As the biggest online wholesale marketplace on this planet, Alibaba has millions of active users. And there’re tons of importers buying from Alibaba, who take it as a preferred option.

Many new importers found out that there are a lot of things they need to take care of in the shipping process, when things go wrong, they’d wonder if Alibaba offers shipping solutions as a direct service provider. Unfortunately, the answer to that question had been a no for a long time, but things have changed a bit lately.

In this article, we are going to talk about the newly launched Alibaba shipping platform to help you understand its business model and know how to use it for rates comparison, freight booking, or shipment management.

Usually, when sourcing from Alibaba, importers have to deal with the shipping process by finding their own freight forwarder or ask their supplier to find one because Alibaba itself doesn’t offer any shipping solutions directly as a freight forwarder.

However, in the middle of 2020, Alibaba officially formed a partnership with Freightos – an online international freight market start in 2016. Together, Alibaba and Freightos launched the Alibaba shipping platform which is designed to be a marketplace where users can carry on online search of quotes, booking of freight, and management of shipments.

Till now, this Alibaba shipping marketplace is available in the following countries and regions:

The shipping platform enables importers to compare quotes on Alibaba and makes the logistics process more transparent.

How to book freight and compare rates?

The process of using this digital freight platform of Alibaba is rather plain to explain, just like what the eyes-catching slogan on the home page says – “shockingly simple freight shipping

You can search for quotes by simply inputting the details of your shipment, and you can get your quote by pallets/boxes/crates or by containers. The services range you can find on Alibaba shipping covers door-to-door delivery, customs clearance, insurance, and etc.

To help you get a more intuitive grasp about the whole using process, we assume that we have 800kg of goods with a value of $30,000 to be shipped from Shanghai to Los Angeles, and let’s see how to get quotes for this shipment on Alibaba step by step.

Firstly, we input the package type, dimensions, and weight.

Secondly, choose the origin location,  the destination of the shipment, and the estimated goods ready date. For that, there are 5 available options:

  • Factory or Warehouse
  • Business having no loading capabilities
  • Business having loading capabilities
  • Home address with no loading capabilities
  • Port or airport

In our case, we’d want our cargo to be shipped from port CNSHA Shanghai to port USLAX Los Angeles by FOB.

The third step is to choose if you want to add customs brokerage services to your quote and if you want to buy a customs bond.  

And then you have to choose whether you need additional services like hazardous materials shipping or insurance that covers the value of your goods.

Though you can see a “personal shipment” option in the additional details section, it’s not really available because all the forwarders on Alibaba’s shipping platform need invoices for all orders.

After all the above steps, click the “SEARCH & BOOK” button, and then you‘ll be able to see all the available quotes that match your search.

Now choose a quote and click on it for details.

You’ll see a breakdown of the fees charged including original terminal handling fee, ocean freight cost, documentation fee, port security fee, destination handling fee, customs brokerage, insurance and other surcharges.

You can sort these quotes by best value, cheapest, quickest or greenest, pick the quote that makes utmost sense to you and click on the “Select” button, you’ll proceed to the personal information page where you need to fill in details including company name, phone number, commodities and any additional comments of yours regarding the shipment.

After you proceed to the payment page and finish the booking, all you need to do is wait for your shipment to be executed.

FBA shipping through Alibaba

If you are shipping for FBA purposes, you can click the FBA button on the top right of the page.

You’ll be able to fill in your special packing requirements in the second step, and the rest of the process will be pretty much the same as above.

Choose the right shipping methods that suit your business and the properties of your goods can lower your importing cost to a great extent.

There are two concepts related to international shipping we should understand before we start to select shipping methods: Dimensional Weight and Real Weight – your shipping cost will be basically determined by these two factors in addition to shipping distance.

Dimensional weight means the shipping cost is calculated based on the volume of your shipment instead of the real weight. If you are shipping something big but not so heavy, you are probably going to be charged by the dimensional weight of your goods calculated through a certain formula based on the volume of your goods. 

Bearing these two kinds of weights in mind, let’s go through the most commonly used Alibaba shipping methods.

Express Shipping

Compared with other Alibaba shipping model, the process of express shipping is relatively simpler. It’s fast and you don’t have to deal with any customs clearance. This shipping model will work greatly if you are to ship a product sample or goods of high value in a small amount or if you have a very limited timeframe for the goods to be delivered to your warehouse.  

Express shipping is recommended for goods under 300kg, while if you intend to ship something with big volume like giant stuffed animals toys, then express might not be such good an option for you since the shipping cost calculated in dimensional weight can be too expensive to match with your product cost.

Air Freight

Air freight is more complicated than express, using air freight means you have to deal with all the standard customs procedures. Not like the door-to-door hustle-free model of express shipping, shipping through air freight will be divided into several steps normally: local logistics in China, shipping from China to the destination country, and domestic logistics in the destination country.

If you are shipping goods over 500kg, air freight might be a good option for economic and    efficient considerations. But if your goods are in somewhere between 300kg to 500kg, you’d better compare the real-time air freight rates with the express prices and see which one is cheaper. 

Sea Freight

Under most circumstances, sea freight is the cheapest shipping method for shipment in large quantity, and it takes the longest time to deliver goods. Generally, the process of sea freight is similar to air freight – the logistics is divided into three parts: from your Alibaba manufacturer to the Chinese port → from the Chinese port to your destination port →  from your destination port to your warehouse.

We suggest you consider sea freight if your goods exceeds 1-2 CBM. And sea freight is also the most recommend shipping model when shipping low value products, such as wine glass or plastic bottles, and products that are prohibited from being transported through air.

What is a Customs Bond?

Customs Bond, AKA Surety Bond or Import Bond, is used as a contract between importers, the US Customs & Border Protection (CBP), and the Bond Company. The main purpose of customs bond is to protect the US government from any unpaid customs duties.

It works when there are additional duties accessed by CBP, the Bond Company will pay to CBP for such additional duties imposed on your cargo, then CBP will release your goods from the entry port to you, after which, you will be responsible for reimburse the Bond Company.

So basically, to importers, a customs bond is one of the things that speed up the customs clearance of your goods. If you import on a regular basis (more than 4 times per year), an annual customs bond ($500 per year) is recommend. For one-off import, you can get a single entry customs bond at 0.5% of goods value with a minimum charge of $50.

What is a known shipper?

Known Shipper is a shipper who is duly authorized by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to transport cargo through passenger airplanes (at lower cost than cargo planes).

Officially, it is a shipper vetting program known as the Known Shipper Management System operated by the Transportation Security Administration which is meant to fully utilize the extra space on passenger planes with the precondition of ensuring the safety of the passengers.

There are more than a few advantages for transport air freight shipments if you are a known shipper. First, the rates of shipping through passenger planes are normally more competitive than that of shipping through cargo-only planes. And passenger planes travels on a faster and more frequently basis than cargo-only planes, which provides you with more flexibility in shipping. What’s more, the screening process of goods carried away by passenger planes will be much simpler than those transported by cargo-only flights.

Can I ship hazardous materials through Alibaba Shipping?

As stated by Freight, they don’t offer quotes for any shipments with hazardous materials other than shipments with items containing lithium ion batteries.

And for shipments with items containing lithium ion batteries, they only offer offline quotes. These shipments also need a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which is used to calculate additional handling fees that may incurred and to make sure that proper safety measures are in order.

More to be noted, they only accept PI969 or PI970 lithium ion batteries that have one of the following UN codes:

  • Li-Ion Batteries – UN 3480
  • Li-Ion Batteries (contained in equipment) – UN 3481
  • Li-Metal Batteries – UN 3090
  • Li-Metal Batteries (contained in equipment) – UN 309

How to calculate Alibaba shipping costs?

When searching for shipping quotes on Alibaba, a breakdown of the shipping cost will show up if you click on each quote respectively. The main types of fees covered in the quote include origin charges, shipping charges, destination charges, customs brokerage, and insurance.

Check these items one by one – some of them are flat fee, the others will be charged based on your goods. These fees cover all the charges for cargo movements, trucking fees to final destination, handling fees, documentation fees and loading & unloading fees at origin port & destination port. Optional fees such as customs bond, ISF fee, and ISF bond can also be covered based on your selected quote.

But be noted that the customs duties and taxes imposed but the government are not included in the quote, you should contact your freight forwarder or customs broker for details otherwise.

Why is Alibaba shipping so expensive?

The shipping cost is closely related to the shipping method, shipping distance, and the properties of the cargo. Same goods if being shipped in different ways, the price can vary dramatically.

As the shipping distance and properties of cargo are hardly under your control, so the key point for avoiding over-high shipping cost is to choose the right shipping method 

How to track Alibaba Shipping?

Once you’ve done booking a shipment through Alibaba, you can go to the shipment manage page by click the “SHIPMENTS” button and easily track and manage all your shipments.

In this page you can check all the details related to your shipments including port departure date, port arrival date, and delivery date.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for your reading, if you find this article useful, please feel free to share it with others.

International shipping is not all that complicated even if you may often run into some difficult jargons that you hardly understand. If you got a problem you can’t solve, try ask your forwarders or the customs authorities directly instead of searching for some unreliable content online

 If you have anything to say or any questions, please leave a comment below.

We are Jingsourcing, a leading sourcing agency in China, dedicated to helping our clients to source products from China with the most competitive prices. We also provide pre-shipment inspection and help you choose the best shipping method. If you are interested in importing from China or need help in shipping, please feel free to CONTACT US.

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