LCL Shipping from China - A Must-Read Guide for New Importers



When you are shipping bulk goods, then sea shipping can be the best way to save international freight cost compared to air freight.

Based on your order quantity as well as the value of the products, you must decide whether you should go for either FCL (Full Container Load) or LCL (Less than Container Load) while purchasing products from China.

Perhaps you may not realize that for FCL shipping a 20ft container is going to be much cheaper than an LCL shipping of 15 CBM.

While sending ocean freight with LCL shipping, the products need to be very carefully prepared. It is very important to bear in mind the differences between preparing an LCL shipping and an FCL shipping.

More specifically, as LCL shipping will need your container sharing, you need to take extra caution. The most obvious reason for damages that take place on most of the LCL cargo is insufficient packaging.

Therefore, it is essential to note that many insurance companies often do not offer coverage in such cases too. Proper packaging and also finding the right packaging material is a science in itself. Hence, you must avoid taking any risk on this.

Using the strongest and most appropriate material against some that might be a little too big or small makes a significant impact.

If you have products to import from China frequently, you should be familiar with the standards for LCL shipment preparation. However, you must read this article if you are a novice in exports.

What is FCL?

Choose the FCL option if you just want your items in the container. In other words, once you reserve an FCL, it is entirely yours. It is entirely up to you how you use it; you might fill the container all the way up or leave it only half full.

FCL comes in 3 standard sized containers:

  • 20 feet container having a volume of 28 cubic meters

  • 40 feet container having a volume of 56 cubic meters

  • 40 feet high cube having a volume of 68 cubic meters

Pros of FCL:

1. Lower risk

Having your own private place, less chance of damaging the items, and less handling means less money spent on packaging.

2. Consolidation time

When employing FCL, more time is saved during freight consolidation. One container is opened, then loaded, and immediately sent to the port.

3. Easier to utilize space

If you have lots of outdoor products from China, using the space in an FCL is simpler. If your container is not completely filled, you can purchase some volumetric products to fill it up.


4. Tracking service

The usage of tracking services is possible while using FCL for goods coming from China. By using the container number, you may look up the location right now and the date of delivery.

Cons of FCL

Not cost-effective

When you are shipping a lower CBM, e.g., 10 CBM, it is not sufficiently cost-effective. However, ordering a complete container is more economical when shipping more than 15 cubic metres.

You must utilise between 50 and 70 percent of a container's volume.

What is LCL?

If your order quantity happens to be too low for considering for an FCL to be your viable option. So, in short, LCL is almost like sharing your one house with many tenants.

Pros of LCL:

1. Cheaper for low volume

It is a realistic option to ship smaller volumes from China for those of you who plan to export volumes as low as 2-3 cubic metres, in particular.

2. Lower financial risk

To check the quality of the product if you are inexperienced to importing items from China, you might wish to import a little amount in an LCL first. This enables you to cut costs before placing a big order.

Cons of LCL:

1. Higher per CBM price

The cost per CBM is greater than FCL. For instance, the LCL price for a 20-foot container will be more expensive if your shipping capacity is closer to 15 cubic metres than it would be if you reserved the entire container for yourself.

2. Higher shipping risk

Sharing container space with others makes it impossible to separate goods that can be heavy, sharp, or chemically abrasive, which increases the risk of shipping-related product damage.

Why LCL usually charges more than FCL?

When compared to FCL logistics, freight brokers often charge 2 to 3 times more per cubic metre when employing LCL logistics. A freight agent must fill a container with many LCLs. It is logical. Managing LCL freight actually adds to the workload.

LCL shipments should be emptied at the Port of Destination, but FCL shipments can be emptied and shipped straight to the buyer's location, particularly for the split process at certain developed country ports, where a lot of manual labour is required for various types or sizes of cargo.

Because of this, transportation costs for 15 CBM LCL are higher than those for a full 20-foot container at their destination.

How to select FCL and LCL cost-effectively?

You should initially ask your supplier to provide you with a price based on a specific quantity. The provider still needs to figure out how many product units will fit in the container, though.

Additionally, there are instances where a container larger than 20 feet is required. Despite being more than twice as long as a 20-foot container, a 40-foot container's freight bill is only slightly more expensive.

But if your cargo is too small like the volume under a certain full container loading, then:

  • If 1 CBM to 8 CBM, choose LCL.

  • If 8 CBM to 15 CBM, do a little research to find the most effective solution.

  • If over 15 CBM, select FCL without any hesitation.

Some points to keep in mind:

1. Plan ahead

If you are thinking about consolidating orders, be sure to plan ahead and give yourself enough time to coordinate the shipments with the consolidation criteria. This can sometimes help save a lot of money.

2. Use pallet

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to pack your items on pallets. This facilitates loading and can help prevent issues during transit.

3. Size matters

When determining the size of your products, it is important to keep in mind that the package's dimensions are what are utilised to determine the cost, and in certain situations, this packaging can increase each dimension by as much as 30%.

The cost will undoubtedly be impacted if your goods are too delicate or you cannot pack tightly, taking up extra space.


How safe does LCL pack for international shipping from China?

Now that you know more about LCL and FC, let us concentrate on packing, another crucial component of international shipping from China.

The following recommendations have been found to be successful:

  • Use a honeycomb carton or a corrugated carton with 5 plies. In order to save money, some suppliers in China would utilise thin boxes, it goes without saying that boxes of inferior quality are easily destroyed during such a long voyage over the sea.

  • In order to lower the risk that was discussed previously when your goods are packaged with those of other importers, it is extremely critical to do this if it is an LCL shipment.

If your products are too fragile or too heavy, a pallet will be necessary. Consider the following:

1. Pallet material

There are many different types of pallet materials available such as:

  • Paper

  • Wood

  • Metal

  • Plastic

You must produce proof of fumigation for all wooden packing materials, including wooden boxes in addition to wooden pallets.

Each box needs to have a label from the International Plant Protection Convention on it.

2. Proper labelling

Customs in almost all developed nations demand that timber packaging have an IPPC label before entrance is allowed.

Non-fumigation pallets, which are composed of plywood and don't need a fumigation certificate, are frequently used by people who want to save time while avoiding fumigation.

The weight capacity of a good quality wooden pallet is more than that of a plywood pallet, therefore if the items on the pallet are particularly heavy, you can choose that.

To help reduce the weight on the bottom, it would be preferable to put another layer in the centre if possible.

3. Use wrapping film

After placing the items on the pallet, you can wrap them in packaging paper to keep them dry or tie them together.


The most crucial factor to take into account initially is that your goods arrive securely, regardless of whether you require FCL or LCL shipment from China. Work with a reputable forwarder and make sure the goods are packed properly.

Once that is taken care of, you may focus on the price and delivery time of your shipment.

Don't forget to purchase insurance for crucial shipments; it will only cost you about 0.3% to 0.5% of the value of your items and can help you avoid financial damages should unanticipated problems occur.

Making the best choice for your shipment will be aided by reading about and comprehending the benefits and drawbacks of both FCL and LCL.

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