Less than Container Load (LCL) container shipping is a method of container shipping that caters to small cargo shipments. It provides an affordable solution for businesses or individuals who need to transport goods but do not have enough cargo to fill a full container.
With LCL shipping, multiple customers’ cargo is consolidated into a single container load, sharing the container space and cost with other shippers. LCL container shipping is ideal for businesses and individuals with limited cargo volume, as it offers comparative advantages over Full Container Load (FCL) shipment and other shipping options like air freight.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at LCL container shipping. We explore its definition, advantages and disadvantages, shipment procedure, cost breakdown, container sizes, and why it may be the right choice for your shipment needs.
Need assistance with LCL container shipping? It’s best to consult with a professional. EES Shipping in Perth, Western Australia, offers total logistics solutions, including sea freight, air freight, warehousing, customs brokerage, and import and export services.
Advantages and Disadvantages of LCL Container Shipping
There are several advantages and disadvantages to LCL container shipping. Understanding these will allow you to make an informed decision when considering LCL shipping for your cargo transportation needs.
LCL shipping rates tend to be lower than FCL shipping rates, as you only pay for the container space your cargo occupies instead of paying for a full container. This makes it an affordable option for transporting small volumes of goods.
LCL shipping offers more flexible sailing schedules and shorter transit times compared to FCL shipments, allowing you to better manage your supply chain and meet delivery deadlines.
In some cases, LCL shipments may require fewer customs clearance documentation, as there may be fewer goods to declare compared to a full container load.
Suitable for smaller shipments
LCL container shipping is perfect for businesses or individuals with limited cargo volume, making it a popular choice for international movers, Amazon FBA sellers, or businesses with small-scale operations.
Potential for longer transit times
Although LCL shipping generally offers shorter transit times, there is the possibility of longer transit times due to multiple stops and cargo consolidation and deconsolidation processes. This can impact time-sensitive shipments.
LCL fees may include additional handling costs, such as the cost of cargo consolidation, deconsolidation, and other fees associated with sharing a container. These fees may impact overall shipping costs, especially for high-volume shipments.
Risk of damage or loss
LCL shipments may face a higher risk of damage or loss, as cargo undergoes more handling during the loading and unloading process. It’s essential to work with vetted providers to minimise these risks.
Depending on the interior dimensions of the container, there may be limitations on the size, weight and volume of the cargo that can be transported via LCL shipping. For oversized or high-volume shipments, FCL shipping may be a more suitable option.
LCL Cost Breakdown
LCL shipping rates vary depending on several factors, which include the size and weight of the cargo, the shipping destination, and other additional fees. Below is an overview of the main components that make up the LCL shipping costs.
The primary component of LCL shipping costs is the freight rate. International freight rates depend on the shipping route, distance, and transit time. The freight rate is typically measured in cubic metres (per cbm) or weight (kilograms or pounds), depending on the carrier’s preference.
Shipping rates can fluctuate due to various market factors, such as supply and demand, fuel prices, and the time of the year. To stay updated on the latest shipping rates, it is essential to regularly check with your freight forwarder or consult industry resources like ocean freight or sea freight archives.
Packing and handling fees
Another factor that affects LCL shipping costs is packing and handling fees. When you ship LCL, your cargo will be combined with other loose cargo to fill a container. To ensure efficient allocation of container space, each shipment must be correctly packed and secured, which may require additional packing materials and labour.
Keep in mind that personal effects, fragile items, custom-sized shipments, and dangerous goods may lead to higher packing and handling fees, as they require special attention in handling and packing.
Customs clearance is a mandatory process that all LCL shipments must undergo. The cost of customs clearance varies depending on the destination country, the type of goods, and the value of the shipment. Be prepared for possible fees such as import duties, taxes, and inspection charges. It’s always a good idea to consult a customs broker or freight forwarder to assist with this process and help you avoid any potential issues with customs authorities.
Additional services and fees
LCL shipping costs may also include additional services and fees, depending on your specific shipping requirements. These may include cargo insurance, warehousing and storage fees, and special handling fees for specific goods such as lithium batteries and other hazardous materials. Remember to factor in these additional costs when calculating your overall LCL shipping costs.
How much does it cost to ship an LCL shipping container?
The dimensions of your cargo, calculated in cubic metres, will significantly affect LCL shipping costs. Furthermore, LCL shipping costs can be influenced by factors such as the time of year, sailing schedules, the shipping route, transit times, customs clearance fees, any additional documentation and handling procedures, and fuel surcharges.
Supply chain disruptions, like the ones caused by the global pandemic, can also affect LCL shipping rates. Consult with your freight forwarder to get an accurate quote based on your specific shipping requirements.
Do LCL Shipping Costs Change for Different Seasons?
In the world of container shipping and logistics, fluctuations in LCL shipping costs are common due to various factors. One factor contributing to these changes is the seasonality of the shipping industry.
Peak shipping season
Peak shipping season is when the demand for LCL shipments is at its highest, causing an increase in LCL shipping rates. Peak shipping times usually occur before major holidays and events, such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Black Friday, as businesses and individuals prepare to meet the high demand for goods and gifts during these periods.
During peak season, freight rates increase, so planning your shipments well in advance and booking early may help you to secure the most competitive LCL shipping rates during peak season.
Another factor that affects LCL shipping costs across different seasons is the fluctuation in fuel prices. As global fuel prices change due to various reasons, such as geopolitical events, natural disasters, and market forces, container shipping rates may also shift accordingly.
Extreme weather conditions can have a significant impact on LCL shipping costs. Severe storms and hurricanes can lead to shipping delays, port closures, and rerouting of vessels, which may result in increased LCL shipping rates. In addition, weather-related challenges during the winter months, such as ice and snow, can impact transit times and overall shipping costs.
LCL Shipment Procedure
The LCL shipment procedure involves several steps to ensure the smooth transit of goods from the origin to their final destination. Below is a summarised step-by-step guide to understanding the LCL shipping process.
Step 1: Select a freight forwarder
Before you begin the LCL shipping process, you’ll need to find a reputable freight forwarder who can help you navigate the complexities of sea freight archives. A good freight forwarder can provide valuable advice, streamline the shipping process, and offer competitive LCL shipping rates.
Step 2: Book a shipment
The next step is to book your LCL shipment; this involves providing all the necessary details about your cargo, including its total weight, dimensions, and other essential information. At this stage, your freight forwarder will issue a booking confirmation, which confirms the availability of container space and the sailing schedule.
Step 3: Packaging and labelling
To ensure the safety of your goods, make sure they are adequately packaged, labelled, and secured. Consider using pallets or crates to keep items stable during transit, especially for high-volume and heavy cargo. Proper labelling is essential for easy identification and avoiding any delays at customs clearance points.
Step 4: Drop-off and loading
Deliver your well-packed and labelled cargo to the designated warehouse or loading point before the cut-off time. It will then be consolidated with other LCL shipments in a container at a container freight station (CFS). This step may require a standard skel trailer or side loader, depending on the type of cargo and the container’s location.
Step 5: Customs clearance
Before your LCL shipment leaves the port, it must undergo customs clearance. This process involves presenting the necessary documents, such as the bill of lading, packing list, and commercial invoice, to the customs authorities. If any issues arise during this process, ensure timely resolutions to avoid delays and additional fees.
Step 6: Shipping and transit
Once your cargo has cleared customs, it will be loaded onto the vessel, and your LCL shipment will be transported to its destination. During this stage, it is essential to monitor the LCL transit times and stay informed about the status of your shipment.
Step 7: Destination customs clearance and delivery
Upon arrival at the destination port, your LCL shipment will undergo another round of customs clearance. After successfully clearing customs, the container will be unloaded, and the goods will be separated based on their consignees. Finally, your cargo will be delivered to you or your final customer, completing the LCL shipment process.
How do I know if LCL is the right choice?
Here are some factors to consider when determining if LCL is the right choice for your shipping needs:
One of the main factors to consider is the size of your cargo. If your consignment isn’t large enough to fill a complete container, LCL shipping might be the best solution. As a rule of thumb, if your shipments are anywhere from 10 to 16 cubic metres, LCL shipping can be more cost-effective than booking a full container.
Shipping rates and costs
LCL shipping rates can be more affordable than FCL, especially for small loads. LCL shipping costs are calculated based on the cubic metres of your cargo rather than a flat rate for a full container. This can make LCL a more attractive option for those with loose cargo or irregular loads. However, it’s worth weighing the LCL fees against the potential benefits of quicker transit times with FCL shipping.
LCL shipments usually have longer transit times compared to FCL shipments. The reason for this is the extra time needed to consolidate and deconsolidate the cargo at the main cargo seaport or CFS. If the delivery speed is a priority, and your budget allows for a higher freight rate, then FCL shipping may be a better option.
Security and safety
LCL shipments require consolidation with other cargo, increasing the risk of potential damage during handling. However, choosing a reputable freight forwarder will minimise this risk considerably.
At EES Shipping in Perth, WA, we offer our clients the best possible solutions to all of their logistics needs. We understand that every consignment is different, which is why we offer personalised solutions tailored to each individual client. Contact us today for more information.
What is the difference between FCL and LCL shipments?
LCL shipments refer to the consolidation of multiple customers’ cargo into a single container, making it an economical option for smaller volumes of goods. FCL shipments, on the other hand, involve filling the whole container with a single customer’s cargo. FCL is often preferred for larger shipments requiring faster transit times or heightened security. Read more about the difference between FCL and LCL shipments.
How long do LCL shipments typically take?
LCL transit times depend on various factors, such as the distance between the origin and destination ports and sailing schedules. Generally, LCL freight has a longer transit time compared to FCL as the cargo often goes through consolidation and may have multiple stops along the route. To get an accurate transit time estimate for your LCL shipment, contact your freight forwarding service provider with the specific details of your shipping request.
Can I ship dangerous goods, like lithium batteries, via LCL container shipping?
Yes, you can ship lithium batteries via LCL; however, it’s essential to work with a freight forwarder experienced in handling such cargo to ensure proper packaging, labelling, and documentation for safe transport and customs clearance. Additionally, shipping dangerous goods may incur additional fees and require longer transit times, depending on the nature of the goods and applicable regulations. It’s also important to note that all hazardous shipments must be approved by the shipping line and its captain; every vessel that carries the cargo will need to approve and accept the shipment.