transit time guide

Transit Time: The Complete FAQ Guide

transit time

There are a lot of figures connected with the transit process.

In this case, one of the most important indicators is transit time.

Let’s find out what this figure is needed for and how we can use it for profitable international trade.

What is a transit time in shipping?

There are two main definitions of transit time (TT).

First of them states that it is the time needed for the cargo to get from the supplier to the buyer.

However, we prefer to stick with another concept: the transit time is the approximate time needed for goods to travel from one point to another.

If we are talking about sea freight, then the transit time will count when the goods are on the way from the port

A to port B.

In the case of air freight, we are talking about the airports instead of seaports.

The transit time may change due to the unforeseen circumstances which will be discussed later in this FAQ.

Transit process

Transit time and delivery time: how are these two differ?

The delivery time is a wider concept than transit time.

The delivery time covers the whole process of shipping from the supplier to the buyer, including customs clearance, package handling, etc.

The transit time, on the other hand, refers to the transportation process by sea/air/rail freight.

Train in winter

Which factors can affect transit time?

There are several key factors which can affect the transit time.

Transportation mode.

The most obvious on this list, the transportation mode is the main difference between each shipment.

Airfreight, basically, is the fastest way of goods delivery, but it is not the mode which you can freely use for bulk cargo.

Sea vessel, on the other hand, is the slowest one, but the cheapest, and also can cope with massive orders.

Partner carriers.

In international trade, one shipment is usually processed by several carriers.

The communication between them can easily affect the transit time.


Weather is a huge factor for all kinds of transportation modes.

According to statistics, it is an issue in the 90% of delivery delay cases.

The most affected mode is road transport, especially in the snow season.

Road construction and traffic (for road freight only).

Like the weather, road and traffic issues can’t be precisely predicted or calculated.

Forwarding agents and drivers do their best to stay tuned with the situation on routes, but it is never enough to fully guarantee the lack of delays.

Among other factors affecting the transit time, sea and airport congestions can be named.

What is a mileage guideline in the case of transit time?

Some shipping companies create a mileage guideline, which shows the approximate transit time for a different distance.

The mileage guideline is mostly used in the case of road or rail freight.

You can see the example of it in the next question of our FAQ, “What is the approximate transit time for road/rail freight?”. 

Who is responsible for a transit time delay?

As we’ve already figured out, there are a huge amount of factors affecting the transit time. 

You may assume, that such things as delays can happen a lot.

So there is a huge need in assigning the liability for it.

In general, the shipping line is the party responsible for the transit time delay.

However, the freight forwarding agent also can be obliged to meet the transit time deadline if it is stated in the trading agreement with the buyer.

Air freight

How the transit time and freight costs are connected?

It is obvious that the fastest transportation option will be the most expensive.

If you are choosing the air freight, you’ll get the goods in one week on average.

However, in this case, the costs double compare with the sea, road or rail freight. 

What is the meaning of “in transit” status?

The vast majority of shipping companies uses tracking programs to show their clients the movement of their packages. 

Your order can have a lot of statuses, including “in transit” status.

It means that your freight is on its way to be delivered and the transit time is already counting.

After the transit is over, you may see the status “delivered”, “processing customs clearance”, or something similar.

Can the customs clearance affect transit time?

If you head back to the first question of our FAQ, you can see that there are two widespread definitions of transit time.

So if you consider the transit time as a process of goods transfer from the supplier to the buyer, then the customs clearance will be among the factors affecting such time.

However, the transportation process from one port to another obviously can’t be interrupted by customs.

Container truck

What is the approximate transit time for road/rail freight?

The minimal speed of freight train is form 10 to 30 miles per hour.

Under usual circumstances, the maximum authorized speed on the vast majority of rail routes is about 60 miles per hour.

Speaking of the road freight, the difference lies in the loading options.

Full truckload transit times are the next on average:

  • 0 to 399 miles: same or next day delivery;
  • 400 to 600 miles: next day delivery;
  • 601 to 1200 miles: delivery within 2 days;
  • 1201 to 1800 miles: 3-day service; 
  • 1801 to 2400 miles: delivery in 4 days;
  • 2401 to 3000 miles: 5-day delivery;
  • 3001 to 3300 miles: 5-6 day service.

Less than truckload mileage guideline is the next:

  • 50 to 400 miles: 1 to 2 days;
  • 401 to 600 miles: delivery within 2 days;
  • 601 to 900 miles: 2 to 3 days;
  • 901 to 1200 miles: 3-days delivery;
  • 1201 to 1500 miles: 3 to 4 days
  • 1501 to 1800 miles: 4 days for transit;
  • 1801 to 2100 miles: 4 to 5 days needed;
  • 2101 to 2400 miles: 5-days transit;
  • 2401 to 2700 miles: 5 to 6 days;
  • 2701 to 3000 miles: delivery within 6 days;
  • 3001 to 3300 miles: 6 to 7 days needed.

Please, keep in mind that the above-mentioned figures are approximate and the real mileage guideline differs for each shipping company.

If you wish to know more about the road freight, please check this useful Bansar guide.

Freight train

How can I calculate a transit time of the freight?

Freight forwarding companies and shipping agents use different software to calculate the transit time of each freight.

The vast majority of logistic apps are distributed for money, however, you can find a lot of free web calculators on the Internet.

Also, you can try to count the transit time manually, figuring out the average speed of transport and the distance of delivery.

Can transit time be guaranteed in shipping?

The transit time is the approximate value which can’t be 100% guaranteed in shipping.

What is the average transit time for air freight?

The air freight is considered as the fastest mode of transportation.

The average delivery time for air cargo shipments is between six to seven days: the transit process covers only 1-2 days from it, while the other time is needed for export/import haulage and customs clearance.

Freight aircraft

What is the average transit time for sea freight?

On average, sea freight is the slowest type of transport.

Depending on ports and shipping line capacities, it may take from 13 to 40 days.

As an example, let’s see the approximate transit time of shipping from Guangzhou, China to the USA:

  • New York: 27-33 days;
  • Miami: 34-40 days;
  • Los Angeles: 13-18 days;
  • Seattle: 16-21 days.

The sea freight from China to the UK takes nearly the same time:

  • from Guangzhou/Shenzhen: 23-25 days;
  • from Central China (Shanghai/Ningbo): 28-30 days;
  • Northern China (Qingdao/Tianjin/Xingang): 32-35 days.

Note: the whole delivery time will be larger because of customs clearance and haulage procedures.

How can the transit time be improved?

In recent years, the transit time has been slightly improved due to the ongoing development of transportation technologies.

Modern shipping companies can improve the transit time just by using the fastest machines trucks, trains, and aircraft.

Also, the transit time can be improved by choosing the fastest and safest routes possible.

What is the Importance of Documentation on Transit Time?

Freight forwarding documents

Freight forwarding documents

Shipping documents are essential in any shipping venture.

They help to hasten the shipping process, ease tracking and enable easy identification of goods.

That said, several documents are needed both at the loading and offloading port.

Even though transit time has nothing to do with documentation, you should provide the needed documents at the right time.

Documents such as those showing the delivery address and the consignee make it easy to schedule delivery and reduce transit time.

Suppose in a case where your supplier delivers the goods to the port and provides inaccurate details on the delivery point.

In such a case, your goods cannot leave the port because there is no exact transportation point.

Also, when you fail to present the right documentation at the receiving port, customs may not be able to release your goods.

In worst cases, they may even deny the entry of your goods into the country.

You need your goods at the earliest possible time.

Therefore, you should do your part by providing detailed documents at the earliest possible time and let the shipping company do their part.

What is Door to Door Transit Time?

Depending on the context of shipping, you can use transit time to refer to:

  • The time it takes to deliver the goods to the port
  • The time it takes to ship goods from one port to the other
  • The time it takes to deliver goods from the port to your doorstep.

If you are shipping under EXW incoterm, you are responsible for your transportation.

In this case, the transit time will depend on your method of transport.

Usually, express shipping offers the quickest delivery at a shorter transit time.

What is the Difference Between Transit Time and Free Time?

As previously mentioned, transit time refers to the total number of days your shipment takes after booking for shipment until it is delivered to the agreed place.

Transit times are specific to the shipping time and do not include the port’s inland delivery time.

On the other hand, free time is the grace period provided by the liner.

It is when you have to complete local importation, offload the cargo, and return the empty shipping container.

Does transit Time Affect the Cost of Shipping?

Generally, the shipping cost is relative to the destination port and is charged on the distance and not the times.

When shipping from china, the shipping cost will depend on the container weight, volume, and shipping distance.

Therefore, your distance dictates your shipping time and is thus used to calculate the cost of shipping and not the transit time.

How does the Type of Shipment Affect Transit Time?

The type of goods you are importing will dictate the method of shipment you use.

In most cases, when you import large quantities of products, you will settle to either use sea or air transport.

Sea transport is cheap when you are importing large quantities. However, it takes a slightly longer transit time.

Air transport offers a shorter transit time and is limited to the type of goods you can transport.

Some heavy and irregular products cannot fit large commercial airlines, meaning you can only use sea transport.

Also, perishable products need a shorter transit time meaning that they require air transport.

When it comes to shipping certain kinds of goods, you should check with your country on rules and regulations to be followed.

The government can hold hazardous goods, and preparing and clearing for export may increase the transit time.

What is Transshipment, and How does it Affect Transit Time?

You might sometimes find that your consignment leaves a specific port in international shipping but does not reach your destination port directly.

Along the way, your shipments are loaded onto another vessel that delivers them to your port.



Transshipment occurs when there is no direct vessel to your destination port. It saves on costs but at the same time leads to an increase in transit time.

When your products are being shipped under transshipment, you risk waiting to receive the goods for long. The process of offloading a vessel takes a lot of time.

If your products have to be offloaded from one ship, sorted, and loaded onto another vessel, it will take longer to receive them.

Transshipping is not a perfect shipping method since it inconveniences your plans because of the longer transit time.

Nonetheless, you can use it only if you lack a direct shipping route and plan on saving shipping costs.

Does Shipping Seasons Affect Transit time?


Seasons tend to have a very significant influence on the demand and supply of products.

There are opportune times when shipping is cheap and the transit timeless.

The shipping seasons are grouped into four seasons, each with varying impacts on costs and transit time.

January-March Season

This season is also referred to as the quiet season.

During this season, many customers are recovering from the busy holiday season.

The climatic temperatures are also low due to the snow, and highways are not suitable for transportations.

The demand for products is low, and few customers place their orders for shipment.

During this time, many vessels are lying idle the shipping costs are low. 

Placing an order during this season is opportune, and you are guaranteed less transit time for overseas shipping.

April-July Season

As the year progresses, the production volume increases, and the stock in most warehouses significantly reduces.

The shipping industry is starting to pick up, with most shipping companies settling in the production industries.

At such a time, the demand for carriers increases, leading to a surge in shipping costs. Many customers become despair to have their goods delivered to them.

Finding a carrier is difficult during this season, and in most cases, you will pay hugely for shipping.

The transit time also lengthens as finding a shipping space and processing export/import clearance becomes a problem.

August-October Season

This is a busy period for every party in the shipping business.

It is school season, and parents place enormous orders for their children, and most carriers are occupied.

Also, prospective customers are placing huge orders for the holidays.

Companies are also moving their products from one warehouse to the other due to the high sales. ‘

Finding a carrier at this time is practically difficult.

The costs are high, and it takes more time to prepare and load goods for shipping.

However, during such a time, many carriers endeavor to make maximum returns, and thus the transit time will be less.

November- December Season

This is the last season, and ironically, it is busy as well.

Toward the beginning of November, many customers make rush shopping, and finding a carrier becomes difficult.

However, things begin to slow as people near Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New year.

Also, many carriers are in a rush to finish delivery before the end of the year.

If you successfully secure a carrier, everything moves swiftly, and the transit time shortens even though the costs are high.

What areFCL and LCL and their Effect on Transit Times?

When it comes to international shipping, you can choose to have your goods in a Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL).

Both serve the same purpose of having your goods shipped to your destination.

However, depending on your goods’ quantity and type, you need to understand what each term means and how it impacts the transit time.



Full Container Load (FCL)

One rule set by the carriers is that all goods must be inside a container during shipping.

FCL shipment refers toa large product or many products that can fit in a single container.

Basically, under FCL, you will hire a container and have your goods shipped in them.

When the goods reach the destination port, arrange for the goods to reach you in the same container, remove the contents and return the container.

FCL is expensive because you hire the container and have the guarantee of safe handling of your products.

However, it is convenient because of the shorter transit times.

Less than Container Load (LCL)

LCL is the most common shipping method used by the majority of small importers.

It is convenient for customers with small orders and small budgets.

It involves a single container carrying products of several customers to the same destination.

Under LCL, the customers each have to pay the container fee.

The different pieces of cargo have to be picked from various places before being shipped.

The LCL shipment takes a longer transit time and is inconvenient when the delivery time is essential.

What is Cut Off Time, and How does it Affect Transit Time?

Cut off time is the deadline allocated by the carrier in which all products scheduled for shipment have to be availed at the harbor.

It considerably impacts the scheduling of shipment.

Also, it dictates the loading of the vessel and consequently the departure time.

It would help if you organized inbound logistics to have your products delivered at the loading port.

Failure to do so in time will delay your transit time, and in most cases, you will have to wait even up to a week.

What is the Relationship Between Transit Time and Schedule Reliability?

Schedule reliability refers to how frequently carriers achieve their goal of having shipments delivered to their customers.

On the other hand, Transit time is how much time it takes to deliver goods from one port to another.

Therefore, transit time is one single measure used to ascertain the schedule reliability of a particular carrier.

Does the Choice of Incoterm Affect the Transit Time?

Yes, partly.

Incoterms are rules that outline the agreement between a seller and a buyer.

They describe the responsibility between each party.

Transit time entirely depends on the carrier’s efficiency and schedule.

However, under certain incoterms where the seller pays for shipping (CIF, DDP, DAP, CIP, and CPT), the seller can choose a shipper whose shipping cost is low but takes a longer Transit time.

In essence, your choice of incoterm may how and when you finally receive your goods at the destination. 

Has Covid 19 Affected Transit Times in International Shipping?

Covid 19 has had a significant impact on most suppliers, shippers, carriers, and freight forwarders’ delivery schedules.

Ports have had to close in adherence to quarantine measures.

Goods that were previously carried comfortably on ships and cargo crafts now have to follow a set of strict rules and procedures.

This has led to a significant delay in shipments as it takes a long time now to get the necessary permits and approvals or international shipping.

Does ICC Cover a Claim that Leads to an Increase in Transit time due to Covid-19?

The shipping industry has been dramatically impacted by covid-19, leading to delays in loading containers and yard congestions.

The delivery times have also been significantly affected given the high dependency on paper-based documentation and many banks not operating at full potential.

Institute Cargo Clauses (ICC) provides three clauses (A, B & C) that governs marine operations.

  • ICC A provides the most comprehensive marine insurance at a higher premium
  • ICC B less restrictive with a moderate premium
  • ICC C very restrictive but with a lower premium

According to clause A that covers significant risks associated with shipping, the claims should be on actual risks that are assured.

Covid-19 caught everyone by surprise, and no shipper knew how long it would take.

This means that few importers, if not any, insured their shipment against delays resulting from covid-19.

Clause A also offers 60 days protection policy to the customer.

You should receive your goods within 60 days of delivering your goods at the loading Wharf.

The clause refers to when the goods are still under the care of the shipper.

However, the delay caused by Covid-19 finds when the goods are already at the port of destination.

Thus, there would be no claim regarding the policy on the Transit time increase caused by Covid-19.

What is Slow Steaming, and how Does it Affect Transit Time

Slow steaming is a typical marine term that refers to operating cargo ships at speeds below the maximum speed.

Slow steaming arises when the cargo ship needs to lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, and maintain the vessel, which eventually leads to a lot of money-saving.

However, slow steaming leads to an increase in transit time and delays in delivering the consignments.

Can your Carrier Choice Help to Speed up Transit Times?


We have mentioned the importance and convenience that results from a shorter transit time.

The hope of reducing the transit time rests on choosing a trusted shipper.

Your shipper should be well versed in the shipping industry and able to communicate at the appropriate time.

Also, a good shipper should have access to both air, train, land, and sea transport to enable you to make the right choice depending on your interests and priorities.

Besides, the routes used by your shipping company should be convenient, safe, and short to reduce your transit time.

Your shipping company will provide you with approximate transit time if you choose different modes of transport.

What Influence do Freight Forwarders have on Transit Time?

The whole shipping process is complex and requires the work of an expert.

Freight forwarders offer their vast experience in scheduling shipping and handling any clearances.

With their experience, freight forwarders can have an immense impact in linking with carriers who have a reputation and help shorten transit time.

The freight forwarders also help handle clearances that might slow the shipping process.

In doing so, they help in having your goods loaded and offloaded on time for delivery.

What is Rolled Shipment, and How does it Affect Transit Time?

Depending on the demand for shipping, carriers might increase their costs and push forward other cargo shipments.

When some valid documents are needed, carriers might push forward your consignments until you provide the required documents.

This is not accepted, especially after paying for the consignment to be shipped.

If you understand Transit time as the whole process from delivering goods to the port until they reach you, then rolled shipment dramatically impacts your Transit time.

It takes days for a particular carrier to load and arrange shipment to a single destination.

Therefore, once the original vessel has left, you will have to wait even for a week before the next vessel is scheduled. 

How does the Number of Ports Between Origin and Destination Affect the Transit Time?

The higher the number of ports between the origin and the terminus, the higher the transit time.

If your carrier has many stops along the way, the chances of delays are higher.

These delays are caused by missing paperwork, congestion of the ports, time is taken to load and offload, and other unavoidable factors.

You should carefully research which route your shipment will take and the ports’ nature in those routes to avoid increased transit time.

You need your goods at the right time; therefore, choosing another carrier with a different route can allow you to plan with a shorter guaranteed transit time.

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