Shipping to New Zealand from USA: 5 Things to Know

Shipping to New Zealand from USA: 5 Things to Know

New Zealand is one of the world’s remote destinations which means that it takes a long time to ship goods across from the United States. By air it may take one to three days and by sea it may take three weeks to a month or a little over. There are several other considerations when shipping to New Zealand from the States to explore as well.

Shipping Options

Sea freight is an excellent option when one is working with a lot of cargo that would do well in a container. Not only can this mode take more in terms of volume, it’s also significantly cheaper in comparison with air freight. The lurking disadvantage with sea freight is that it takes weeks before one receives their shipment. Shipping to New Zealand is mainly using sea freight and through the West Coast ports of the U.S.

When shipping using sea freight the company will use either 40ft or 20ft containers. The container can be used solely for one cargo or multiple clients can use one container. Usually the container will end up in the Port of Tauranga unless one designates it to their most convenient port. In New Zealand, most of the shipping companies will deliver the cargo to the client’s final destination.

Clearing Customs

Because New Zealand has strict controls over what enters the country they’ll first quarantine the cargo so that it can be subjected to rigorous inspection. The inspection is to guarantee that the items imported do not interfere with the flora, fauna or human health. The inspection is a required regulation by the ministry of primary industries (MPI) which has instituted extensive checks to protect New Zealand from bio attacks and other bio security risks. Sea freight cargo that arrives is usually held in a containment facility where it subjected to treatment by government approved treatment operators.

The ministry also has strict regulations about where seacrafts and aircrafts can land in the country so that they can be subjected to the inspection. This may mean cargo doesn’t arrive at the most convenient place for the consignee. If the shipment is flagged for any reason it will be destroyed and the owner will be questioned.

For that reason when exporting to New Zealand from the US one has to make sure the items being shipped are allowed in the country. All products are subjected to import health standards to prove no biosecurity risk.


Documents with the relevant signatures from American government agencies are required. These include customs signatures and certificates. When exporting food to New Zealand one needs an import certificate, and they are also very particular about the geographical point of origin of the food. The nation only accepts electronic import certificates from three countries and even then on only some specific products. The countries are Australia, United States and Argentina.

Food Items Are Restricted

There are items one can’t bring to New Zealand because of their strict biosecurity regulations. Items used for cannabis or methamphetamine consumption, meats or foods made out of whale, pheasants, dolphin, sea turtles, or rare cane and medicines containing derivatives from wild animals are some of the prohibited items. They are also strict on items like dried seeds and plants, poultry, fruit and vegetables, dairy products and traditional medicines.

These items must be declared on the passenger’s arrival card otherwise MPI will fine the owner and in some cases even prosecute. They even impose restrictions on importing children’s colors, water color paints and crayons. Because of the many agricultural containers they receive from the U.S. New Zealand has remained vigilant about what comes from the States.

The Cost

The environmental cost is significantly lower when shipping from the US to New Zealand which is why both countries encourage this form of transit. As a trading nation, New Zealand has found a way to mitigate trade costs while keeping trade partners like the US and the United Kingdom happy. Even though the time the shipment takes to reach its destination is markedly longer this is a sustainable way to carry out trade long term.

This is why New Zealand is focused on keeping their trading relationships healthy for the environment. Being a small country in a remote corner, they can’t afford environmental mishaps, and they put a high premium on it.

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Klaus Lydsal

"Customs duties play an important role in your international shipment. How they're determined and calculated varies from country to country"

Klaus Lydsal, vice president of operations at iContainers