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What is an LCL?
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Less Than Container Load? What can and cannot be shipped as LCL?
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LCL – an abbreviation for “Less than Container Load”. This term is commonly used to describe a sea freight service that designed for shipping boxed, crated or palletized cargo from or to the USA that cannot fill an entire 20 or 40 foot sea freight container.

There are many advantages of using LCL sea freight service when using a direct service from a Freight Forwarder (International transportation company) Vs. using FCL (full container load) or International moving companies services.


  • When you share a 40 foot sea freight container with one or more exporters that import or export goods to or from the USA. You pay only for the space used but not for a whole sea freight container. 
  • As a rule the transit time will be the same as if you would ship a full container and most likely it will be faster if you use a service from an International moving company. 
  • Typically the LCL ocean freight rates are calculated is BY VOLUME (per cubic meter/cubic foot) but NOT BY WEIGHT. Since vessel capacity is not really limited by weight of cargo but by the hold of the ship, in general WEIGHT OF LCL CARGO IS NOT A PRICING FACTOR (you may find more about dimensional weight in respect of sea freight and inland (LTL) trucking in our website).
  • You may save on inland trucking. If you self-deliver your boxed, crated or palletized goods, that easily fits into your own or rented truck, to a sea freight ship terminal of ocean carrier (International transportation company) then you will eliminate pre-carriage expenses that with FCL or International moving company's service may be comparable to or even exceed the ocean freight shipping cost itself.

    Notice: In the International Cargo Transportation by Sea Industry the term Ocean Freight means the price paid by shipper for the transfer (sailing) his/her cargo between sea freight carrier's terminals in countries of origin and destinations. Shipping Costs of ocean freight may not include origin and/or destination charges. See samples of total shipping costs calculations on Import or Export to or from the USA by sea below.


  • If you self-deliver your boxed cargo to an International transportation company sea freight ship terminal then you may request to palletize your loose boxes in one or more shipping units directly at the ship terminal. By palletizing your boxes you make it safe for shipping from or to the USA in a sea freight container. You may palletize smaller boxes and request to ship bigger items loose. Then your eliminate shipping cost and extra-volume charges related to palletizing (you may find more about palletizing of sea freight in our website in this link).

    Notice: International moving companies may box, crate and palletize your goods for the international shipment as well. However they will charge you for the labor and materials used for your Import or Export with their profit on top of that. 
  • You can ship cargo of any sizes and forms as long as it fits into a 40' sea freight container with internal dimensions as follows: 
    Length - 39'5" = 12 meters 
    Width - 7'5" = 2.35 meters 
    Height - 7'10" = 2.39 meters


LCL as in respect of sea freight is an abbreviation for “Less than Container Load”. This term is commonly used in the sea freight industry and by international moving companies to describe a sea freight service that designed for shipping boxed, crated or palletized cargo that cannot fill an entire 20 or 40 foot sea container. For more information refer to this link. If you are shipping household goods or personal effects not for sale from the USA, then we recommend you reading this link as well.  

You CANNOT use LCL Service for the following commodities:

  • Unboxed or uncrated cargo cannot be shipped as LCL.
  • Any motorized vehicles that require DMV registration (cars, motorcycles, mopeds, jet skis, ATV’s, snowmobiles etc) are not permitted to be moved as LCL sea freight. This is due to US Customs Regulations that will not recognize any warehouse as an exam site for inspection. 
    You can ship motorized vehicle using our service on shipping vehicles from the USA in containers and Ro-Ro. Ocean freight cost per a motorized vehicle should be equal to the ocean freight cost of shipping a mid-size car, but always must be re-confirmed upon a booking request.
  • Items that will not fit into a 40 foot container (approx.39.5'/12m in Length; 7.5'/2.36m in Width; 8'/2.26m in Height) will be considered oversized and cannot be shipped as LCL freight. 
  • Hazardous or over-length (longer than 3.65m / 12ft) and other special or irregular cargo are subject to surcharges and can be accepted to the shipment after approval and rate confirmation only. 
  • We strongly recommend do not ship food, vegetable or animal products. Find more in this link.
  • Perishables Goods are not permitted. 
  • We do not ship live animals and plants.
  • Ro-Ro, bulk or charter cannot be considered as LCL freight.   





Less than container load (LCL) is a shipment that is not large enough to fill a standard cargo container.

Less Than Carload or Less Than Container Load is "a quantity of cargo less than that required for the application of a carload rate. A quantity of cargo less than that that fills the visible or rated capacity of an ocean container." KNOW NET 2: The Federal Logistics SuperSite - The Federal Transportation Management Desk Reference: Glossary - Definitions

A system of transportation used specially in international trade, where various shippers pool their boxed goods in the same container.


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