What is LCL (Less than container load)?

September 01 , 2022 | CATEGORY : SERVICES

While shipping products or goods via ocean freight, LCL (Less than container load) is the term used for cargo loads that are not large enough to fill an entire 20-foot or 40-foot shipping container. Since the cargo cannot fill an entire container, it is shipped by grouping it along with other cargo. So, essentially the cargo shares space in the shipping container with other shippers’ cargo. These LCL loads are also at times referred to as ‘groupage shipments.’

LCL shipments are said to be ideal for small cargo loads. If the cargo load is large and can fill an entire shipment container, one should opt for FCL (full container load) shipments. However, which is the ideal choice varies, based on various factors such as the nature of the goods, the speed required, the level of safety, security, and certainly the cost. Both FCL and LCL can be more expensive than the other, depending on the destination, shipment requirements, and route.

Let’s take a closer look at LCL shipments to figure out whether it is the best option to choose for.

How do less than container load (LCL) shipments work? 

LCL shipments are an important part of the transit process. Here’s how it works:

1. The exporter chooses a service provider, who will handle the transit process.

2. The exporter shares all necessary shipment details like origin, destination, cargo dimensions, and weight with the service provider.

3. The exporter’s cargo load makes its way from the factory to the service provider’s warehouse or CFS (Container freight shipping) or ICD (Inland container depot).

4. The service provider processes the shipment details, and figures out what other LCL packages the shipment can be consolidated with. The cargo is packed in a secure manner, ensuring that the different loads in the container do not damage each other during transit.

5. The shipper’s cargo load is grouped with other LCL consignments and loaded into the shipping container, which is then loaded onto the ship.

6. On arrival at the destination, the container is unloaded from the ship and moved to the warehouse for the deconsolidation of the cargo to their respective warehouses for further transit.

7. Once the cargo is deconsolidated, the service provider makes arrangements for the shipment to reach the customer’s doorstep.

What are the benefits of less than container load (LCL)

  • Cost-effective – The pricing is based on the volume of the shipping container needed. The stable prices also mean shipping smaller volumes can help save on inventory space, making LCL a much cheaper option overall.
  • Flexibility –Since LCL involves sharing space in a container with other shippers, shipping is done whenever it is needed, even if there are smaller quantities. Thus, the wait is also not long.
  • Availability – The simplistic requirements mean LCL shipments are more readily available during peak seasons as compared to FCL and air freight, in turn making it faster in peak seasons.

Why LCL shipment is the best option?

If the volume of the consignment is up to moderate, the cargo does not have any specific requirements and the route and time are not an issue, then LCL shipments are the ideal option.

Ideally, LCL shipments can be the best option when the cargo load is not able to fill an entire container.

Consider opting for LCL shipments in the following situations:

  • With LCL charging a higher rate per cubic metre, industry experts recommend LCL for shipments up to 13 cubic meters, as in most cases above 13 cubic metres, FCL tends to be cheaper and more beneficial.
  • LCL rates are also more stable in comparison to volatile FCL rates and air freight rates. They stay stable for anywhere between 1-3 months, whereas FCL and air freight rates can change every couple of weeks.
  • LCL shipments are generally more securely packed as compared to FCL shipments and hence, minimize the chance of damage to the cargo during transit.

Is LCL freight shipping better than air freight?



Air freight is expensive and the prices are volatile, with their rates skyrocketing with every little increase in cargo size and weight. LCL shipments are a lot cheaper in comparison, especially for heavy cargo. Although air freight is much faster, ships are getting faster with the help of technology and are bridging the delivery time gap. And soon, a similar guaranteed delivery time at much lower rates would be offered to businesses seeking LCL shipments.