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Container Shipping UK to South Africa - Costs & Info

Moving to South Africa or looking for container shipping services to South Africa from the UK? Here you'll find everything you need to know about shipping personal belongings to South Africa in a container, including how much it costs, transit times, customs information, your shipping options and more.

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Looking for a quote? We have over 25 years of experience in container shipping from the UK to South Africa and have helped countless individuals ship their personal belongings, household goods and furniture from the UK to South Africa via shared or full container shipping services. Simply request a free quote here today or get in touch with a member of our team, and we’ll be happy to help.

How Much Does it Cost?

Container Shipping Costs UK to South Africa

Want to know how much it costs to ship a container to South Africa in 2024?

Quick Answer: The average cost to ship a container from the United Kingdom to South Africa is £2,000 - £6,000+. This cost is based on shipping a full 20ft or 40ft container and will vary depending on the details of your shipment (how much you are shipping, your chosen destination port, etc.)

Container Shipping Costs from the UK to South Africa

Please find below current container shipping rates from the UK to South Africa. Container shipping costs are based on the size or volume of your move. The bigger the move, the higher the cost. Collection, packing and destination charges will also affect the final price, so please ask us for a quote.

Destination Shared Container 20ft Container 40ft Container
Cape Town, South Africa From £992 £1,550 £2,450
Durban, South Africa From £992 £1,550 £2,450

What Other Costs Do I Need to Consider?

The cost to ship your container (freight cost) is the main cost involved in container shipping to South Africa. However, there are other costs you should also be aware of.

Packing Services

Professional packing services for furniture, household items and other personal effects can cost between £100 - £300, depending on the size of your shipment and how much you are shipping.


Marine shipping insurance is a must when it comes to shipping your items to South Africa in a container. We recommend to insure any high value, sentimental or hard-to-replace items for peace of mind.

We offer 3 tiers of marine shipping insurance to give our customers flexibility and peace of mind when shipping to South Africa.

Insurance costs are based on the total value of your shipment. As such, we cannot provide a meaningful estimate here, however you will typically be looking at 2% - 5% of the value of your items, depending on your chosen cover.

Collection/Delivery (Door-to-door)

You have the option to deliver and collect yourself, however we also provide a full door-to-door container shipping service to South Africa. We provide nationwide UK collections and delivery to your door using our trusted agents in South Africa.

Costs for collection and delivery will vary depending on your departure and arrival address. Simply request a free quote and we will email you with everything you need to know.

Customs & Paperwork

As a registered customs broker, our experienced team will guide you through all paperwork and customs documentation and will submit the necessary documents on your behalf. The cost for handling all customs formalities for container shipping to South AFrica will range from £45 to £250, depending on the complexity of your move.

Our guide on the customs formalities and paperwork when importing personal effects into South Africa covers everything you need to know regarding paperwork and customs procedures.

Destination/Port Charges

Port authorities in the UK and South Africa charge a fee for all handling, such as loading and offloading. These charges vary depending on the port and the size/complexity of your move. To get an idea of these costs and to receive full information on all other costs involved in shipping a container to South Africa, please request a free quote.

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Shipping Options

Container Shipping to South Africa: FCL vs LCL

You have two main options when it comes to shipping a container to South Africa. Depending on the size of your move, you can choose either: shared container (LCL) or full container (FCL).

What is FCL?

FCL stands for ‘Full Container Load’ and provides you with the full use of your own dedicated 20ft or 40ft container (AKA sole use).

Benefits of FCL Container Shipping to South Africa?

Shipping your household goods to South Africa using a sole use container provides several key benefits:

  • Space & Privacy: A sole use container allows you to utilise extensive space, accommodating everything from a small flat to a large family home. You can fill a 20ft container with belongings from a three-bedroom home, while a larger 40ft container can hold items from a four or five-bedroom home. Moreover, the container can be packed and loaded directly at your residence, ensuring privacy and ease.
  • Speed: Opting for a sole use container means your belongings are moved directly to the port and shipped on the first available vessel. There's no waiting for consolidation with other shipments, which reduces the time your items spend in transit.
  • Security: With a sole use container, your items are secured once packed and remain sealed until they reach their destination. This means they aren't handled or moved along with other customers' belongings, providing you with peace of mind that your items are protected and private throughout their journey.

What is LCL?

LCL stands for ‘Less than Container Load’ also known as ‘Shared container’ or ‘Groupage’. This allows you to share the space and the cost of a 20ft or 40ft container with others.

Benefits of LCL Container Shipping to South Africa?

Choosing a shared container to ship your goods to South Africa also comes with several advantages:

  • Ideal for Small Moves: If you're transporting fewer items, a shared container is perfect as it avoids the cost and space associated with larger containers. You benefit from the efficiency and economy of space without the need to fill an entire container.
  • Cost-effective: Shared containers are a more budget-friendly option since you only pay for the space your belongings occupy. This makes it an ideal solution for smaller shipments or those looking to manage their moving budget more effectively.
  • Secure Professional Packing:At 1st Move International, we ensure that all items shipped via our shared container service are carefully protected, packed, and palletised. This not only maximizes the protection and security of your belongings but also enables precise measurement and billing for the space your items occupy.

Did you know? 1st Move International can get your belongings to South Africa faster with our faster shipping services. How? We use consolidators to allow us to ship out every week, guaranteed. We never have to wait around for our containers to be full before shipping. This could save you 2-3+ months compared to traditional shared container shipping services. We also provide unbeatable packing to ensure the best protection for your belongings in transit.

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Transit Times

How Long Does It Take to Ship a Container to South Africa?

We post regular, up-to-date shipping schedules on our website that detail the next available weekly container ship headed to South Africa, as well as it's exact destination, vessel name, last moving date to meet the vessel, exact departure date and the expected transit times.

Per our South Africa container shipping schedule, the port-to-port transit time from the UK to South Africa ranges from 25 to 42 days (or 3.5 to 6 weeks).

Unlike traditional international removals and shipping companies, 1st Move International utilises consolidation services to allow us to ship out from the UK to South Africa, every week. This could save you up to 3 months of waiting before your shipment leaves the UK.

Customs Information

Prohibited & Restricted Items

Learn which items you can and cannot ship to South Africa via container.

When it comes to shipping to any destination, certain items are typically subject to restrictions or outright prohibitions, and South Africa is no different. It’s essential to be aware of these limitations to ensure a smooth transit and compliance with local laws.

You can find a detailed list of all prohibited and restricted items on the official South African Revenue Service (SARS) website, which provides comprehensive guidelines on customs regulations.

Key items that are prohibited or restricted when shipping to South Africa include:

  • Agricultural Products: Fresh fruit, vegetables, and seeds that are not certified or that may pose a risk to local agriculture.
  • Live Plants and Animals: Restrictions apply to live plants and animals, which may require special permits or are completely banned to prevent the spread of diseases and invasive species.
  • Biological and Chemical Substances: Certain medications, chemicals, and biological substances can be restricted unless they comply with health and safety regulations.
  • Cultural Artifacts and Material: Items that could be considered of cultural importance may need special permissions to be imported.
  • Unprocessed or Raw Products: Goods of plant or animal origin that have not been treated or processed may be restricted to avoid the introduction of pests or diseases.
  • Soiled or Contaminated Items: Any goods containing organic residues or soil, or those infested with pests or diseases, are strictly controlled.

Customs Clearance and Paperwork

At 1st Move International, we take care of all customs formalities for you, ensuring that your paperwork and documentation are accurately prepared and submitted promptly. Our expertise in handling these details allows you to focus on your move without worrying about regulatory compliance.

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Main Container Terminals in South Africa

Container Shipping Ports in South Africa

South Africa has several major ports that are essential for its trade and commerce, handling a substantial number of Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) each year. These ports facilitate efficient and robust international trade routes.

  • Port of Durban: Known as the busiest container port in South Africa, the Port of Durban is strategically located on the eastern coast and serves as a critical hub for international trade. It handles the largest volume of sea cargo in the country, with 2.6 million TEUs annually.
  • Port of Cape Town: Situated at a key point along international shipping routes, the Port of Cape Town is not only a picturesque location but also a major gateway for container shipping, managing 900,000 TEUs per year. It plays a vital role in the economic activity of the Western Cape.
  • Port of Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay): This port is located in the Eastern Cape and is a significant player in the automotive export market. The Port of Port Elizabeth handles 200,000 TEUs annually, making it an important export point for vehicles and parts.

We ship directly from the UK to all of the above ports. Please see our South Africa container shipping schedule for up-to-date information on the next available vessel to South Africa.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions About Container Shipping to South Africa

Yes. You will be provided with your container tracking number and the name of the container ship which you can use to track your shipment using our container tracking tool.

Transit times to South Africa can vary depending on your chosen destination port. Below are typical transit times from the UK to the main container ports in South Africa

We guarantee weekly shipping to South Africa to help get your belongings shipped faster.

UK to South Africa Container Shipping Transit Times
Port Transit Time
Cape Town 42 days
Durban 28 days
Port Elizabeth 25 days

The full cost to ship a container, including the freight cost, packing, insurance etc. can vary depending on your specific circumstances. Please request a free quote to find out exactly how much it will cost you.

1st Move International offers comprehensive container shipping options with both full container and shared container services for 20ft and 40ft containers. Whether you need to transport just a few personal items or the entire contents of a large family home, we have the flexibility to support all shipment sizes. Determining the right container size depends on the volume of items you wish to ship. Our experienced moving specialists are always ready to provide personalised advice tailored to your specific requirements. For a general idea, here’s a basic guide:

UK to South Africa Container Shipping Transit Times
Move Size Recommended Container Size/Service
Small Move (less than 20 boxes) Shared Container
Medium Move (more than 20 boxes) Shared Container
Contents of a 1-Bedroom Flat/Apartment Shared Container
Contents of a 3-Bedroom House Full Container (20ft)
Contents of a 4+ Bedroom House Full Container (40ft)

As a leading container shipping company in the UK, 1st Move International utilises some of the world’s most prominent container shipping lines for weekly departures from the UK to South Africa. Our trusted partners include:

  • Maersk Line
  • MSC
  • Evergreen
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • One Line

We are proud members of the British Association of Removers (BAR), registered freight brokers, and members of The British International Freight Association. These affiliations provide us with direct access to premier commercial trade routes and services with the largest sea freight carriers in the world. This ensures that your household goods and personal effects are shipped out weekly to South Africa, using the most suitable shipping line to meet your specific needs and timelines.

As registered customs brokers, our team will handle all customs formalities and paperwork on your behalf. We provide a customs guide for importing personal effects into South Africa that details the paperwork we need and the regulations to be aware of.