LCL General Cargo

Sea transport is an economical way of exporting and importing goods. When using this type of transport, the forwarder must decide on the type of sea freight: the FCL (Full Container Load) or LCL (Less than Container Load) method. The FCL acronym refers to container transport and means that the entire rented container will be intended for single use only. LCL, on the other hand, means the transport of general cargo. Check how transport of general cargo looks like in practice.

General cargo – What is it?

LCL is a shipping method that allows you to import a small number of goods at a very favorable price. This means that we do not have to rent the entire container and pay for it, but only for the part to accommodate our products. General cargo is used for loads below 10-12 tons. The minimum order value, so that it would be profitable, is 100 kg. LCL is not only for small importers but also for people buying smaller batches of goods in different places and time.

LCL costs

Groupage freight costs are calculated by weight and volume. For example, the importer of down jackets will pay for the volume in cbm (i.e., cubic meters, learn more about CBM), and the importer of bearings will pay in tonnes. When calculating the costs, the account should also be taken of the departure and destination ports of the order, port, currency, fuel, export, and customs fees. Nevertheless, it is still a very affordable method of transport.

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In the case of export or import from China, the waiting time for the ordered goods is 30 to 40 days. And as for more distant countries, e.g., Australia, the time will be extended to up to 50 days. It is very difficult to estimate the exact time of transport, among others, due to the unpredictable customs clearance. You can indeed choose the option with shortened customs clearance, but it comes with additional costs. More and more forwarding companies must offer direct deliveries, which significantly reduces waiting time and helps to avoid additional reloading costs.


The decision as to the choice of sea freight depends primarily on the amount of cargo. If we want to transport small quantities, then the LCL method is more profitable (i.e., general cargo). An important indicator is also the ability to check the contractor, which is very often taken into account when importing from outside Europe. Let’s assume that we are just starting cooperation with a contractor and do not want to risk large amounts without knowing the supplier. Only after checking the quality, timeliness, or efficiency of delivery, then we can choose LCL or FCL.

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