8 Things You Need To Know About Chemical Logistics When Shipping From China

The chemical logistics space has been experiencing major shifts. Hazardous chemicals are now being exported abroad daily. China has also become one of the top chemical producers in the world. Some chemicals are sold only in China.

Therefore, to stay competitive in the chemical industry, you must depend on this country. However, buying chemicals from China is not hassle-free if you are not properly informed. It comes with several challenges, including chemical logistics. Chemical logistics is one of the most overlooked yet essential aspects of importing chemicals from China. Keep reading, as this article discusses all you need to know about chemical logistics.

Chemical transportation by truck.

Transporting Chemicals in China: What You Need To Know

In China, the only means of transporting hazardous chemicals is by road. You're not permitted to haul them by train. The Chinese export logistics business was previously governed by state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but nowadays, it's being run by foreign and local third-party logistics.

In China, the inbound logistics industry is serviced by just a few national companies; hence, it is highly expensive. Although factories only outsource trucks, they don't own them but still have some control over the management of these trucks and what they carry. They ensure that all permits and documents are in place when hauling chemicals. This way, they can be sure the chemicals won't get into the wrong hands. Overall, below are 8 things you need to know about China chemical logistics process:

1. Know How To Choose a Logistics Provider

Before you choose a logistics provider, it's crucial to consider security and safety. This is because of the hazardous nature of these chemicals. Your provider must have the necessary experience in handling dangerous chemicals. For example, potential terrorists can make explosives with chemicals like ammonium nitrate. Safety hazards like collisions and spills can also occur during transportation. However, an experienced carrier knows all the precautions and measures that must be taken. Below are factors you should look out for before choosing a logistics provider.

  • Shipment tracking: Knowing the location of your cargo and how long it would take to reach you helps to put your mind at rest, ensure fast processing and dispatching of commercial documents, and also prevent delays that may lead to demurrage fees.
  • Reliability: Ensure your provider is punctual, flexible, and capable. This helps you to retain your old clients and attract new ones. This is why it is impotantto consider reliable suppliers like Camachem in China.
  • Hygiene standards: Your provider needs to maintain proper hygiene, especially for food-grade chemicals.
  • Qualifications: Ensure your provider has the required qualifications to handle hazardous chemicals appropriately.
  • Special storage: When you're transporting chemicals like sodium cyanide, you must choose a provider that understands a special storage solution. This is important in cases of vessel delays when they have to store cyanide at the port temporarily.
  • Cost: When choosing a provider, ensure you consider their costs. This is because chemicals are price sensitive, and even a little price difference can eventually have a huge impact.

2. Know the Classification of Chemicals

Chemicals are classified into nine groups based on their hazardous properties. These nine classes of chemicals are further grouped according to their characteristics and nature. The classes are explosives, gases, flammable liquids, oxidizers and organic peroxides, poisons and infectious substances, radioactives, corrosives, and miscellaneous.

Aside from class and division, you can also arrange dangerous cargo into packing groups according to their level of hazards. For example:

Packing Group I: Very Hazardous Substance

Packing Group II: Hazardous Substance

Packing Group III: Moderately Hazardous Substance

Classifications of chemicals

3. Learn About Documents For Arranging Chemical Logistics in China

Before you request any freight rate quotation, ensure your material safety handling documents are in place. The minimum requirements from booking agents include UN or class number, gross weight, and CAS number.

Other essential factors to consider when arranging chemical logistics in China include:

  • Incoterms: These terms are used to improve international trade. They help set rules that help the seller and buyer understand their responsibilities. Examples are FOB, CIF, and CFR.
  • Full Container Load (FCL) and Less than Container Load (LCL): In most cases, you can load only one chemical in a container.

4. Find Out If You Will Need Pallets

Sometimes, you might want to use pallets if they're allowed at the destination. However, with pallets, your loading quantity will be reduced. Unlike packing that isn't palletized, you may also have to pay more per ton. Some companies may charge an additional $30 per ton for pallets.

When you're using pallets, ensure you follow the precautions below:

  • Choose pallets that are strong and of good quality
  • Check the fumigation laws about wooden pallets
  • Choose trustworthy suppliers; some suppliers use pallets of poor quality to increase their profit.

5. Identify The Right Chemical Packaging

To prevent drums from leaking during transportation, ensure your packaging is UN-rated rather than using substandard drums. You should also visually inspect the shipping container and packaging for leaks and other potential problems before shipping. This will help you avoid large fines from the shipping company.

6.   Learn The Chemical Package Labeling

Before shipping, it's important to understand your country's regulations on labeling hazardous items. Label your goods clearly, and don't assume your supplier knows. If you're unsure of the requirements, ensure you include the UN number, hazard label, shipping name, and weight or volume of the chemical on the package.

Different labels for chemicals

7. Be Well-Informed About Shipping and Arrival Logistics

You can either arrange your shipping with a Chinese agent or directly with the carrier. However, working with an agent is mostly cheaper. This is because Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers (NVOCCs) have existing contracts with carriers; therefore, they have lower rates compared to small exporters alone. While Chinese shipping agents can be cheaper than their Western counterparts, choosing your local agent is still advisable. This way, you'll be in charge of your cargo's movement. You can also confront him if something goes wrong. Local agents are also more familiar with service levels and routes for inbound logistics, especially if shipping is confined to Africa.

Shipping of chemicals

8. Ask About The Freight Rates and IMO Surcharges

Generally, the shipping costs for hazardous chemicals are always higher than the regular shipping rates. This is because they require special planning and handling at the terminal. Add your basic ocean freight for general cargo to the surcharge rate to get the final rate for hazardous products. However, the IMO surcharge differs for every carrier.


Below are the steps to follow when shipping your chemical cargo:

  • Make Incoterms decisions with your supplier.
  • LCL consignments are not allowed for dangerous chemicals; therefore, choose packaging and shipping containers of 20' or 40'
  • Find reliable logistics providers, and remember to provide MSDS with your RFQ for accurate quotes. Compare the quotes and choose the best.
  • Confirm the delivery period and book space based on Incoterms.
  • Once a shipment has been secured, get ETA and ETD.
  • Ensure appropriate communication between the supplier and buyer agents.
  • Get insurance in case of missing or damaged cargo.
  • Expect vessel delays in case the cargo sails.
  • Prepare all shipping documents
  • The cargo will get to the destination port after pre-clearance
  • For inland transportation, ensure your driver carries MSDS and placards if you use a trucking company.
  • Once you receive your cargo, carry out a random sampling to ensure you get what you ordered.


Chemical logistics can be complicated. Transporting cargo from point A to point B is only one aspect of it. To guarantee your shipment's safety and security, choosing a reliable supplier is essential. This way, you can have peace of mind and be sure of a transparent procedure. Ask questions when you're unsure, and don't neglect freight insurance.