Shipment of goods by sea from the USA

The United States is one of the main European Union’s trading partners. From the USA, mainly cars, industrial machinery, fuels, optical and medical devices, and pharmaceutical products are shipped. Goods from the USA can be imported both by air and sea. The choice depends primarily on the price and transit time. Besides, the factory or storage location in the US, as well as goods quantity and weight, also affect the choice of the most economical transport solution. Below we present what is worth paying attention to when organizing the shipment of goods by sea from the USA.

Shipment of goods by sea from the USA – transit time

The United States is a vast country and the transport time mostly depends on where the goods are in the country. For example, if the ordered goods are located in Los Angeles, the transport issue is not as complicated because the port is nearby. However, if the goods are located in the middle of the country, the matter becomes more complicated. Not only is the delivery time increased, but also the costs are higher. Moreover, sea transport from the east coast takes about 3-4 weeks, while the transit time from the west coast is about 4-6 weeks.


Because of the vastness of the USA, the goods are often shipped on EXW terms (EX Works, the buyer’s responsibility). It is a significant difference compared to transport from China, where the FOB is the most frequently chosen Incoterms (the seller is responsible for delivering the goods only to the port). It turns out to be the best option because all the factories are built along the coast, nearby major Chinese ports. It should also be noted that rarely does an American supplier choose FOB, which means bearing responsibility for local transportation costs.

If the ordered goods do not exceed 2m3 or 300 kg, air transport may be a more optimal option. On the other hand, when goods need to be transported to a given port or airport on FOB terms, the shipment should be less than 1m3 or 150 kg. Air transport must be profitable, otherwise, the costs are too high.

Shipment of goods by sea from the USA – customs duties and VAT

Importing goods from the USA entails the payment of customs duties and VAT. The amount depends on the classification of the goods under the trade tariff. The current duty rates can be checked using the TARIC (TARif Intégré Communautaire) system.

In addition, customs will not release goods for transport until customs duties and VAT have been paid. Moreover, when shipping from the US, please note that US prices are usually quoted as VAT exclusive.


Shipping from the US by sea depends on many factors. First of all, the final cost depends on the type, size, and quantity of the ordered goods. The next factor to consider is where the goods are delivered to and proximity to the port. It is one of the most important aspects that generate costs as the US is vast. It is worth knowing that domestic transport in the USA is quite expensive. Incoterms must also be chosen wisely. The chosen method determines the costs on the importer’s side. Besides, costs often depend on crude oil prices, exchange rates, and the general situation on a given market.

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