Navigation and Content
You are in  Croatia
or Select a different country

LCL 101 in Video

Start Your Less than Container Load Journey Here 

What is Ocean Less than Container Load, or LCL as it is widely known as? In this short video, learn how it works, how it benefits your business, and when to use it over Air Freight or Ocean Freight FCL. 

So... What Is LCL?

With LCL, your cargo is transported along with cargo from other shippers in a single ocean freight container. Think of it as carpooling, when you commute to the office with your colleagues in the same car. Carpooling enables significant savings in cost and CO2 emissions – and the same applies to LCL shipping.

Read our overview article on everything you need to know about LCL.

How Does LCL Work?

To ship LCL, you need to engage with a Freight Forwarder or Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC), a company that can book a container with a shipping line and provide the space to you.

  • Pickup: Depending on terms of negotiation (the so-called Incoterms) the forwarder will collect your shipment, or you can deliver it to the container freight station (CFS) of origin.
  • At the Origin CFS: Your cargo is loaded into the container for departure, along with the other shippers’ cargo after export customs process. For their safety, your goods need to be loaded and packed well; make sure you select an LCL provider with enough experience and expertise.
  • At the destination port: When the vessel arrives, the container is transferred to a destination warehouse or CFS, where the container is opened and your cargo is separated from the other shippers’ cargo. At this stage, it is important to ensure there’s no cargo damage or loss.
  • Delivery: After the import customs process is completed, the cargo can be delivered directly to your customer. 

Learn about potential delay causes and how to best prepare for your shipment’s arrival in our dedicated article.

Get Logistics Insights by Email

Subscribe to our monthly market updates and get invited to exclusive webinars where our Freight Forwarding Experts answer all your questions on global trade.

LCL Lead Times: Three Keys to Keep in Mind

You should be able to track your shipment’s key milestones online with self-service tools. While visibility is a must, here are three keys to help you make sense of your shipment’s lead time.

  • Lead times depend on your trade lane. Intra-Asia transits can be as short as a couple of days, while shipping from Asia to the Americas or Europe can take a few weeks.
  • Lead times differ from FCL lead times. Even if they are both moved by Ocean, you need to keep in mind that LCL total lead-times typically take 3 to 5 days longer than a Full Container Load (FCL) move on the same lane. This time is needed to load and lock the cargo into the container as well as unload and segregate it at destination.
  • Direct Services Are Faster. Make sure you select a partner that has a global network that can help you grow into new markets. With DHL for example you have access to 45,000 warehouses and 2,800 direct LCL services per week taking your cargo wherever you need it.

Along with a fast service, compliant documentation is the best way to make sure your shipment reaches its destination on time: find out everything you need to know about LCL documentation.

LCL Benefits: Why It Makes Sense for Your Business

  • Because It Saves You Money. You save cost by using LCL compared to Air Freight or FCL because you only pay for the space you use.
  • Because It Reduces Inventories and Improves Your Cash Flow. Instead of placing a single large order, you can place smaller orders which are easily accommodated as LCL on weekly direct connections.
  • Because It Is Greener. LCL is greener than Air Freight and more environmentally friendly than FCL. What’s more, if you ship with DHL, we neutralize the carbon emissions of all your LCL shipments with sustainable marine fuels – at no extra cost for customers with approved SBTi targets.

LCL pricing is advantageous but differs from what you may have gotten used to with Ocean FCL: learn more about the cost drivers of LCL in our dedicated article.

When It is Best to Use LCL

LCL lets you ship mostly the same products as you would with Air Freight or FCL. If your cargo is not too small nor too heavy and you do not need the space of an entire container – in general up to 10 tons / 20CBM – it can be handled as LCL.

With LCL, you are best set for success when you plan production ahead to enable sufficient time for ocean transportation. LCL is your best ally when you want to explore new markets or develop products without having to ship large quantities.

Read our in-depth article to learn how to best choose between Air, FCL and LCL.

Want to Read More Freight Forwarding Stories?

Get the latest on Air, Ocean and Rail Freight Forwarding in your inbox every month, along with regular invitations to our webinars.