LCL might be the optimal choice for your shipment if:

  • You have a small consignment to ship, typically no more than six standard pallets.

  • Your goods are not urgently needed in Thailand.

  • You are comfortable with your cargo sharing a container with products from other shippers.

  • You understand that the necessary logistics of consolidation and deconsolidation associated with LCL shipments can result in a longer transit time compared to FCL freight.

LCL is best avoided if:

  • Your cargo is required in Thailand by a specific date.

  • Frequent handling of your goods could potentially damage them.

  • Your consignment contains fragile or perishable items.

  • Your cargo is unusually large, awkwardly shaped, or unsuitable for transportation in a shared container.

Considerations for FCL Freight Shipping

FCL service when importing from the US to Thailand might be the right choice if:

  • Your cargo needs to arrive in Thailand by a specific date.

  • Your goods cannot share a shipping container with other products for various reasons.

  • You want your container sealed at the point of origin and to remain sealed throughout the shipping process.

  • Your consignment is substantial enough to occupy at least half the capacity of a shipping container.

Air Freight

If the leisurely pace of ocean freight doesn't align with the demands of your supply chain, air shipping offers a faster alternative, especially when:

  • Speed takes precedence over cost considerations.

  • Your cargo includes perishable items like plants, flowers, or food.

  • Urgent delivery to your customer in Thailand is essential.

  • Your consignment is small, typically no larger than three pallets.

  • Your cargo holds high value and requires the enhanced security measures provided by airlines and airport operators.


In the realm of cargo shipping from the US to Thailand, the decision between ocean and air transport plays a pivotal role. Ocean freight, often facilitated by freight companies, presents cost-effective choices but involves longer transit times and logistics considerations such as LCL or FCL service. On the flip side, air freight, a key component of logistics services, offers swiftness, making it an optimal choice for time-sensitive shipments or high-value cargo. The final choice hinges on the unique needs of your shipment, and collaborating with an experienced logistics service provider can significantly streamline the process, ensuring a seamless and efficient journey for your goods from the US to Thailand.


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