Alibaba Shipping Costs: Best 5 Methods To Ship From China

I know most buyers on Alibaba get CAUGHT OUT by the shipping costs. It’s a pain in the you know what. You account for a small amount on TOP of the cost on your shopping cart only to be SURPRISED by additional Alibaba Shipping Costs.

But DON’T fret! Your trusty Alibaba shipping expert is here to demystify shipping costs. I’ve spent COUNTLESS HOURS looking into the matter. That is talking to the suppliers, shipping agents, and buyers on your behalf. 

This, plus my years of experience in the industry, gives you ACCURATE and ACTIONABLE information on Alibaba Shipping Costs. 

Want a sneak peek? We talk about reasons for high shipping costs, managing shipments, saving on shipments, and the best freight forwarders. You also get the best shipping methods and a final CHECKLIST to round things off.

Let’s get into it.

Alibaba Shipping Costs: Best 5 Methods to Ship From China

Why Are Alibaba Shipping Costs So Expensive?

Alibaba Shipping Costs: Best 5 Methods to Ship From China

A number of reasons contribute to the high cost of shipping from Alibaba. Here are a few you should consider:

1. Large shipping distance– Most countries are a CONSIDERABLE distance away from China. Take shipping from China to the USA, for example. That entails transporting goods across VAST ocean distances, which drastically raises shipping costs.

2. Extremely heavy cargo– Weight is a determining factor when calculating shipping costs. Therefore, the heavier your CONTAINER LOAD, the higher the shipping price.  

3. Opting for air freight with small orders– Air express freight does not come with a fixed price scale. But the cost reduces with the HIGHER the capacity of goods. That means shipping SMALL QUANTITIES is not cost-effective.

Opting for air freight with small orders

4. Wrong shipping method or agent– Poor choice of shipping method or provider can be costly. The right Alibaba shipping agent can help you reduce Alibaba shipping costs. That’s where Leeline Sourcing comes in. They UNDERSTAND the ins and outs of Chinese sourcing, including supplier negotiations. They bring you the best China shipping rates.

5. Shipping a single item– Many buyers make the mistake of shipping INAPPROPRIATE QUANTITIES. You need to ship Alibaba MOQs that make economic sense. You can store single items in a warehouse. Or organize them with your shipping companies till you are ready to ship in BULK.

Expert tip:  The right Incoterm gives you the UPPER HAND when negotiating your shipping costs. That decision dictates who is RESPONSIBLE for shipping insurance and other logistical costs. – Logistics Manager

Kashif Umer, Alibaba Sourcing Expert

If you hard to negotiate with suppliers and pay on safely?

LeelineSourcing is ready to help you buy from Alibaba low cost and efficiently.

The Whole Alibaba Shipping Process  

Step1: Order Goods from the Right Supplier:

Note to differentiate trading companies from manufacturers.

Step 2: Conduct Quality Control
Conduct Quality Control

Ensure quality of the product before delivery. Quality control is vital, especially for branded products with expensive shipping fee.

Step 3: Review the Regulations of Reliable Shipping Options

Air, land, and ocean shipping each has its pros and cons. From there, select a suitable or the cheapest shipping method to save money.

Step 4: Choose a Freight Forwarder
Choose a Freight Forwarder

Select based on the commercial route between two countries. 

Step 5: Select Customs Brokers

They can help ease your international trade. You can let them handle your customs clearance procedures and fees. Remember to get customs information for paperwork purposes. You’ll need different information for import and export ports. 

Step 6: Arrange Shipping from Alibaba 
Arrange Shipping from Alibaba

Arrange to ship based on the size restrictions. After confirming the details, you can pass your orders to the freight forwarder. They will arrange shipping from Alibaba for you. 

Step 7: Make Payments to Freight Forwarders

You can pay to his bank account via Wire Transfer, Western Union, or others.

Step 8: Follow up with Your Buyers 

Check if they received within the delivery time and look for room for improvement.

Suggested reading: Is Alibaba Safe and Reliable? Is Alibaba legit?
Suggested reading: Best China Products To Import

Managing Alibaba Shipments: By Yourself Or Hiring An Agent?

Managing Alibaba Shipments: By Yourself Or Hiring An Agent?

You have a number of options when it comes to managing your shipments. Consider the best one for you, as each comes with advantages and disadvantages. Choose from :

1. Supplier managed shipping:

A lot of beginners opt for this method as it seems STRAIGHTFORWARD. You organize with a supplier so that they can handle the shipping details. They offer cargo as CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight) or DAP (Delivered at place). DAP is good if you need door-to-door delivery.

Opting for supplier-managed shipping might INCREASE your average shipping costs. That’s because your supplier will add a considerable markup on the freight charges. You get EXPENSIVE shipping as a result

2. Direct Carrier integration:

This approach comes with more direct control over the shipping process. But before you get excited, It needs SUBSTANTIAL TIME and EXPERTISE INVESTMENT. It is often suitable for organizations with specialized logistics departments. So, it might be out of REACH for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

3. Using freight forwarders situated in your region:

Using freight forwarders situated in your region

Here you collaborate with a freight forward local to your area. This is a convenient shipping management option. However, choose a reliable freight forwarder that is well-established in the Chinese market.

Otherwise, they might subcontract your shipping to a company in China. That NEEDLESSLY increases your total shipping costs and introduces potential delays.

4. Using a China-based freight forwarding company:

This is a growing option especially in drop shipping. These companies usually have a strong presence in the Chinese market. And they maintain close collaboration with SUPPLIERS.

In fact, Leeline Sourcing Can act as your local representative. As the Best One-stop China freight Forwarder, these peeps handle all your shipping. Plus, they provide you with prompt updates and actively MINIMIZE Alibaba shipping costs.

Expert tip: Developing reliable supplier networks and connections can translate to reduced shipping rates. You might also enjoy priority treatment. – Business Development Manager

Ayaz Ahmed, Global Sourcing Agent

Alibaba Shipping Costs Overview

The stages of transportation for your product fall into intervals. It makes sure the shipping costs are transparent.

There are several stages through which the product passes. I’ve shipped thousands of parcels from Alibaba. Let me show you how much each interval usually costs.

Here are the stages:

1. Factory to Port Transportation

After the production and the finalization, the factory awaits confirmation from the buyer. Once the buyer confirms the product, the provider arranges a commute for the product.

This takes it from its factory to the nearby port for transporting. This cost of transportation is added to the net total. It ranges from 50-480$.

2. China Export Clearance

China Export Clearance

The Chinese authorities will verify the goods at the port. If everything is in order, they will clear customs for export.

But, they might prohibit the goods’ transportation due to arguable faults. It can lead to legal issues too.

Suppliers can choose to follow the EXW guidelines.  The authorization cost is included in the FOB, ranging from 100-300$.

3. Shipping Freight Cost

Freight cost is charged from the departure ports to the final destination ports. This is the phase where most of my clients pay a lot. The cost usually exceeds the 1000$ mark, varying upon distance, size, and amount.

It includes the costs imposed by the local authorities. Here are two ways to pay freight fees.

  1. You can pay high freight forwarder costs and low local charges
  2. You can pay low shipping freight fees and high local charges

The latter option looks more appealing. But, the first choice gives you a better outcome. 

4. Shipping Insurance

Shipping Insurance

It is always recommended to buy insurance. Ignoring shipping can cause you great loss during an unprecedented accident. I’ve witnessed business owners suffer great losses during unprecedented shipping accidents. My clients never had that problem as I always use shipping insurance. 

The insurance company provides compensation for your shipment issues. They only charge a minor cost to do so. 

The general formula for insurance cost is 0.02% based on 110% of FOB cost.

5. Document Delivery (DHL or FedEx)

This cost usually consists of miscellaneous charges during shipping.  It includes specific certificates, authorizations, records, and invoices.

It is not a big expense which usually ranges from 40-50$. Courier companies like FedEx and DHL charge these costs.

6. Port Charges (Port of Destination)

Port Charges (Port of Destination)

The local charges at the destination country are usually high. Local authorities charge a lot, up to 500-1000$ per container. 

The price relies on the meters of cubic for independent or smaller packages.

Some fresh importers choose not to pay to save money. But, they face big charges when receiving the product. Experienced importers maintain these costs to receive a good output.

7. Custom Bonds (United States)

A customs bond is necessary to bring something above $2,500 to the USA.  Shipments below $2,500 can import with minor paperwork without bonds.

There are two types of bonds. You can get them via surety companies or custom brokerages. 

  • Single entry bond

It is for one-time transport, costing $100-200.

  • Continuous bond

It is for regular importers, costing $250-450.

8. Domestic Transportation (Port of Destination to Final Address)

Domestic Transportation (Port of Destination to Final Address)

It is the last transportation phase of the whole import. Heavy vehicles take your product from the Destination port to your warehouse.

The cost is usually low, within $50 – $500. Several factors determine it. For instance, distance traveled and modes of transportation like trucks and trains. The fragility, amount, and size of goods will affect it too.

9. Shipping Quotation Sample

Several suppliers on Alibaba make complicated invoices to rip their customers.

So, you should always pay attention to the commercial invoices. Try to understand the shipping costs to avoid scams.

You may base your bill on simple distance, amount, and volume measures. You should always demand Delivered-at-Place (DAP) or Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU) prices.

SAFE + EASY Importing from China

We do the hard work in China, so you don’t have to: Product sourcing, quality control, shipping, and more.

How To Save Your Alibaba Shipping Costs?

1. Optimize Your Packaging

The role of reasonable packaging is not just product safety and protection. Alibaba shipping cost is calculated based on the weight and volume of the package. Therefore efficient MAXIMIZATION of space goes a long way in REDUCING shipping costs. 

Eliminate that extra space on your packaging because you have to pay for it. Consider using the modern 10 types of packaging that prioritize SAFETY and EFFICIENCY.

2. Consolidate Your Shipment

If you buy goods in small quantities, it would be wise to combine them to produce a substantial number. This is called CONSOLIDATION. You can do it by yourself or with a number of other buyers with small orders. 

Leeline Sourcing offers consolidation services for everyone internationally, irrespective of the destination country. We do this by pooling together small orders to full container load. That cuts down HIGH shipping prices.

Expert tip: Bulk orders enjoy preferential FREIGHT RATES. Consolidation is an effective strategy for buyers to enjoy this with small orders.  – E-commerce Specialist

Muhammad Talha Tahir, Chief Executive Officer at

3. Find The Right Shipping Agent

Find The Right Shipping Agent

There’s no doubt that big-brand shipping agents get the BEST RATES on either air or sea freight. This is due to the VOLUME of products that they ship. While these companies might seem ATTRACTIVE, you need a large budget to work with them. If your total cost is less than $800, consider going with a smaller, reliable freight forwarder.

Keep in mind that CHEAPER SHIPPING agents come with the following risks:

Poor service: Sometimes, you get what you pay for with CHEAP shipping agents. We’re talking about EXTRA SHIPPING time, missing shipments, and other issues. Their customer service may be nonexistent or extremely slow to solve problems.

That is unlike Leeline Sourcing, who strives to give you nothing but the best. We conduct an end-to-end quality inspection. Think pre-production, during production, factory audits, container loading inspections, and so much more.   

Hidden shipping fees: These shipping agents sometimes have SURPRISE COSTS. They can add up on your final invoice, meaning you should read the fine print carefully.

Unprofessional staff: Some CHEAP Forwarding agents cut corners by employing poorly trained staff. That makes them ineffective at handling complex international logistics and customs clearance.

Fraud and scams: Fraudulent activity is prevalent among cheap Chinese shipping agents. They prey on INEXPERIENCED importers shipping on Alibaba. And then make away with their hard-earned cash.

4. Plan Logistics and Shipment Routes Wisely

When choosing a shipping agent and method, it is wise to do COMPREHENSIVE RESEARCH. That allows you to make informed decisions On what is best for you. No single freight forwarder is an expert in all product categories.

4.1 Choose an appropriate strategy:

You want to save money on shipping WITHOUT COMPROMISING your product quality. So consider your shipping options with this in mind. A common strategy used to save on costs by young businesses is to ship about 5% to 10% of their stock via air freight. Then, they send the remainder over sea freight.

4.2 Be strategic with your order timing:

Shipping during the PEAK SEASON attracts very steep shipping rates. So avoid this if you want to save alibaba shipping costs. Align orders with slower periods for shipping services.

As the best China import agent, we help you secure the goods you need. Plus, we coordinate the shipping times, ensuring you get the most favorable rates. 

5. Compare Shipping Costs

Compare Shipping Costs

As an entrepreneur, you should not make decisions based on price alone. For example: 

Shipping an order worth $300,000  with an agent that SAVES you $250 based on price alone is a flawed strategy. 

Some of these Deals end up costing you more in the long run.

That’s where the folks at Leeline Sourcing come in HANDY. They work with Alibaba suppliers, secure product definitions, and test the samples. They also inspect the factories, negotiate on your behalf, and organize packaging. All of this brings you the BEST China shipping rates service

Expert tip:  Currency fluctuations might DRAMATICALLY change the final shipping costs. It doesn’t matter how good your shipping agent is. So always do your CALCULATIONS with the most up-to-date rates.  – Financial Analyst

Zaid Shakil, Experienced E-commerce and advertisement Specialist

6. Negotiate with the Alibaba Sellers for Shipping 

The price your supplier quotes contributes significantly to the total order cost. You can NEGOTIATE with your suppliers to reduce their OVERALL COST. Check with them to see if they are willing to LOWER their cost. If not, shop around for cheaper options, as multiple suppliers offer each product.

7. Pick Up Your Own Shipment at Port

Picking up the products at the port by yourself is a great way to avoid high shipping fees. If you live near the port, check with your supplier and CONFIRM that self-pickup is ALLOWED. Organize your own transportation and budget for the port fees and levies.

Best 5 Alibaba Shipping Methods

Shipping MethdProsConsPort to PortDoor to DoorPrice
Express • Fastest
• Safety
• Door to door Service 
• Fast delivery
• 20% cheaper than courier  
• High cost
• Limitation on product category and cbm
 2-5 daysS5-S15
Air Freight  • Extensive global reach
• Increased goods safety 
• High cost
• Limitation on size and weight
• Weather cause delays
1-5 days4-11 daysS4-$8
Sea Freight
•Cheap cost
• No limit on the size and weight
• Eco-friendly 
• Time consuming
• Server delay during peak season
14-42 days19-47 daysS2-S2S
Sea Freight
 • Cost 10-30% higher than sea freight14-42 days22-50 days$9.000-5,000
Rail Shipping • Fast than sea shipping
• Large transport capacity
• Limited operating lines
• Less flexibility
15-18 days20-30 days 

Of the two Alibaba delivery methods, I prefer ONLINE DELIVERY. I find it more convenient as I can order directly from the website making my transactions a breeze. However, you can always opt for OFFLINE DELIVERY as it is cheaper.

 Regular postAir ExpressAir FreightLCL FreightFCL freight
Shipping lime 30-50 days3-5 business day5-10 business day20-60 days20-40 days
Base Cost $5$20$200$150$2500
Variable Cost $15$5$3$2$0
Tip<2kg< 100kg100 kg-500 kg100 kg-500 kg>15cbm

** The blue squares show the cheapest Alibaba shipping cost. 

Suggested reading: Alibaba vs Aliexpress
Suggested reading: Made In China VS Alibaba

Alibaba Shipping Tracking Tool

Alibaba Shipping Tracking Tool

An Alibaba shipping tracking tool allows integration to your online store. You’ll need to key in your tracking number on the tracking tool. It allows most suppliers and buyers to know the status of orders. 

Alibaba Shipping Cost Calculator

Alibaba Shipping Cost Calculator

It is crucial to calculate your shipping costs to maintain a budget. You should also know that each transportation mode incurs different charges. This Alibaba shipping cost calculator can help you save more money.

Suggested reading: China Import Agent
Suggested reading: Import Tax From China To US

 A Fast, Easy, and Cheap Way to Ship from China

Do not hesitate to contact Leeline Sourcing at any time regarding your shipments from China.

Alibaba Shipping Terms You Should Know

Alibaba Shipping Terms You Should Know

There are dozens of common Alibaba trade terms used by Alibaba suppliers. I’ll brief you on the MOST COMMON ones I hear when buying from this platform.

For instance, CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight), EXW (Ex Works), and FOB (Free On Board).

Each shipment terms indicate different responsibility by sellers and buyers. It is vital to understand and choose a suitable shipping term for your need.

How To Find The Best Alibaba Freight Forwarder To Ship From China?

How To Find The Best Alibaba Freight Forwarder To Ship From China?

My decade-long experience has one ultimate piece of advice. Work with a freight forwarder to make International shipping much easier. They have the experience and expertise to make safe delivery on time. You can also get warehousing and contract logistics solutions from them.

But, many suppliers and buyers might not know how to work with them. You can read this article to learn more.

Alibaba One Touch Service: Make Your Shipment Easier

Alibaba One Touch Service: Make Your Shipment Easier

Alibaba One Touch is an Alibaba affiliate that provides import and export services. It helps an Alibaba supplier and trading company to ease the export process. 

It allows access to order financing, logistics management, and export procedures. You must use it for customs clearance for orders above $5,000. Let’s discover more here.

Final Checklist For Shipping From Alibaba

Here is a final checklist to consider:

Packaging Pack your goods tightly and carefully.
The goal is to save on space and prevent cargo wastage on the way.
Smaller, tightly packed packages translate to lower freight costs.
Incoterms This dictates where you take over shipping responsibility from the sale.
And the contract you sign determines everything.
For instance, a FOB contract means that you are responsible after goods are loaded onto the ship or plane.
On the other hand, EXC means you take over the goods directly from the warehouse.
Cargo Insurance Most career’s Liability only covers a small percentage of your cargo’s value.
Always secure the most comprehensive insurance.
You do not want to get caught with your pants down when shit happens.
Documents Secure a copy of the commercial invoice and packing list from your supplier.
You will need this vital document when requesting quotes and other key communications.
Details Get all your key details in one place.
These include origin-destination, import mode, size of goods, value, and other pertinent information.
Shortlists Choose whichever forwarder decodes your fancy based on research, referrals, or experience.
RequestTime to ask for quotes.
Alternatively, use Alibaba freight to get instant quote comparisons.

FAQs About Alibaba Shipping Cost

What do I need to get a shipping quotation?

Freight Forwarders require some basic parameters to give you a shipping quotation. These include:

1. The total volume of your product(s)
2. The actual weight
3. The Port of Loading (Departure)
4. The Destination Port
5. Whether you do or don’t want insurance
6. Supplier and delivery incoterm

This can give you an estimate of the cost. You can only determine the actual cost once the shipping is good to go. Several factors may affect it. Holiday seasons can affect the total shipping cost of Alibaba shipment.

Does Alibaba have free shipping?

Most suppliers show free shipping with vague meanings. Technically, we can say that suppliers on Alibaba provide dropshipping. But, note that they always charge you secretly for it.

It is not a recognized trait of Alibaba. Instead, it is solely the trick for suppliers on Alibaba. Let’s look at some users’ experiences.

Q: Why is it possible that Alibaba suppliers allow free shipping from China to the US?

A: It is actually not free. Shipping is costly, including fuel, warehouse, transportation, labor, etc. It will cause them loss if they allow free of shipping charge.
In fact, these suppliers include the shipping fee in the goods’ price. Some suppliers have a minimum order quantity to allow shipping for free.

Q: Why are the goods’ prices so low even after including the shipping costs?

A: Most goods manufactured in China incur low production costs. It is due to the advantages of raw materials and labor costs. 
For instance, a watch costs only $10 in China. The suppliers will sell it at USD$40, which is relatively cheap for Western buyers. It includes the $20 product costs and $20 shipping costs. 

Q: Is there other possible reasons that Alibaba sellers offer free shipping?

A: Yes. The China e-Commerce has grown bigger in recent years. It benefits from economies of scale in production, warehouse,  and transportation. 
The labor costs are also relatively cheap. Some Alibaba sellers will have a minimum order quantity. 
That is why they can still sell you a cheap and quality product.

How to get cheaper shipping on Alibaba?

After comparing, FCL Sea Freights are the cheapest from China. Shipping using any other shipping method like LCL incur more cost.

Once you establish your need for a separate container, you have to pay a fixed price. Air Freights are fast to have your order shipped, but they are expensive shipping. 

In short, FCL Sea Freights are the cheapest, while Air Freights are the most expensive.

Does Alibaba ship to the USA?

Yes. In fact, many Alibaba gold suppliers are already experienced in shipping to the USA. You can choose whether to ship via air or sea freight. 

But, you should find the golden supplier. Conduct market research or view the eCommerce site to check the supplier response rate. 

A reliable supplier will discuss your cost and delivery time needs. You should also make sure the shipping method and term are in your plan. Let’s discover further here.  

What’s Next?

Shipping goods from suppliers to buyers is a long and complex procedure. It will incur Alibaba shipping costs too.

We’ve shared everything about Alibaba shipping costs and suitable methods in this article. You must calculate properly to prevent scams and reduce Alibaba shipping costs. 

You can also read further on this article to learn about the Alibaba shipping service. Or, talk to Leeline Sourcing for professional shipping services.

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Article by:

Sharline Shaw

Hey I'm Sharline, the founder of Leeline Sourcing. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, we help 2000+ clients import from China,Alibaba,1688 to Amazon FBA or shopify. If you have any questions about sourcing , pls feel free to contact us.

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Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson
April 18, 2024 8:52 am

Great breakdown of Alibaba’s shipping costs! This detailed guide helps demystify the complexities of international shipping fees and will definitely aid in budget planning. Thanks for the clear explanations and cost-saving tips!

Megan Foster
Megan Foster
April 16, 2024 8:50 am

Your breakdown of shipping costs on Alibaba was eye-opening. Can you discuss more about shipping insurance and when it’s worth investing in?

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson
April 8, 2024 9:36 am

Your breakdown of Alibaba’s shipping costs is a lifesaver for small businesses like mine. Understanding the nuances of freight and logistics can be daunting, and your post sheds light on some of the most complex aspects. Thanks for making international shipping a bit less intimidating!

Ava Taylor
Ava Taylor
April 3, 2024 8:52 am

The insight on Alibaba’s shipping costs is invaluable, especially for small businesses managing logistics budgets. Anyone else find strategies to optimize shipping?

Samir Kapoor
Samir Kapoor
April 2, 2024 7:14 am

Understanding shipping costs is key to successful importing, and this guide breaks it down perfectly. Really helped me plan my budget more effectively.

Olivia Sanchez
Olivia Sanchez
April 1, 2024 5:35 am

Understanding shipping costs is crucial for budgeting. This article breaks it down well. How do you guys manage your shipping expenses to stay competitive?

Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
March 29, 2024 7:51 am

Understanding shipping costs is crucial for budgeting, and your breakdown of Alibaba’s shipping fees and cost-saving tips are incredibly useful. This will help many businesses plan better.

Daniela S
March 28, 2024 9:49 am

Breaking down Alibaba’s shipping costs helped me budget more effectively for my orders. Your insights into hidden fees were especially useful.

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith
March 27, 2024 9:37 am

Understanding shipping costs is essential. What are some hidden fees to watch out for?

Mia Johnson
Mia Johnson
March 26, 2024 7:22 am

Understanding the intricacies of Alibaba shipping costs can be complex. Your article breaks it down beautifully, making it accessible for entrepreneurs to manage their logistics more effectively.

Ethan Wilson
Ethan Wilson
March 25, 2024 8:33 am

This breakdown of shipping costs was incredibly helpful. Has anyone found a clever way to reduce these expenses on their orders?

March 23, 2024 1:52 am

Shipping costs can make or break a deal. Your insights on keeping them low are invaluable. Any tips for negotiating better shipping rates with suppliers?

Tiffany Chen
Tiffany Chen
March 22, 2024 7:43 am

Great article! With the complexity of shipping fees, how do you suggest handling unexpected costs like duties and taxes to avoid surprises upon delivery?

Mia Rodriguez
Mia Rodriguez
March 21, 2024 7:57 am

Thanks for the detailed post on Alibaba shipping costs! It’s a critical factor for budgeting. Do you have any tips for combining shipments to save on costs when ordering from multiple suppliers?

Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson
March 20, 2024 7:40 am

The breakdown of Alibaba shipping methods is invaluable for newbies like me. The distinctions between air, sea, and express shipping were particularly enlightening. Thanks for such a clear guide!

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