LCL Shipping: How Could It Work For Your Business?

You’d like to ship goods internationally but do not have enough goods to fill an entire container.  or the funds for air freight. What can you do?

 LCL shipping from international freight forwarders could come to your rescue. 

What is LCL shipping?

LCL refers to a ‘less than container load’ ocean freight shipment. In other words, an LCL shipment is one that will be combined with shipments from other businesses to fill a container. A freight-forwarding company creates a consolidation of various shipments. This makes best use of available space and thus keeps rates as low as possible.

LCL shipments are sometimes also referred to as ‘groupage’. An FCL is a ‘full container load’ where one business exclusively uses an entire container for its own purposes.

You can send most types of goods via LCL shipping. Perhaps you have special handling requirements, like refrigeration for food products. In this case, you just need to ensure that your freight forwarding company can consolidate your shipment with other similar products.

What are the advantages of making an LCL shipment?

There are several distinct advantages of LCL shipments for all sizes of business: 

LCL allows small businesses and start-ups to access a global market

If you are operating a small business or shipping low volumes of goods, it can be hard to access a global market. LCL levels the playing field and enables you to inexpensively ship worldwide whatever the size of your business. 

Test new markets using LCL

Your larger business may be already using FCL shipments, but LCL can allow you to test and explore new markets in regions across the globe too.

LCL lets you keep your inventory low

With a small warehouse, you may struggle to keep a full container’s worth of stock in your warehouse. Using LCL allows you to negate this problem. It also means you can purchase lower volumes from suppliers and keep inventories leaner. Keep a steady flow running through your storage and dispatch spaces by using LCL.

Ship more frequently with LCL

LCL shipments allow you to ship more frequently to multiple global locations, whatever the size of your business. 

Use LCL to ship consignments too large for air freight

Do you want to send shipments that are too small for FCL and too large to efficiently ship by air?  In this case, LCL can often provide a good solution. 

Are there any disadvantages to LCL?

In comparison to FCL, shipping by LCL may take a little longer. You should expect an LCL shipment to take 5-8 days longer because of the additional logistics and admin involved in coordinating multiple consignments  into one container. Your shipment may need to wait for other consignments, for example, before it can be loaded together. 

There is also a slightly higher risk of delays. An LCL container is more likely to attract a customs inspection because of the mixed nature of the contents. If there is a problem with another shipment that shares a container with yours, then this may cause delays. However, a reputable freight forwarder will do everything in their powers to ensure that these risks remain low.  

How does the process work for LCL shipments? Is it very complicated?

It is not complicated to organize an LCL consignment if you use a reputable freight forwarding company. It takes a little more effort than an FCL.

Get a quote

With an online freight forwarding platform, you can access quotes for LCL shipments in just a few minutes.  Occasionally, the complex nature of certain shipments may require a little longer. The quote should be itemised so that you can easily understand any surcharges and fees. These may be applied by the various carriers that will be involved in getting your shipment to its destination. 

Book

Through the same portal, you should be able to book and pay for your consignment in just a few more steps. A reputable freight forwarding company can take care of the preparation and management of any customs documentation required for your shipment. This minimizes the risk of delays to your shipment and takes the stress and time taken for this task from you, so you can focus on other priorities. 

Provide accurate information and the correct documentation requested by your freight forwarder. This will help them complete the necessary paperwork correctly. In turn, this helps your shipment arrive in a timely manner. 

Dispatch

You can arrange for door-to-door logistics, just as you would for FCL. Once your freight reaches the warehouse, it will then wait to be grouped or consolidated with other shipments to fill a container. Consignments are arranged according to their contents, for example, to fulfil refrigeration needs. Once this is complete, your shipment will move onto port for export clearance and loading on board its carrier vessel. 

Tracking

Because LCL shipments undergo more handling and handovers, you may be anxious to know exactly where your goods are and their projected transit times. To ease your worries, a good freight forwarding platform will provide you with tracking tools. By monitoring the progress of your goods, you can keep your supply chain in the loop and stay one step ahead of potential problems. 

Arrival

Once your shipment reaches its destination port, it cannot be taken straight to its receiver, unlike many FCLs. It must be ‘destuffed’ at a warehouse. This is the term used to describe unloading and separating the different LCL consignments in one container. Once this is complete, it will be sent on to its final destination.

Should I use LCL?

As described above, there are plenty of situations where FCL shipping or using air freight are just not practical or economical. For small consignments, LCL is a very practical and useful solution as long as you can cope with slightly longer shipping times. LCL allows many businesses of all sizes to grow into new markets and expand their horizons. 

Why not get a quote today? Or discuss your needs with an international freight forwarding company to see how LCL could work for your business. 

AUTHOR BIOAs Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight, Paul Rehmet is responsible for translating the vision of Shipa Freight into an easy-to-use online freight platform for our customers. Formerly Vice President of Digital Marketing for Agility, Paul managed Agility’s website, mobile apps, content marketing and online advertising campaigns. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways. Paul has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brown University. Paul is based in Philadelphia.  

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