How Does LCL works ?

Demystifying Less-Than-Container Load (LCL) Shipping: A Comprehensive Guide

how does LCL International Shipping works

Shipping is an essential element of global commerce. Among the various available methods, Less-Than-Container Load (LCL) shipping is growing in popularity, especially among small and medium-sized businesses. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of LCL shipping, its process, its pros and cons, and how it differs from Full-Container Load (FCL) shipping. We’ll also introduce you to Super International Shipping, a leading freight forwarder in China, and their LCL services.



What is Less-Than-Container Load (LCL) Shipping?

LCL, an acronym for Less-Than-Container Load, is a popular method in ocean freight shipping. As the name suggests, an LCL shipment doesn’t occupy the entire space of a shipping container. Instead, it shares the container with consignments from other shippers. This method is often referred to as ‘groupage’ due to the consolidation of various shipments into a single container.

The LCL Shipping Process: A Step-By-Step Breakdown

    The LCL shipping process is slightly more complex than that of FCL due to the involvement of multiple shipments. Here’s what you need to know.

    Phase 1: Booking an LCL Shipment

    The journey of an LCL shipment begins with booking. The shipper needs to provide the freight forwarder with the dimensions and weight of the cargo. Essential documents like the Bill of Lading, commercial invoice, and cargo packing list are also required.

    Phase 2: Preparing the Shipment

    The next step involves preparing the cargo for shipping. Since the cargo shares the container with other shipments, it is crucial to ensure that each package is well-prepared, packaged, and ready for loading.

    Phase 3: Consolidation at the Warehouse

    The consolidation of various LCL cargos occurs at a specific warehouse, known as the origin consolidation warehouse. The cargo must reach the warehouse well in advance to allow sufficient time for consolidation.

    Phase 4: Transfer to Port and Transshipment

    Post consolidation, the packed LCL container is transported to the departure port, where it’s handed over to the shipping line. The consolidated cargo may undergo transshipment, where it may be offloaded at an intermediate point and transferred to another container or await more cargo before proceeding to its final destination.

    Phase 5: Arrival and Deconsolidation

    Upon reaching the destination port, the cargo is collected by the freight forwarder’s destination agent and transported to the destination deconsolidation warehouse. Here, the container’s cargo is deconsolidated into individual LCL shipments.

    Phase 6: Delivery of the Shipment

    Finally, the consignee can collect the merchandise from the warehouse, or the agent can arrange for delivery to the receiver.

    When to Choose LCL Shipping?

    Choosing LCL shipping depends on several factors, including shipment volume, gross weight, product category, route, and time sensitivity. Here are some points to consider:

    • Volume: LCL shipping is ideal for shipments ranging from 1 to 18 CBM. For volumes less than 1 CBM, air shipping might be more cost-effective, while for volumes greater than 18 CBM, FCL shipping can be a better option.

    • Gross Weight: For shipments with a gross weight of more than 150kg during peak seasons and 200kg during off-peak seasons, LCL shipping is recommended.

    • Product Category: Some products that are restricted for air shipping (like compressed gases, aerosol cans, etc.) can be shipped via LCL, provided the volume of the shipment is appropriate.

    • Route: Not all ocean shipping routes offer LCL shipping due to a lack of consolidators. In such cases, alternative routes or shipping options should be considered.

    • Time: Time-sensitive shipments need careful planning. LCL shipping typically takes at least 16 to 24 days for US west coast destinations, and 4 to 6 weeks from the vessel’s departure date.

    LCL vs FCL: Understanding the Difference

    FCL (Full Container Load) shipping is when the consigned shipment occupies the entire container and isn’t shared with other consignees. On the other hand, LCL involves multiple consignments sharing space within a single container. The key differences between LCL and FCL include:

    • Shipping Time: FCL shipments are typically faster as they involve fewer intermediary points.

    • Load Size: FCL is more suitable for larger loads that fill an entire container, while LCL is ideal for smaller loads that don’t.

    • Cost: While LCL offers a cost-effective solution for smaller shipments, FCL can be more economical for larger shipments as the fixed costs are distributed over a larger volume of goods.

    Costing for LCL Shipping

    LCL shipping rates are calculated based on the actual volume of the shipment or the space that the shipment occupies in a shared container, usually at a minimum of 1 CBM. If the total volume of the load is less than the minimum, the charges will be considered as 1 CBM.

    LCL price quotes include the cost of shipping from the port of origin to the destination port and any terminal handling charges. They also include the cost of loading and unloading the goods from the container. However, they do not typically include insurance costs.

    Super International Shipping: Your Reliable LCL Shipping Partner

    Super International Shipping, one of China’s leading freight forwarders, offers reliable and cost-effective solutions for all your shipping needs. They provide LCL services along with a host of other services like air freight, ocean freight, rail freight, and trucking services.

    Their team of experts can help you navigate through the complex customs regulations in China, ensuring that your goods reach their destination without any hiccups. With their innovative technology and years of experience, Super International Shipping is committed to providing efficient and cost-effective LCL shipping services.


    LCL shipping is an efficient and cost-effective way of shipping small to medium-sized loads. It allows businesses to take advantage of the economies of ocean freight shipping without the need for high volumes. However, it’s crucial to understand the process, costs, and timelines associated with LCL shipping to ensure it’s the right choice for your shipment. And of course, partnering with an experienced freight forwarder like Super International Shipping can make the process smoother and more efficient.

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