Essential Guide to LCL Shipment

What is LCL vs FCL

FCL and LCL are two standard shipping methods used for transporting goods internationally. They differ in terms of container utilization and cost-effectiveness.

FCL (Full Container Load)

In FCL shipping, the shipper rents an entire container for their goods. This means the shipper exclusively uses the container, and their goods will not be consolidated with shipments from other shippers. FCL is typically the most cost-effective option for large shipments, as the shipper only pays for the space they are using.

Pros of FCL:

  • Faster transit times
  • Lower risk of damage
  • More control over the shipment

Cons of FCL:

  • More expensive for smaller shipments
  • Requires more coordination and planning

LCL (Less than Container Load)

In LCL shipping, the shipper’s goods are consolidated with shipments from other shippers to fill a container. This means that the shipper is sharing the cost of the container with other shippers. LCL is a cost-effective option for smaller shipments, as the shipper only pays for the space their goods occupy.

Pros of LCL:

  • More cost-effective for smaller shipments
  • No need to fill an entire container

Cons of LCL:

  • Longer transit times
  • Increased risk of damage
  • Less control over the shipment

Choosing between FCL and LCL

The best shipping method for you will depend on the size and weight of your shipment, your transit time requirements, and your budget. If you have a large shipment and need to get it to your destination quickly, FCL is the best option. LCL is a good option if you have a smaller shipment and are on a tight budget.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between FCL and LCL:

Feature LCL Shipping FCL Shipping
Container Usage Shared container Dedicated container
Shipping Cost Based on cargo volume Fixed cost for the entire container
Suitability Smaller shipments Larger shipments
Flexibility Adaptable to varying shipment sizes Less flexible for size variations
Transit Time It can be longer due to consolidation Generally faster
Cost-Effectiveness More cost-effective for smaller volumes More expensive for smaller volumes

Whether LCL or FCL is cheaper depends on the size and weight of your shipment. For smaller shipments (approximately under 15 cubic meters), LCL is typically cheaper than FCL. This is because you only pay for the space your shipment occupies in the container rather than the entire container.

However, for larger shipments, FCL is typically cheaper than LCL. This is because you are not sharing the cost of the container with other shippers. Additionally, FCL shipments may have shorter transit times than LCL shipments.

Of course, the actual cost of your shipment will also depend on other factors, such as the origin and destination of your shipment, the specific shipping route, and the current state of global shipping congestion.

Why is LCL cheaper than FCL?

There are several reasons why LCL shipping is cheaper than FCL shipping:

Shared Space: In LCL, multiple shippers share the cost of a container, significantly reducing the expense compared to paying for an entire container yourself. This cost-sharing makes LCL especially attractive for smaller shipments.

Volume: LCL is ideal for smaller volumes, requiring less space within the container and further reducing costs associated with unused space. This eliminates the need to pay for a full container even if you don’t have enough cargo to fill it.

Flexibility: LCL offers greater flexibility for businesses with irregular shipping needs or those who don’t require large volumes regularly. This avoids the upfront cost of renting an entire container for infrequent shipping needs.

Consolidation: LCL allows shipping companies to consolidate shipments from multiple customers, optimizing space utilization and reducing operating costs. By efficiently filling containers, shipping companies can spread the cost across more customers, leading to lower individual rates.

Shared Costs: Operating costs such as transportation, port fees, and handling are shared among all shippers in an LCL container. This reduces the individual cost burden for each shipper compared to FCL, where the renter of the container solely bears these costs.

In summary, LCL offers cost advantages due to shared space, more minor volume requirements, flexibility for smaller businesses, efficient consolidation by shipping companies, and the sharing of operating costs among multiple shippers. While it may not be the best option for every situation, LCL can be a significantly cheaper and more flexible alternative to FCL for smaller shipments or businesses with irregular shipping needs.

Is LCL Shipping Safe?

LCL shipping can be safe, but some risks are involved compared to FCL (Full Container Load) shipping.

Here’s a table summarizing the key risks:

Risk Description
Increased Handling LCL cargo undergoes more handling than FCL, increasing damage risk due to potential rough handling or accidents during loading, unloading, and consolidation.
Incompatible Cargo Sharing a container with incompatible cargo like hazardous materials, liquids, or products with strong odours can damage or contaminate your goods.
Improper Packing Inadequate or improper packing increases the risk of damage during transit. Ensure proper packing and precise labelling to prevent mishandling.
Theft LCL cargo is generally considered more vulnerable to theft due to multiple handling points and the lack of a dedicated container.
Delays The consolidation process and coordination with other shippers can lead to delays in LCL shipments, potentially disrupting your supply chain.
Damage Increased handling and potential stacking under heavier cargo make LCL cargo more susceptible to damage.
Contamination Improper packing or labelling can contaminate other goods within the shared container.
Limited Control Compared to FCL, you have less control over the handling and storing your goods with LCL shipping. This can be a concern for sensitive or valuable items.

These risks can be mitigated by:

  • Choosing a reputable freight forwarder experienced in LCL.
  • Packing your goods securely and using high-quality materials.
  • Labeling your goods clearly with contact information and handling instructions.
  • Purchasing insurance for protection against loss or damage.
  • Regularly tracking your shipment to ensure timely delivery and safety.

By implementing these measures, you can substantially reduce the risks associated with LCL shipping and ensure your goods arrive safely at their destination.

What is the disadvantage of LCL?

There are several disadvantages to LCL shipping compared to FCL:

Increased handling: LCL cargo is handled multiple times during loading, unloading, and consolidation, increasing the risk of damage. This contrasts FCL, where your cargo remains in the same container throughout the journey.

Incompatible cargo: LCL containers may contain incompatible cargo, such as hazardous materials or liquids, which can damage or contaminate your goods through leaks or spills.

Delays: The consolidation process and coordination with other shippers can lead to delays in LCL shipments compared to FCL. This can be a concern if you have time-sensitive deliveries.

Limited control: With LCL, you have less control over the handling and storing of your goods as they are shared with other shipments. This can be a concern for high-value or sensitive goods that require specific handling procedures.

Increased risk of damage: Due to the improved handling and potential stacking under heavier cargo, LCL cargo is more susceptible to damage than FCL.

Limited flexibility: While offering flexibility for smaller volumes, LCL may not be suitable for larger shipments as it can be inconvenient and inefficient to split large quantities across multiple containers.

Higher cost per unit: While the overall cost for smaller shipments is lower with LCL, the cost per unit can be higher than FCL due to the shared space and additional handling involved.

Potential for contamination: Improper packing or labelling of other goods in the same container can lead to contamination of your goods, causing damage or making them unusable.

Security concerns: LCL cargo may be more susceptible to theft due to increased handling points and the lack of a dedicated container. This can be a concern for valuable or sensitive goods.

While LCL offers cost advantages for smaller shipments, it’s essential to consider these disadvantages and choose the shipping method that best suits your needs and priorities.

How do you handle LCL shipments?

LCL (Less-than-Container Load) shipments require careful coordination and efficient handling throughout the journey. Here’s a breakdown of how carriers manage these shipments:

1. Booking and Collection:

  • Receive booking: The carrier receives a booking request for an LCL shipment, specifying details like cargo type, volume, origin, and destination.
  • Collect cargo: Based on the booking details, the carrier collects the LCL cargo from the shipper’s location or designated pick-up point.
  • Inspect and document: The carrier inspects the cargo for proper packing, labelling, and compliance with regulations. Any discrepancies are documented and communicated to the shipper.

2. Consolidation:

  • Transport to warehouse: The LCL cargo is transported to the carrier’s designated consolidation warehouse.
  • Warehouse processing: The cargo is unloaded, weighed, measured, and assigned a unique identification number for tracking.
  • Container loading: The cargo is carefully loaded into a shared container, ensuring proper weight distribution and securing the goods to prevent damage.
  • Sealing and documentation: The container is sealed, and documentation is prepared, including a container manifest detailing the contents and their owners.

3. Transportation:

  • Land transport: The container is transported to the designated port for export by truck or rail, depending on the route and carrier’s network.
  • Ocean shipping: The container is loaded onto a ship and transported to the destination port, following all safety regulations and handling procedures.
  • Tracking and updates: Carriers provide tracking information to the shippers and consignees throughout the ocean voyage, informing them of the shipment’s progress.

4. Deconsolidation and Delivery:

  • Port arrival and customs: Upon arrival at the destination port, the container is unloaded and processed through customs clearance.
  • Deconsolidation: The LCL cargo is carefully unloaded from the container and segregated based on individual shipment information.
  • Delivery arrangements: The carrier coordinates with the consignee to deliver their LCL cargo to the designated location.

5. Communication and Documentation:

  • Clear communication: Throughout the entire process, carriers maintain clear communication with shippers and consignees, providing updates, handling any inquiries, and addressing any concerns.
  • Detailed documentation: Carriers maintain meticulous documentation for each LCL shipment, including booking details, cargo manifests, warehouse records, transportation logs, and delivery confirmations.

Additional considerations:

  • Optimizing container space: Carriers strive to maximize container space utilization by efficiently arranging and stacking various LCL shipments.
  • Safety and security: Carriers implement safety protocols and security measures throughout the handling and transportation to ensure the safe and secure delivery of LCL shipments.
  • Compliance with regulations: Carriers adhere to all applicable national and international regulations governing LCL shipping, ensuring smooth customs clearance and legal compliance.

By effectively managing these steps, carriers ensure efficient and reliable handling of LCL shipments, meeting the needs of their customers and ensuring their cargo arrives safely and on time.

What is LCL shipment measurement?

There are two main ways to measure LCL shipments: cubic meters (CBM) and chargeable weight (CWT).

Cubic meters (CBM) measure the actual volume of your shipment. This is the most common measurement used for LCL shipping, as it accurately represents the space your cargo will occupy in the container. To calculate the CBM, you multiply your shipment’s length, width, and height in meters.

Chargeable weight (CWT) is a theoretical weight used by shipping companies to determine the cost of transporting your shipment. It is based on the assumption that a particular cargo volume weighs a specific amount. The CWT is typically calculated by multiplying the CBM by a factor of 333.

Here’s a breakdown of the two measurement types:

Measurement Type Definition Calculation Application
Cubic meters (CBM) Actual volume of the shipment Length x Width x Height (all in meters) The most common measure for LCL shipments
Chargeable weight (CWT) Theoretical weight based on volume CBM x 333 Used when the CWT is higher than the actual weight

The shipping company will use either the CBM or CWT, whichever is higher, to determine the cost of your LCL shipment. It’s important to note that these are just the two main ways to measure LCL shipments. Some carriers may use different methods or additional factors to calculate the cost of transportation.

How is LCL calculated?

LCL shipping costs are primarily calculated based on two main factors: volume and weight.


  • Measured in cubic meters (CBM).
  • Calculate by multiplying the length, width, and height of your shipment.
  • The most common measure used for LCL shipping.
  • Represents the space your cargo will occupy in the container.


  • Measured in kilograms (kg).
  • Actual weight of your shipment.
  • Used in calculating the chargeable weight (CWT).
  • CWT = CBM x 333.
  • Shipping company uses the higher value between CBM and CWT to determine the cost.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how LCL costs are calculated:

  1. Measure your shipment: Determine your shipment’s length, width, and height in meters.
  2. Calculate the CBM: Multiply the length, width, and height to get the CBM.
  3. Calculate the actual weight: Weigh your shipment to get the exact weight in kilograms.
  4. Calculate the CWT: Multiply the CBM by 333 to get the CWT.
  5. Compare CBM and CWT: Compare the CBM and CWT. The higher value will be used to determine the cost.
  6. Apply the shipping rate: Multiply the higher value (CBM or CWT) by the shipping rate per CBM or CWT provided by the carrier.
  7. Add additional charges: Include any applicable minimum charges, dimensional weight charges, or fuel surcharges.

Additional factors that may affect the cost:

  • Destination: Shipping costs may vary depending on the destination port.
  • Route: Different routes may have different costs due to distance and port congestion.
  • Urgency: Airfreight is faster but more expensive than sea freight.
  • Special handling: Some cargo types may require special handling, which can incur additional costs.

To ensure you understand the final cost of your LCL shipment, it’s crucial to:

  • Obtain a quote from your chosen freight forwarder.
  • Provide accurate information about your shipment’s volume and weight.
  • Understand the additional charges that may apply.
  • Choose the shipping option that best fits your budget and time constraints.

By considering these factors and communicating clearly with your freight forwarder, you can ensure a smooth and cost-effective LCL shipping experience.

The transit time for LCL shipping can vary depending on several factors, including the origin and destination of the shipment, the shipping route, the time of year, and the specific carrier.

However, LCL shipments typically take 6 to 10 weeks to arrive at their destination. This is because LCL shipments are consolidated with other shipments from different shippers, which can add additional time to the transit process.

Here is a breakdown of the different stages of LCL shipping and the approximate amount of time each stage typically takes:

  • Origin processing includes packing, labelling, and preparing the shipment for consolidation. This stage typically takes 1-2 days.
  • Consolidation is when the shipper’s goods are combined with shipments from other shippers to fill a container. This stage typically takes 2-4 days.
  • Ocean transit is the time the container spends at sea. The length of ocean transit will vary depending on the origin and destination of the shipment. For example, ocean transit from China to the United States typically takes 2-3 weeks.
  • Destination processing includes customs clearance, deconsolidation, and delivery to the consignee. This stage typically takes 1-2 weeks.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of the factors affecting transit time for LCL shipments:

  • Origin and destination: LCL shipments from Asia to North America typically take 6 to 8 weeks, while shipments from Europe to North America usually take 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Shipping route: Shipments that travel via direct routes will typically arrive faster than shipments that travel via indirect routes.
  • Time of year: Shipments that travel during peak season (e.g., summer, holiday season) may take longer to arrive due to increased congestion at ports and on shipping lines.
  • Specific carrier: Different carriers may have different transit times for LCL shipments. It is essential to check with the carrier for your shipment’s particular transit time.

Knowing the potential for longer transit times is crucial if you are considering using LCL shipping. However, LCL can be a cost-effective option for smaller shipments, especially if you are not on a tight deadline.