What is a LCL shipment?

In ocean freight, LCL shipping stands for Less than Container Load or groupage.

When choosing LCL shipping, be it for an import or export, your cargo is consolidated with other shippers’ goods to fill a container.

LCL transport is facilitated by a non-vessel operating common carrier, also known as an NVOCC. NVOCCs reserve full containers from shipping companies based on traffic volume forecasts to different destinations. They are then able to offer space in the containers for small LCL shipments at a reduced rate compared to FCL shipping.

LCL shipments to major ports occur weekly or fortnightly. Shipments to secondary ports are less frequent and may run every two to three weeks depending on the destination. This will sometimes result in a waiting period for the container to be filled.

When shipping to secondary ports, your cargo may be offloaded at a transshipment point, where it will wait for more cargo to fill the container before continuing to its final destination. Understanding its timeline and how LCL shipping works may help prevent unexpected problems.

In order to choose LCL transport, there must be a consolidating warehouse at the port. iContainers has warehouse facilities at 22 ports across the U.S.

Preparing your LCL shipment

The most common cause of damage to LCL freight is insufficient and/or inadequate packing. Make sure you prepare your LCL shipment properly to protect your cargo.

In an LCL container, all goods must be palletized. If you are shipping boxed, crated or loose cargo, these must be place on pallets.

Shipping loose cargo

Loose cargo must be packed in cardboard boxes and/or packing material and placed on pallets. Furniture and items that do not fit in boxes are also considered loose cargo and must be wrapped in plastic and also placed on pallets.

Shipping boxed cargo

Boxed cargo are goods that are packed into wooden crates or plywood boxes which are then placed on pallets. Any wood used in packing or pallets must be treated according to standards set by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

Pallets for LCL shipping

There are two types of pallets:

  • Standard: 47 ¼” X 39 ⅜” or 1.2m X 1m
  • Euro: 47 ¼” X 31 ½” or 1.2m X 0.8m

A standard container’s door dimensions are 7’ 8” X 7’ 6” X 19’ 4” (2.34m X 2.28m X 5.898m x 5.898m). This applies for both 20-ft containers and 40-ft containers.

It is important to know the type and number of pallets to use and if your cargo is stackable in order to calculate your shipping charge.

LCL shipping rates

LCL shipping rates are determined by volume and weight and you are charged only for the space the cargo occupies in the container.

The price of an LCL shipment is calculated by destination, volume, and weight. If volume is over 353 cubic feet, we recommend checking the price difference between FCL and LCL. It is generally more cost effective to ship FCL if volume is greater than 530 cubic feet.

When you book your LCL shipment, make sure to calculate your LCL volume as you will need to provide this to your freight forwarder to obtain an LCL shipping quote.