Navigation and Content

Dear User,

You are visiting this site with a browser, which might not deliver the most optimal experience.

You are still able to proceed, but in order to best experience this page, we recommend using Edge, Firefox and Chrome.

You are in  Global
or Select a different location


The challenges of the current capacity crisis are daunting. But less-than-container-load ocean shipping is already providing solutions for many organizations. It’s a good time to consider LCL for your own supply chain.

Secure Capacity Now

Get a Quote

The capacity crisis is not going away any time soon. There are chaotic scenes around the world of containers stranded in the wrong locations and meanwhile, at sea, fully loaded ocean vessels are unable to enter ports. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the physical availability of containers has become hugely challenging. Even if you are able to pay more, you may still struggle to secure an entire 20’ or 40’ container.

This article explores how less-than-container-load (LCL) ocean shipping is providing solutions for many organizations:

  1. How Can I Overcome the Current Container Shortage?
  2. What Else Could Delay My Shipment?
  3. How Do I Plan for Shipment Arrival?
  4. Is There Any Way to Expedite LCL Shipping?

How Can I Overcome the Current Container Shortage?

Less-than-container-load shipping provides a viable solution to the problem. In effect, this method allows you to share a container with one or more other shippers, making it easier to secure capacity, albeit with smaller cargo volumes. 

How Will I Benefit?

Although this may sound like a compromise, many companies find significant benefit in moving smaller cargo volumes.

For example, one of our retail customers with a manufacturing facility in China achieved inventory holding cost savings in their North America distribution center by switching from full-container-load (FCL) shipments once every two months to LCL shipments once a month. The retailer was able to move less stock each time, which meant they reduced unnecessarily high inventory levels near their key markets. More frequent shipments also lowered the risks associated with an unexpected shipment delay.

Another of our customers, a light industrial manufacturer, discovered that LCL could help improve cash flow – something that every company is more mindful of these days. Each time the manufacturer shipped by LCL, the shipment costs and the relevant taxes and duties were lower than by FCL. Paying smaller amounts more frequently is a welcome way to spread shipment expenditure.

  • Obtaining container space is one thing. Another thing entirely is ensuring your LCL container is placed on the ocean vessel as planned.

    In these difficult times, some freight forwarders and carriers may break their shipping schedule promises, delaying actual shipment by rolling over to another sailing until the LCL container reaches full capacity. To protect you from this, DHL Global Forwarding has a “shipped as booked” policy for all your LCL cargo.

What Else Could Delay My Shipment?

Once you’ve placed your order, there are two important things you can do to ensure your LCL container is loaded on the intended vessel. The first is to anticipate the cargo-ready date and keep the cut-off time in mind. The second is to prepare all documentation, making sure you check the specific requirements for your goods, especially restricted, dangerous goods (DG), and oversized cargo.

  • If you are working directly with a carrier or small freight forwarder, not having a vessel available on a particular week may mean your LCL cargo has to wait an entire week before the next sailing on your specific lane.

    So it makes sense to work instead with an experienced freight forwarder with access to all the major carriers – if a boat is missed, for whatever reason, it may take just hours to switch your shipment to another sailing. And a door-to-door LCL service is preferable in these uncertain times, as you can leave the forwarder to rearrange the trucking schedule at both ends for cargo pickup and delivery.

How Do I Plan for Shipment Arrival?

In pre-pandemic times, an Asia Pacific to Los Angeles sailing would have taken no more than 20 days. Today, this transit time is unachievable as many shipping lines are unable to maintain their usual schedules.

You must therefore adjust your plans to reflect longer, less certain arrival times. With analysis of recent carrier performance on specific lanes, your freight forwarder should provide a clear lead time for the operation, including the total transit time along with some buffer time to make sure you don’t fall short on inventory.

  • Shipment visibility is essential to keep you updated and informed. Via the online portal myDHLi, DHL Global Forwarding provides access to data on standard and customized transportation milestones. In addition, exception management reports are available at any time. Learn more about myDHLi.

Is There Any Way to Expedite LCL Shipping?

You may be looking for a way to expedite LCL shipping in support of new e-commerce ventures. When you need to achieve a faster LCL transit time, there are two key ways to expedite the overall journey duration.

Firstly, in both the origin and destination warehouses or container freight stations (CFS), LCL processes can be fast-tracked. For example, in DHL Global Forwarding’s Shanghai CFS, expedited LCL services cut the typical dwell time from 4 days to same-day.

Secondly, you can accelerate the other modes of transportation that you use. Especially if your goods move a long distance before or after the ocean crossing, your freight forwarder should offer air freight or express trucking. By combining multiple transport modes you could keep costs under control while also reducing the door-to-door transit time. 

What Are My Next Steps?

We hope this article has given you new insights about less-than-container-load ocean shipping, particularly at a time when capacity is so tight.

LCL has the potential to solve some of the current challenges and, in future, its many benefits may secure LCL a permanent place in your supply chain.

Interested in Learning More About LCL?

LCL 101

All you need to know about less-than-container-load shipping

Using LCL

When to use less-than-container-load ocean shipping?

Pricing LCL

What are the cost drivers of less-than-container-load ocean shipping?

Documenting LCL

What are the rules for less-than-container-load ocean shipping?